Editorials

More proof rolls in that Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts aren’t saving Kansas

Kansas gubernatorial candidates Paul Davis (left) and Sam Brownback debated each other Tuesday in Wichita.
Kansas gubernatorial candidates Paul Davis (left) and Sam Brownback debated each other Tuesday in Wichita. The Associated Press

Throwing out various claims on the campaign trail, Gov. Sam Brownback insists his radical income tax cut program is going to revive the Kansas economy.

But as the data roll in — including more numbers on the all-important jobs front on Tuesday — the promises of dramatic “growth” aren’t coming true.

For example, since the tax cuts took effect in January 2013, a review by The Star shows that 31 other states have added jobs at a faster clip than Kansas has over the last 21 months.

Meanwhile, the governor’s self-proclaimed “experiment” with the Kansas economy caused the state to collect hundreds of millions less in revenue than expected in the last fiscal year, with sustained losses continuing so far this year. These declines have imperiled Kansas’ ability to maintain public services, especially for K-12 education.

Democrat Paul Davis is the better bet to lead Kansas on a more fiscally responsible path. That must start with placing a moratorium on the even deeper future income tax cuts that Brownback and the Legislature already have approved.

Here’s a summary of two other economic measuring sticks, separating fact from the Brownback administration’s spin.

▪ Since Brownback took office in January 2011, the state’s unemployment rate has fallen more slowly than the national average. And three of Kansas’ neighbors today have lower unemployment rates than Kansas.

▪ Kansas hasn’t budged on the national rankings of per-capita personal income during Brownback’s tenure. The state was 24th highest in the nation in 2013 — same as in 2012 and 2011, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data. Kansas incomes slightly trailed the national averages all three years.

Job creation was at the heart of Brownback’s tax-cut pledges.

But a review by The Star of Tuesday’s federal Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers reveals that Kansas trails most other states when it comes to job growth. Those additional workers are badly needed to generate more tax revenue, one of the promises made by eager tax-cut believers.

Since January of 2013, Kansas has added 25,300 jobs through September, according to total nonfarm employment statistics, which include private sector and government workers.

The rate of growth over that stretch was 1.9 percent.

Sadly for Kansans, that percentage increase pales in comparison to the national expansion of 3.1 percent.

Kansas also trails three of its four neighbors: Colorado (4.9 percent), Oklahoma (2.9 percent) and Missouri (2.8 percent). Nebraska grew by 1.5 percent.

The tax cuts have not provided Brownback’s long-promised jolt to the Kansas job market.

The Brownback administration points with pride at the state’s 4.8 percent unemployment rate in September, the nation’s 15th lowest.

However, three of Kansas’ bordering states had lower unemployment rates — Oklahoma and Colorado at 4.7 percent and Nebraska at 3.6 percent. Missouri was at 6.3 percent.

Overall, since Brownback took office in 2011, the drop in the state’s jobless rate has been slightly lower than the decline in the nation’s unemployment rate as a whole.

Finally, Brownback sympathizers trot out various claims about the growth of salaries and income for Kansas jobs.

It is true that average weekly earnings for Kansans, according to BLS data, have risen slightly in the last year-over-year comparison, ending in September. Kansas has passed a handful of states on the national rankings, though the state is still in the bottom half of that list.

Kansans need to end their own “experiment” with Brownback this fall and elect Davis to chart a more effective course.

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