With Kansas Governor Sam Brownback releasing his budget this morning, it’s a good time for a refresher about what’s happened since Kansas enacted one of the largest state income tax cuts in history two years ago.
Kansas’ finances are a mess. The tax cuts have proven even more expensive than originally imagined, leaving the state with far less revenue than it will need to pay for schools and other state services. To get through the past two years, the governor has nearly drained Kansas’ operating reserves, leaving the state highly vulnerable to the next recession.
Kansas’ schools and other services have been weakened and face even more cuts. General state aid for schools per student is 15 percent below pre-recession levels. And with the state’s financial picture so bleak, more cuts are likely on the way, though a court ruling that the state’s school funding is so low it violates the state constitution may help.
Taxes are down for the wealthy but up for the poor. Kansas’ tax cuts didn’t benefit everyone. Most of the benefits went to high-income households. Kansas even raised taxes for low-income families to offset part of the revenue loss; otherwise, the cuts to schools and other services would likely have been even bigger.
The tax cuts haven’t boosted Kansas’ economy. Since the tax cuts took effect two years ago, Kansas has seen private sector jobs grow by 2.6 percent, notably slower than the 4.4 percent growth nationally.
There’s little evidence that the tax cuts will improve its economy in the future. The latest official state revenue forecast, from last November, projects personal income will continue to grow more slowly in Kansas than in the nation as a whole this year, next year, and the year after that. (See chart.)