Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly and the Legislature both want to make a big mistake.
The only question is whose will cost more.
The state has $2 billion in the bank, thanks to robust tax collections. That means both the Democratic governor and Republican legislative leaders have decided that Kansans need tax cuts. The governor, to her credit, has a reasonable list of asks. She wants to immediately eliminate the sales tax on food, add a tax holiday on school supplies and ease the tax burden on Social Security. Republicans have a broader list of potential targets, including Social Security income, property valuations and income tax.
Both sides should pause and think twice. Either batch of proposals will immediately slash state revenue. Kelly’s plan costs $500 million over three years. Income tax changes would cost far more. Meanwhile, our state and nation could enter a recession this year. That means tax collections will drop, and demand for state services will rise.
That makes the 2023 session an especially risky time to cut taxes.
The Brownback example
Once upon a time, legislators in Kansas understood this.
In 2016, despite the election of Donald Trump to the White House, our state elected a passel of moderates to the Statehouse. They joined with Democrats to end Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax “experiment,” which had opened yawning deficits and damaged state services.
They understood that without sufficient tax revenue, a state withers. One-time charges and tricky accounting can only carry you so far.
Thanks to changes made in the 2017 session, Kansas has righted its fiscal ship. Yes, that means we have more revenue coming in than expected. But this mad rush to broad-based cuts is a recipe for disaster. We need to be small-c conservative with our state’s resources, not committed to an anti-tax ideology that already made us the laughingstock of the United States.
The same extremists who made the case for the Brownback cuts haven’t apologized or backed down. That makes me especially concerned about what bills might make it through the Legislature.
They want to run full speed ahead, damn the consequences