Kansas closed the books on another dreadful fiscal year Thursday. And when the numbers were released Friday, the damage was startling.
Just to balance the budget, the state had to withhold $260 million from public schools until next week. And grab every sales tax dollar it could find from the highway fund. And take money from the Children’s Initiatives Fund and Department of Corrections.
Why is this happening? Why can’t Kansas collect enough revenue to provide the sound, basic public services that 3 million residents deserve?
Because of the income tax cuts Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature approved in 2012. Put another way, this state of fiscal hell was created by its own inept political leaders.
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▪ In the 2013 fiscal year, Kansas took in $2.93 billion in individual income tax revenue. Just three years later, that figure had plummeted to $2.25 billion.
That’s a hefty loss of $680 million a year in income taxes.
▪ In the 2013 fiscal year, Kansas collected $6.33 billion in total tax revenue. But the number released Friday had plunged to $5.76 billion.
Overall, that’s $570 million less in total taxes than three years earlier.
So to be crystal clear, the income tax cuts are causing the massive budget woes in Kansas.
They overshadow all the spending reductions the Legislature has tried to put in place. They easily overwhelm the $224 million created by higher sales and cigarette taxes in the last year after the Legislature approved the largest tax increase in state history in 2015.
Every Kansan with a lick of common sense can see what’s happening. And most know the solution: Repeal the tax cuts, including the incredibly unfair decision to wipe out income taxes for 330,000 LLCs, a gift of more than $200 million a year to them.
Yet Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature have refused to do anything except trot out wimpy excuse after excuse for the shortfalls.
To keep the costly tax cuts in place, Brownback and state officials have diverted more than $1 billion from highway repairs, sliced tens of millions in funds for universities, delayed a nearly $100 million payment for public employee pensions and imposed across-the-board cuts on state agencies.
It’s time for change in Kansas. It’s time to get rid of the extremist GOP lawmakers who rubber-stamp Brownback’s destructive financial decisions.
Locally, Johnson County voters in about a dozen Aug. 2 GOP primaries should select more traditional, more moderate Republicans to have a chance to serve in Topeka.
But the ultraconservatives who have created the state’s financial chaos want to keep power. If that happens, Kansas will remain on the road to ruin.