The Garden City Telegram
4/24/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Worst plan

State's tax-reform policy cited for wrong reasons.

It's not every day that experts on opposite ends of the political spectrum agree on something.

But when it comes to Gov. Sam Brownback's tax-reform initiatives, two noted tax-policy experts agree that Kansas has the worst plan in the nation.

Interviewed by the nonpartisan Governing magazine, Joe Henchman of the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation and Nick Johnson of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities each ranked the Sunflower State at the bottom in terms of tax reform.

Henchman and Johnson each criticized legislation passed last year in the Kansas Statehouse at Brownback's urging. The law eliminated the state income tax for about 190,000 small businesses, making Kansas the only state with such a policy. High-income Kansans also got a hefty tax break.

The two experts agreed that such tax avoidance likely won't energize the economy with the significant job growth Brownback and his allies envision.

Instead, Henchman and Johnson pointed to the kind of negative fallout critics of the tax cuts in Kansas feared all along.

For example, the massive tax-cut plan was viewed as counterproductive in making it more difficult to invest in programs that help fuel the economy, especially infrastructure and education.

And rather than provide relief where Kansans need it most — property taxes — the strategy promises to drive up those taxes as communities try to fill funding gaps.

Among other criticisms from the tax-policy experts was in how Kansas' plan benefits the rich and harms the poor and middle class, a concern voiced by many others.

Sadly, the state's radical tax policy materialized in the Legislature even as more reasonable, moderate Republican lawmakers in the Kansas Senate rightly pushed for policy that would cut taxes, but maintain enough revenue to effectively govern.

But those lawmakers were stymied and then driven from office in the wake of a negative campaign of falsehoods from a far-right GOP faction fueled by the multibillionaire Koch brothers of Wichita, and carried out by the Kansas Chamber, Americans for Prosperity and Brownback.

In the end, Kansas became a laboratory for the Kochs' tax-reform experiment.

And more people nationwide are taking notice — for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately.