Yael T. Abouhalkah

New Kansas job figures reveal another failure for Sam Brownback’s tax cuts

Even former allies of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback are criticizing what he wants to do to make up for the revenue shortfall that his excessive income tax cuts have created.
Even former allies of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback are criticizing what he wants to do to make up for the revenue shortfall that his excessive income tax cuts have created. The Associated Press

The final Kansas job figures are in for 2014, and Gov. Sam Brownback’s costly income tax cut “experiment” has laid another egg.

Total nonfarm employment climbed only 1,700 people in December, according to Tuesday’s release of figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Overall, that means Kansas added a meager 12,800 jobs from December 2013 to December 2014, or barely more than 1,000 a month.

That’s a puny growth rate of .9 percent, one of the lowest in the BLS data for 2014.

For comparison’s sake, take a look at Kansas’ Midwestern neighbors:

▪ Colorado’s total employment was up 2.6 percent for the year.

▪ Oklahoma gained 2.2 percent.

▪ Missouri added 1.6 percent.

▪ Nebraska was up .8 percent.

The BLS figures showed that Brownback’s much-trumpeted bid to boost private sector jobs also hasn’t gone nearly as well as hoped.

The state added 12,800 private sector jobs from December 2013 to December 2014, the same total as nonfarm employment, because local and state government jobs were flat for the year.

The BLS also announced that Kansas’ unemployment rate for December was 4.2 percent, below the national 5.6 percent mark. Brownback allies like to trumpet that fact.

However, other nearby states are even lower. Colorado and Oklahoma were both at 4.2 percent and adding jobs far faster than Kansas. Nebraska was at 2.9 percent.

So much for Brownback’s promise from 2012 all the way through his re-election campaign last fall,when he said jobs would flock to Kansas after he and the Legislature approved income tax reductions that took effect in January of 2013.

Through November, the state’s employment growth rate of 5.5 percent in private sector jobs had trailed 33 other states and Washington, D.C.

Even worse, Kansas’ growth rate had fallen behind 37 other states and D.C. in the last two years after Brownback’s income tax cuts took effect in January of 2013.

As it turns out, Brownback’s recent promise of 100,000 new private sector jobs in his next four years seems to be unrealistic. That’s because the state would need to create 2,100 jobs a month while it’s been averaging close to 1,300 a month for his first four years in office.

In addition, high-tax states have been generating employment at a faster clip than the Sunflower State for the last two years — exactly as long as the tax cuts have been in place.

Brownback has had a difficult time in recent days, ever since he proposed tax increases on cigarettes and alcohol, and conceded he wanted to basically halt the decline in income tax rates.

The state faces a huge deficit of $280 million that has to be closed by June 30 — and an even larger one of around $650 million in the coming fiscal year that begins July 1.

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist recently criticized Brownback, saying, “A pack-a-day smoker would end up paying an extra $547.50 in taxes a year. Kansans living along the Missouri border may opt to avoid the tax altogether by purchasing their tobacco products in Missouri — where the tax would be lower. If consumers flock to businesses across state lines, they may make other purchases while shopping for tobacco — hurting the bottom lines of Kansas retailers.”

Summed up: Brownback’s getting hit from all sides these days, mostly because the income tax cuts he championed have not worked out as he promised.

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