Yael T. Abouhalkah

New Kansas jobs figures stun Sam Brownback, and not in a good way

Gov. Sam Brownback is staring at how to make a staggering cut of $648 million in next year’s Kansas budget, partly because tax cuts aren’t creating the promised number of jobs in the state.
Gov. Sam Brownback is staring at how to make a staggering cut of $648 million in next year’s Kansas budget, partly because tax cuts aren’t creating the promised number of jobs in the state. The Associated Press

The new Kansas jobs numbers were released Friday morning, bringing horrible news to state taxpayers and Gov. Sam Brownback.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the total number of nonfarm jobs in Kansas fell by 4,100 in November.

Kansas’ disturbing experience was at odds with how much of the rest of the country did. A total of 37 other states gained in employment in November, while only 13 others, including Kansas, dropped.

Missouri boosted employment by 4,500 in November, for instance, while Oklahoma gained 3,400 jobs. Two other neighbors, Nebraska and Colorado, were among the job losers, though not close to the number shredded in Kansas.

What’s this all mean?

The figures show it’s going to be even tougher for Brownback — after pushing through excessive income tax cuts — to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenues from those reductions. They took effect in 2013.

The Kansas Legislature and Brownback already knew they were going to have a rough time figuring out how to slash a staggering $648 million from the next fiscal year’s projected budget of just over $6 billion. That work starts in January.

But if Kansas is not creating lots of new jobs — which the tax cuts were supposed to help do — the state budget could be in even bigger trouble than is now recognized.

The jobs figures in November show that the estimated employment totals released in October for Kansas may have been a one-month piece of good news for the state and the governor.

Back then, the BLS reported a big surge of jobs for that month, up 8,400 over September. At the time, that was even more than the entire number of jobs the state had gained during the first nine months of the year, or 7,900 jobs.

However, Friday’s federal figures now show the state has added only a meager 12,200 total jobs for the first 11 months of the year. That’s barely more than 1,000 a month, and a growth rate of under 1 percent for the year. Missouri, by contrast, has a more robust 1.6 percent growth rate for 2014.

Brownback, you will recall, has pledged that Kansas should be able to add 2,000 private sector jobs a month during his second term starting in January, which he earned with his narrow re-election on Nov. 4.

Simply put, there remains no good evidence to believe the governor knows what he’s talking about on this subject.

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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