Editorials

Thanks to Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas has too many excuses and not enough cash

While Gov. Sam Brownback (left) complains about the slow growth of revenues in Kansas, Gov. Jay Nixon and Missouri are faring a bit better.
While Gov. Sam Brownback (left) complains about the slow growth of revenues in Kansas, Gov. Jay Nixon and Missouri are faring a bit better. The Associated Press

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his supporters have trotted out several excuses for why state revenues are falling short of expectations, which has happened in all three months of the fiscal year that began July 1.

August receipts were disappointing, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said, because the state had paid out “unanticipated refunds” to businesses.

Last week, Jordan said the September shortfall was largely caused by the “dramatic drop in oil, gas and farm income experienced across the Midwest.”

On Wednesday, Brownback said the already alarming overall shortage of $67 million in tax revenues was partly the fault of a slow U.S. economy. Brownback rejected any repeal of the excessive income tax cuts he approved in 2012, which in truth are the biggest cause of the continuing revenue woes.

Many Kansans understand that fact, of course, because they can look around the nation and see what’s happening in states that didn’t dramatically slash taxes with hopes of magically causing a surge of new jobs and revenues.

Take Missouri.

According to figures from the state’s Department of Revenue, it collected 3.6 percent more in total taxes in the first three months of the 2016 fiscal year compared with the 2015 fiscal year.

Kansas is up only 1.25 percent for the same period.

And remember, that’s even after the Kansas Legislature earlier this year approved a jump in the state’s sales tax.

As a result, the only real positive for Kansas is that sales tax revenues are up 7.2 percent in the current fiscal year over the previous one, though they still lag expectations. Missouri’s comparable overall increase is 0.3 percent for this year, without any change in its sales tax rate.

But the big problem for Kansas continues to be its individual income tax revenues, up a puny 0.4 percent this fiscal year. Corporate income tax receipts have plummeted 16.8 percent compared with last year.

Meanwhile, Missouri’s individual income tax revenues have climbed 6.2 percent while corporate receipts have fallen only 2.1 percent from year to year.

In Kansas, the well-documented slow growth in new jobs has helped stifle the revenue increases Brownback so boldly predicted in 2012.

But don’t worry. If the state’s finances remain under water, the governor and his staff will be ready with plenty more excuses — just not the political will to kill the individual income tax cuts.

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