Editorials

Gov. Sam Brownback’s boast about Kansas job growth rings hollow

After the Mars candy company built a new plant in Topeka, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was at the 2014 ceremony marking the start of production.
After the Mars candy company built a new plant in Topeka, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was at the 2014 ceremony marking the start of production. The Associated Press

Gov. Sam Brownback recently said Kansas had created more than 59,000 new private sector jobs since he took office four years ago.

It’s a completely accurate statement.

It’s also highly misleading.

Using the most telling yardstick — the percentage rate of job growth — Kansas actually trailed more than two-thirds of the nation’s states in adding private sector employment during Brownback’s first term.

More notably, Kansas has created jobs at an even slower pace since the massive income tax cuts that Brownback champions as the savior to the state’s economy took effect in January 2013.

The Star compiled the following figures from the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. It’s the same source Brownback used in making his jobs claim during his State of the State address this month.

▪ Kansas’ private sector employment grew by 5.5 percent from January 2011 through November 2014.

That’s far from impressive when stacked up against the rest of the country.

Kansas trailed 33 other states and Washington, D.C., all of which have added jobs at a healthier pace since 2011.

The six top gainers over that span were North Dakota, the leader at 28.5 percent, followed by Texas, Utah, California, Florida and Colorado.

Sixteen states did lag Kansas in private sector employment in that time, including neighboring Missouri and Nebraska, both up 5.3 percent.

The five worst rates were in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia; the latter two had bottom-feeding growth of 3.3 percent.

▪ After the tax cuts became law in January 2013, the number of Kansas’ private sector jobs went up only 2.5 percent through November 2014.

That was below 37 other states (including Missouri) and Washington, D.C.

Put another way, Kansas has gained employment faster than only 12 other states since the tax cuts took effect.

▪ Overall, total nonfarm employment in Kansas — which includes government and private sector jobs — had risen just 4.1 percent since January 2011.

That again put Kansas behind 37 other states and Washington, D.C.

Kansas actually gained only 54,500 total jobs, or almost 5,000 below the private sector number, because state and local government employee rolls declined. That effectively meant 5,000 people were without jobs that allowed them to pay taxes, buy houses and shop in Kansas.

Brownback made another remark in his State of the State speech that bears review.

He said private sector employment had “actually dropped” in Kansas from 1999-2009, something he has called “the lost decade” in the state.

BLS figures do show that annual average employment in Kansas was a minuscule 6,800 lower in 2009 than in 1999.

However, 23 other states also had “lost decades,” according to the BLS. Basically, Kansas was in the middle of the employment pack during that period.

Now, four years into the Brownback era, it appears the state is in even worse shape. It’s in the bottom third of job growth among states, and it’s going the wrong way with disastrous tax cuts in place.

Monday in The Star: Brownback’s flawed “march to zero” on income taxes.

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