With a nearly $1 billion deficit over the next two years — and with several rounds of deep cuts to core services already executed — state lawmakers recently restored badly needed revenue.
Their plan to generate $1.2 billion to address the budget shortfall and help with K-12 public school funding essentially restored income taxes recklessly slashed in Gov. Sam Brownback’s “march to zero.”
Individual income taxes will go up starting July 1, but with rates lower than in 2012. That year, Brownback and fellow ultraconservatives pushed through an ill-conceived economic stimulus strategy of income-tax cuts that went too far, too fast.
The new plan also will see more than 330,000 farmers and other small business entities left paying no income taxes back on the tax rolls.
Much attention has been on taxes needed make ends meet, and understandably so. Still, it’s necessary to note the gains for Kansans, beyond the obvious in preventing still more damage to education, roads and other vital programs.
Lawmakers rightly restored the child and dependent care credit, as well as deductions for mortgage interest rates, property taxes and medical expenses.
Brownback and company whittled away at those tax breaks in an attempt to help offset the massive income-tax cuts. But the backdoor tax increases only hurt low- and middle-income Kansans.
To make matters worse, ultraconservatives also tried to fill budget holes with a significant sales tax increase — another way to disproportionately penalize the poor.
Kansas, a farm state, now has one of the nation’s highest taxes on groceries.
That’s inexcusable. One priority moving forward has to be in lowering the sales tax on food.
As for the new tax policy, it’s not perfect. Rather, it’s a tourniquet applied to stop hemorrhaging from a gaping, self-inflicted wound, and the best lawmakers could do considering they received no help from the governor.
It’s also proof of the price to pay for allowing an extreme-right faction to steer the state so far off course.
And now, Kansans must brace for still more painful problem solving in years to come, as lawmakers continue remedying an epic blunder by Brownback that only worsened over time.