Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters have blamed the huge revenue shortfalls in Kansas on a lot of things in the past year or so.
Among them: President Barack Obama’s policies. Faster income tax returns. Corporate income tax failings. And on Thursday, when Brownback further sliced educational spending, he blamed lower sales taxes.
But as any thinking Kansan can pretty much figure out, the massive income tax cuts first put in place in 2013 actually are causing the state’s financial headaches. As a result, cuts are being made to funding for roads, education and pensions now, with even more reductions on the way.
How do we know Brownback’s tax cuts are the culprit?
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Simply look at the cold, hard figures supplied by the Kansas Department of Revenue.
Consider the current fiscal year, which spans July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.
▪ As of Jan. 31 this year, the state in the first seven months of the fiscal year had reported $3.237 billion in total receipts.
That was $65 million lower than at the same date in 2014; $434 million lower than in 2013; and $355 million lower than in 2012.
▪ As of Jan. 31 of this year, the state had reported $1.328 billion in total income tax receipts.
That was $90 million lower than at the same date in 2014; $468 million lower than in 2013; and $316 million lower than in 2012.
What’s this mean?
The state’s income tax cuts were easily the most significant factor in the continuing decline in overall state general fund revenues.
In all three years, if income tax collections had remained flat — and not fallen — the state budget would have been relatively flat.
Notably, this exercise works for the first two years of the tax cuts as well.
▪ As of June 30, 2014, the state reported $5.653 billion in total receipts for the full fiscal year ending on that date.
That number was $6.341 billion at the same date in 2013, for that fiscal year.
▪ As of June 30, 2014, the state reported $2.218 billion in total income tax receipts.
That number was $2.931 billion at the same date in 2013.
So total general revenue for Kansas fell by $688 million in that one-year span when the tax cuts were fully in effect.
How much did income tax receipts decline? By $713 million.
In short, it’s easy to determine that by far the biggest single contributing factor to Kansas’ fiscal problems today are the income tax cuts — not bogeyman excuses cooked up by Brownback or any of his boosters.