Kansas Republicans, Faced with Massive Deficit, Consider Raising Taxes

Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Gov. Sam Brownback (AP photo)

Confronted with a $400 million budget deficit brought on by tax cuts, Kansas Republicans, who control the state government, are now seriously thinking of raising taxes to fix the mess they created.


Governor Sam Brownback insisted after first taking office that cutting income taxes was the way to generate more income for residents and prosperity for the state. The reductions dropped personal income taxes from 6.45% to 3.9% for upper earners and from 3.5% to 2.3% for lower-income people over a period of several years.


The results were “never as good as we hoped,” Republican state Senator Les Donovan told The New York Times.


Instead, the cuts forced the state to slash spending. “The governor has cut some state agency budgets by 4 percent, reduced contributions to the state pension system and shifted money between state accounts,” the Times reported. “Lawmakers have rolled back funding for poorer school districts and changed the way they allocate money to schools. They have slowed funding increases for entitlement programs.”


But even after all of that the budget is $400 million in the red, and more cuts would take away even more funding from schools, some of which closed in April this year because they ran out of money. So Republicans, including Brownback, are now working on ways to increase revenues through tax hikes.


The governor’s plan would raise $428 million by increasing the sales tax from 6.15% to 6.65% and the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack, from 79 cents to $1.29. He would also eliminate personal income taxes for some individuals earning up to $17,250 a year and couples earning up to $24,500.


Democrats object to the plan because sales tax increases are regressive, affecting the poor the most.


The tax cuts hurt the budget in another way. The legislative session, which is usually 90 days, is now past 100 days. Each additional day costs Kansas taxpayers $40,000.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

To Fill Budget Hole, Kansas GOP Considers the Unthinkable: Raising Taxes (by John Eligon, New York Times)

Kansas Governor Outlines New Tax Plan To Close Budget Gap (by John Hanna, Associated Press)

Kansas Passes Restrictive Welfare Law Seen as Mean-Spirited, Punitive (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Report Reveals Kansas Gov. Brownback’s Tax Policies will put His State $1 Billion in Debt…6 Days after He Won Re-Election (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)


steve 8 years ago
Let's not forget the elimination of small business taxes. 100% elimination. That put a dent in the budget - $200 million or so. Gov. Brownback has indicated he is totally opposed to even talking about changing that. It appears that a very small percentage of the businesses affected ended up with the vast majority of the tax benefits generated. This would include many subsidiaries of the Koch brothers business. The goal was to encourage business to come to Kansas and to create jobs. We don't see a lot of businesses or people coming to Kansas (the northern tip of the sunbelt). And what about the proposal to raise sales tax? That is a regressive tax. But the proposal is we take lower income people off the tax rolls completely. What is unknown is the effect of raising the sales tax and eliminating income tax will have on folks on the lower end of the income scale. Brownback's economic goal is to eliminate income tax and substitute consumption tax. As a result we are in this budget mess and what we have is a legislature trying to piecemeal a solution at $43K a day. And here are a few other areas of concern in Kansas. Kansas says to drive a car, with its capacity to cause fatal injuries, requires driver’s training and a license. But we managed to pass a law allowing Kansans to carry concealed weapons without training or a license. Don't even go into what we've done to education. You're in trouble if you live in a poor school district in this state. Or how about what we've done by not taking advantage of the Medicare Expansion that was part of the ACA? The hospitals are eating the costs on that one - especially the rural hospitals. This is going to force many of those hospitals to eliminate many services in rural areas (and we have a lot of them). And there appears to be a focused effort by the legislative and executive branch of the government to box in the Supreme Court because they don't always go along with what Brownback wants. In short - make no mistake - this is a sustained attack on many of our fundamental economic principals. Brownback calls this an experiment. We have less than 3,000,000 people in the entire state so win, lose or draw a relatively small part of the US population will be affected. Let's hope that whatever lessons are learned from this experiment can be applied to the US government economic policy.

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