For all the wrong reasons, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature have succeeded in drawing national attention to the sharp income tax cuts they approved in 2012.
Brownback is misleading Kansans while ignoring some troubling realities.
He trumpets a rebound in the state’s finances — even in the face of stunning declines in revenues.
He repeats his mantra that deep tax cuts will grow the Kansas economy as part of a “Midwest renaissance” — even while other governors decline to follow that strategy.
Brownback blames the Obama administration for recent revenue shortfalls — even though most states did a better job predicting their receipts this year.
And Brownback continues to boast that Kansas has added 50,000 jobs since he became governor in 2011 — failing to acknowledge that Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri all have created jobs at a faster pace than Kansas.
One fact stands above all others: As of May 31, the state had collected $310 million less than projected in general fund revenues for fiscal year 2014, which ends June 30. The biggest contributor was a $282 million plunge in expected income tax receipts.
Now a new national report shows more bad news for Kansans who depend on the state to support strong public schools, universities and other services.
From January through April, Kansas collected 24 percent less personal income tax revenue in the current fiscal year than in 2013. That was the third worst fall in the nation among states monitored by the authoritative Nelson Rockefeller Institute of Government. The figure is far worse than the 15 percent predicted decline for the full year after the tax cuts.
In just April, Kansas took in 28 percent less in personal income tax revenue than projected, or almost double the decline of any other state.
Brownback says the state will be all right because it has a nearly $700 million rainy day fund. Yet with a Legislature-approved budget for next year that calls for spending $300 million more than expected income, that reserve fund could be gone by mid-2015.
Brownback likes using health-related analogies to describe what he and other Republicans are doing in the state.
In 2012, he said his tax cut policies would “be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.”
Recently he told The Wall Street Journal: “It’s like going through surgery. It takes a while to heal and get growing afterward.”
In reality, the state budget is in critical condition. It’s not responding to the ineffective medicine supplied by Brownback and legislators. That could spell many long-term problems for Kansans.