Kansas Considers Tax Hikes on the Poor to Address Budget Mess


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It’s been clear for more than a year that Kansas must make significant policy changes to address its severe budget shortfall. Now, legislative developments are moving quickly as Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers try to hammer out a plan to plug the budget gap, but so far proposals on the table would make Kansas’s already regressive tax code even more so.

On Saturday, Gov. Brownback unveiled (a second) tax proposal to fix the state’s fiscal mess, AKA a $400 million shortfall. The governor’s latest plan cuts income tax rates, changes how itemized deductions are taxed, includes a vague low-income exemption and raises both the sales tax and the cigarette tax.

“The latest proposal is asking the Kansas Legislature to repeat 2012 mistakes, proposing dramatic changes to the Kansas tax code without identifying specific statutory changes or data to show the impact those changes will have,” Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth said in a statement.

By now, it’s no secret that that much of this fiscal mess has its roots in the governor’s own top-heavy, unaffordable tax cuts passed in 2012 and 2013. Perhaps the copious and damaging press over the last several years around the governor’s tax cuts for the wealthy are the impetus behind Brownback’s claim that 388,000 people will not have to pay income taxes under his new plan. While ITEP hasn’t yet evaluated whether this claim is true,  an initial ITEP analysis of Brownback’s plan found that his proposal results in an average net tax hike for Kansans in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution due in part to higher  sales and other regressive excise taxes.

As our analyses have repeatedly shown, Gov. Brownback’s 2012 and 2013 tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, collectively cost the state more than $1 billion and actually raised taxes overall on average for the bottom 20 percent of Kansans.

 

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