New report destroys Gov. Sam Brownback’s bid to blame President Obama for Kansas budget crisis

06/12/2014 11:47 AM

06/15/2014 6:26 PM

New facts clearly show Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his aides have gone way overboard in trying to blame President Barack Obama for the state’s fiscal crisis of plummeting revenues and lowered bond ratings.

A just-released comprehensive report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government says that Kansas suffered the third largest decline of U.S. states in individual income tax revenues from January through April 2014 when compared with 2013.

Overall, the average decline for U.S. states with income taxes was 7 percent for those four months.

But Kansas was down a hefty 24 percent — with only Ohio (31 percent) and North Dakota (28 percent) faring worse.

The news gets even worse:

For the United States, personal income tax receipts were down 16 percent in April of 2014 compared to 2013, the report says.

For Kansas, however, those revenues were down a stunning 50 percent. They fell from $453 million in April of 2013 to $227 million in 2014. (All state revenue figures for this and past years can be found here, on the Kansas Division of the Budget website.)

You might remember what happened after that news was announced.

Brownback and his assistants blamed Obama and federal tax policies, saying 2013 income tax collection totals had been inflated because residents paid capital gains in 2012 while fearing a possible tax increase that eventually did not occur.

Brownback got into full political spin mode, directing his political ire at Obama.

“What we are seeing today is the effect of tax increases implemented by the Obama administration that resulted in lower income tax payments and a depressed business environment,” Brownback said in May. “The failed economic policies of the Obama administration are affecting states throughout the nation.”

Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan had been in equal attack stance a few weeks earlier, saying, “This is an undeniable result of President Obama’s failed economic policies of increasing taxes and overregulations.”

Let’s be clear about two things.

The Rockefeller national report does, indeed, point out that the capital gains taken in 2013 did affect income tax revenues across the nation. And so the 2014 figures for almost all states were lower than 2013.

Still, the average decline of 7 percent for the first four months of this year, as noted earlier, was far less than the 24 percent blow suffered by Kansas.

Yes, Kansas deeply cut its income tax rates effective in 2013, thanks to Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

However, the reductions in income tax revenues for the first five months of the year in Kansas are far worse than predicted.

By the end of May, the receipts were running 25 percent less than fiscal year 2013 totals — or a staggering $282 million under expectations for 2014. Only a 15 percent drop had been predicted by the state.

Put the blame for lower income tax collections where it belongs: On Brownback and the Legislature.

And don’t forget that income tax rates are scheduled to go even lower in the next few years, which could put Kansas in an even bigger world of financial hurt.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com.

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