Yael T. Abouhalkah

Davis attacks, Brownback suffers as new tax-cut problem slams Kansas

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has told people over and over again that his economic plan is working in the state. The facts beg to differ.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has told people over and over again that his economic plan is working in the state. The facts beg to differ. The Associated Press

Kansas dug itself another financial hole in June, as tax revenues came in $28 million less than expected for the month. That gave Democratic opponent Paul Davis a great opportunity Monday to attack the excessive tax-cut policies of Gov. Sam Brownback.

On Monday, new figures showed Kansas overall took in about $338 million less than expected in fiscal year 2014, which ends today.

To put that in perspective: The dollar shortfall was the biggest miss by state budget prognosticators since at least 1975. It also was the largest miss on a percentage basis in those 40 years, at almost 6 percent under expected revenues.

The fallout from the wilting tax revenues continued Monday, when Davis ratcheted up the pressure on Brownback.

Davis finally publicly said he favored delaying some of the future income tax cuts that the Legislature approved and Brownback signed into law. As Davis astutely noted, the tax cuts already are costing the state revenue that could be used for public services, such as better K-12 education.

In full campaign mode, Davis said, “Kansas is in a crisis of Sam Brownback’s making and it will not be fixed overnight.”

Still, Davis is going to have to be outspoken and clear on the trail about what he intends to do, presumably working with a Republican-controlled Legislature, to help Kansas get back on the right fiscal track.

The Star has recounted much of this ongoing debacle, including after the last month’s revenue figures showed the state with $310 million less in tax collections than expected.

When Brownback and Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan tried to blame President Barack Obama and the federal government for the state’s fiscal woes, I recounted how facts from a national report pretty much destroyed that contention.

And most recently, new federal Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed out that Kansas was one of only five states across the country that actually lost jobs in the last six months.

Over the weekend, the Kansas “experiment” took two more poundings in the national media.

New York Times columnist Josh Barro wrote about Kansas’ unsurprising revenue losses, as well as five problems the state has run into with its tax cuts, including some unintended negative consequences for taxpayers.

And in a column titled “Charlatans, cranks and Kansans,” Paul Krugman of The New York Times decried the fact that supply-side economists such as Arthur Laffer still have ardent followers, including Brownback and other right-leaning politicians.

One good point from Krugman about how all this works: “For the Brownback tax cuts didn’t emerge out of thin air. They closely followed a blueprint laid out by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has also supported a series of economic studies purporting to show that tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy will promote rapid economic growth.”

People in parts of the rest of the nation are shaking their heads and even laughing at Kansas now, wondering how the state’s elected leaders could have acted so irresponsibly.

How could Brownback appear to be such a puppet for discredited ideas promoted by Laffer and his ilk, and by ALEC?

Kansans who have been paying attention have seen this story play out for more than two years.

And it’s no laughing matter in these parts.

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