Yael T. Abouhalkah

In latest Kansas revenue fiasco, it’s still the tax cuts, stupid

Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts have caused huge revenue shortfalls in Kansas, as a state report clearly showed Friday.
Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts have caused huge revenue shortfalls in Kansas, as a state report clearly showed Friday. The Associated Press

Kansas officials said Friday that total tax revenue for June fell a woeful $34 million below estimates, meaning even more cuts and adjustments are ahead for a beleaguered state.

However, that shortfall is not the most important figure in the Department of Revenue report.

This number is: $2.249 billion.

That’s how much individual income tax revenue the state collected in the 2016 fiscal year that ended Thursday.

Now look at a little history. It provides the cold, dismaying truth Kansans need to realize as their state bumbles along, close to being broke.

The reckless actions by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature in 2012 to reduce income tax rates on all Kansans and unfairly eliminate this tax for 330,000 LLCs continue to devastate the state budget. Kansas government no longer can provide solid public services to 3 million people.

Why is Kansas in such horrible fiscal shape? It’s still the tax cuts, stupid.

▪ In the 2012 fiscal year, before any of Brownback’s income tax cuts kicked in, the Sunflower state raked in $2.908 billion in individual income taxes.

▪ In the 2013 fiscal year, the figure rose to $2.931 billion.

▪ But after the reductions were in place, that source of funds plummeted to $2.218 billion in the 2014 fiscal year, was $2.278 billion in the 2015 fiscal year and — again — reached just $2.249 billion in the 2016 fiscal year.

Yes, that’s even less than last year.

Do the math and a shocking truth emerges.

Kansas today is collected a staggering $650 million or so less in individual income tax revenues every year than it was before the tax cuts.

If the state had not foregone that revenue, the $34 million shortfall in June would have been just a small blip on the radar, nothing to be worried about.

But here the Sunflower State is, with its budget in shambles, just four years after Brownback pushed through tax reductions that he said would re-energize the economy, create new jobs and — perhaps most notably — replace some of the revenue lost through his actions.

None of that has happened.

Kansas has actually lost 700 jobs over the last year, for the sixth worst rate of growth in America, according to federal and state figures.

The tax cuts have forced the Legislature and governor to divert more than $1 billion from road upgrades, impose a large sales tax increase in 2015, slice tens of millions of dollars from universities and spend every cent of a once-healthy cash reserve of $700 million.

Brownback and his delusional followers offer flimsy excuses for the revenues being below expectations.

The projections were too optimistic!

The farm and oil economies are in horrible shape! (An excellent analysis this week by Peter Hancock of the Lawrence Journal-World knocks down much of that argument.)

And — hey — Kansas still took in more money in the 2016 fiscal year than in the 2015 fiscal year! (But barely, and it should have, especially after the Legislature last year approved the largest tax increase in history — which still didn’t come close to making up for the loss of income tax receipts.)

Ignore the prattle from the governor and his sycophants.

The real cause of the latest and continuing Kansas budget woes has been the move made in 2012 to dramatically lower individual income tax rates.