Yael T. Abouhalkah

Tax-cut fiasco haunts Sam Brownback and Kansas lawmakers as chaotic session nears end

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback isn’t providing much leadership publicly in finding a solution to the state’s budget mess.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback isn’t providing much leadership publicly in finding a solution to the state’s budget mess. AP

As the Kansas Legislature battles to balance the new state budget, everyone from Gov. Sam Brownback on down seems incapable of dealing with the ugly reality that stares them in the face:

The huge income tax cuts they approved in 2012 are not working to bring in lots more jobs or revenues.

Yet here was Brownback on Thursday, saying he’d be glad to look at budget cuts if the Legislature would only be so kind as to bring him a plan to help close a $400 million gap between spending and revenue.

That’s not likely to happen. It hasn’t in the four months the lawmakers have been meeting. House Speaker Ray Merrick, who whined last year about spending in Kansas, never came forward with any major ideas to reduce it.

In fact, what’s to stop the governor from — you know — proposing his own plan to slash some more state services?

Then there were Senate President Susan Wagle and a few others this week, saying that the Kansas revenue problems were little different from what other states were facing. The contention: President Barack Obama and federal policies were holding the states down when it came to making money.

Wrong.

Take a look at the latest report from the nonpartisan Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Broadly put, it shows that only a few states — and yes, Kansas is one of them — are struggling to produce tax revenue as the economy rebounds and the end of the Great Recession fades from view.

“Overall, 38 states reported growth in personal income tax collections for the quarter with 13 states reporting double-digit growth,” the report said. “The following five states reported declines in personal income tax collections: Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin.”

As the institute’s report notes, income tax cuts in Kansas, North Carolina and a few other states are holding them back from collecting enough public funds to make ends meet and avoid budget cuts.

Finally, there’s Stephen Forbes, in Forbes magazine, entering the debate as he clings to the absurd mantra that the tax cuts are bringing some kind of nirvana to Kansas.

In an opinion article this week, Forbes wrote that Brownback’s tax cuts “are starting to yield a bumper crop in prosperity.”

Again, wrong.

In figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday, Kansas now trails 44 other states in job growth for the first four months of 2015.

Going back further, Kansas is behind the national average in added employment as well.

That’s important because Brownback once said that the huge income tax cuts would be like a “shot of adrenaline” to the economy, attracting jobs and the tax revenue they create.

It’s not occurring, which is why the governor and legislators are scrambling to close that $400 million budget hole in the session’s final days.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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