Effects of Sam Brownback’s revolution yet to be felt in Kansas

10/26/2013 7:04 PM

10/26/2013 7:04 PM

Rex Sinquefield, the ultra-rich Missouri gadfly who single-handedly imposes his will on his state’s politics — much like the Koch brothers do in Kansas — wrote an article that appeared in a recent issue of Forbes magazine. The headline: “How Kansas Governor Brownback Schooled Missouri on Tax Cuts, And Showed The Region How To Grow.”

He had written another admiring article a year earlier at the time of the tax revolution in Kansas, when income taxes were slashed, and certain corporations received huge tax cuts.

Now Sinquefield writes, “Just one year later, a close look at the data backs up the economic projections of Brownback’s visionary leadership.”

No, it doesn’t. Not at all.

The overzealous writer cites so-called facts, which are irrefutably wrong.

We won’t try to cover all of his bogus claims, but here are two of the most critical:

Sinquefield claims the Kansas economy has been stimulated since the tax cuts.

Wrong. The Kansas economy is tracking most of the rest of the nation. There has been no discernible jolt upward.

Sinquefield also says that lower tax rates have “predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business climate.”

What we do know is corporations have moved from Missouri to Johnson County and vice versa because of generous tax incentives that have nothing to do with Brownback’s income tax cuts.

One year later, what we also know is from July through September, revenue to the state coffers has declined by $135 million, or a 9 percent drop from last year. The Legislature’s research staff projects that there will be a net reduction this fiscal year of a half billion dollars and a billion dollars by 2018.

Let’s be fair. Even skeptics like me cannot say for certain that the experiment ultimately will not be successful, that there will not be huge job increases. But for a zealot to write that victory has already been declared is over-reaching by a mile.

If anything, the numbers point to the contrary conclusion. But you don’t see me doing a victory lap or pronouncing the strategy dead.

It is way, way too early to know what the Forbes writer proclaims — even if there were positive indications, which there are not — which is that “the results from this experiment in state income tax policy just might provide other states with a road map to real growth.”

That means Missouri.

What an irresponsible, unsubstantiated leap of faith that would be. When Missouri has the opportunity to watch patiently and witness firsthand how the experiment turns out, how could anyone justify diving headlong in the same violent waters? Unless, of course, your goal is to dramatically lower taxes, regardless of the outcome to the state.

What we do know so far about the experiment, besides sharply declining tax revenue, is that Kansas is short-changing schoolchildren because legislators decided to cut taxes rather than to restore reduced funding to public schools, and that choice may be coming home to roost.

Sinquefield fails to mention that impending education crisis, when the Kansas Supreme Court will almost certainly declare that Kansas schools are being underfunded by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Kansas Legislature may try to neutralize the high court by ignoring its order.

But what will Sinquefield’s hero, Sam Brownback, do?

The governor will almost certainly stand by the Legislature.

Rex Sinquefield had better keep his pen handy because there are a lot more chapters to write about the revolution in Kansas.

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