Tax policies in Missouri and Kansas are broken beyond words

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05/01/2014 3:29 PM

05/16/2014 1:35 PM

This week, political doublespeak continued to erode whatever public confidence remains in the governments of Kansas and Missouri.

In Jefferson City, Republicans faced the awkward task of explaining why they want massive income tax cuts while they support equally massive sales tax increases for road construction. One lawmaker gave it a try, claiming the measures are for “job creation and infrastructure repair.”

We get the repair part. But if tax cuts create jobs, tax hikes destroy them — right? That’s what Republicans used to believe.

If, on the other hand, the GOP now believes higher spending for roads creates jobs, it has to explain why it opposes other spending with the same potential effect. Expanding Medicaid, for example.

You can see the problem.

In Topeka, Gov. Sam Brownback tried to explain why the state’s tax receipts this April were 30 percent below receipts in April 2013.

Could his controversial, allegedly job-creating income tax cuts explain the shortfall — a shortfall responsible in part for a downgrade of the state’s debt?

Nope. It was the “failed economic policies of the Obama administration.”

That may or may not be right. But Brownback’s statement suggests Kansas tax policy is actually irrelevant to job growth. If President Obama’s policies are responsible when state revenues go down, those policies are responsible when revenues go up.

That probably isn’t what the governor had in mind.

Don’t let Democrats skate. Paul Davis, Brownback’s likely November opponent, has yet to say if he’ll raise Kansas taxes to cover the growing budget gap and falling credit rating. His campaign people promise an answer, eventually.

Now would be a good time.

Then there’s Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. He showed up at Ford Claycomo this week, calling state tax breaks for the car plant one of his proudest achievements. The next day he announced a veto of a general tax cut.

Ford reported net income of more than $10 million a day in the first three months of this year. Nixon has yet to explain why a profitable company gets a break at the tax window while the people who make the cars — and buy them — don’t.

Here’s what most voters know. Taxes should be broad and generally loophole-free, covering all types of income, spending, property and earnings. They should be based on one’s ability to pay, at least in part. And they should be as low as possible.

Increasingly, the distorted tax structures in Missouri and Kansas fail all three tests. And it gets worse every legislative session.

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