Gov. Sam Brownback is sticking to the fantasy that his income tax cuts are working to create lots of jobs in Kansas.
The state has “good job growth,” he recently told The Star.
Reality is much harsher.
Throughout much of 2015, Kansas has been in the bottom 10 of job-producing states by percentage despite the large tax cuts that took effect in 2013.
Yet Brownback’s delusions persist.
He recently pointed to the state’s low 4 percent unemployment rate in November as a reason to celebrate. But because the state’s job production rate has been so dismal, it’s now abundantly clear that Kansas is not growing its base of employable people nearly as quickly as most other states.
A low unemployment rate can be next to meaningless in the context of job creation. North Dakota had the lowest state unemployment rate in November — and it has the worst record of job loss over the last 12 months in America.
Still, Brownback and his tax-cut junkies want Kansans to believe that everything will be all right in the long haul.
For proof, they often point to nine states with no or low income taxes as job-growth magnets. That’s partly why Brownback in mid-2013 told The Wall Street Journal he wanted to reduce the Kansas income tax to zero, as in Texas.
(In the same story Brownback also said, “The experiences in some other states have been that when you cut income taxes, your sales tax increase more than makes up for your income tax cut.” That delusion was pathetically wrong, too. He had to ram through a sales tax increase in 2015 to help balance a general fund budget decimated by his tax cuts.)
How are Texas and the other states that Brownback wants to mimic doing on the job front?
Four were in the top 10 of employment gains by percentage from November 2014 to November 2015: Florida, Washington, South Dakota and Nevada.
However, three of the no-income-tax states were in the bottom 10 of job additions over the last year: Wyoming, Alaska and New Hampshire. Plus, Alaska’s governor has proposed the first personal income tax in 35 years to avoid a state fiscal crisis.
The two states in the middle of the pack were Tennessee and Texas. That’s right: The Lone State State is having some tough times, thanks in large part to the struggles of the oil industry, which helped spark its revival earlier this decade.
It appears that factors other than income taxes are affecting states’ job markets. Gee, who could have predicted that?
Here’s the flip side of Brownback’s delusions about income taxes and employment.
California, often criticized for having the nation’s highest income tax rate, has had the sixth best record of job gains in the last 12 months. Other extremely high income tax states faring well include Oregon, Hawaii and New York.
Which brings us to one more Brownback delusion.
“My goal for the next four years is 25,000 new jobs per year,” he wrote while running for re-election in late 2014.
That was an aggressive proclamation, because the state had gained an average of only 16,000 nonfarm jobs a year during his first term.
But the tax cuts are in full force now, so the Kansas economy should be rolling.
Except it’s not. The state is on pace to add only 10,000 jobs in 2015, far below Brownback’s pledge.
Many Kansans wish that Brownback’s costly tax cuts were just a delusion. Alas, they remain very real and very destructive to the state’s future.