Number crunch: Kansas' misguided path now a lesson for other states

7/14/2014

Clarification: A total of 16,000 businesses, not jobs, were lost in the time frame the governor reported 15,000 new business.

Clarification: A total of 16,000 businesses, not jobs, were lost in the time frame the governor reported 15,000 new business.

National headlines continue trumpeting the fallout of Gov. Sam Brownback's flawed tax policies.

Instead of accounts of impressive job growth and a strong economy Kansans were promised as part of a massive income tax-cut plan that benefits the wealthy, Americans nationwide are learning what their states should not do.

Thanks to the tax cuts, Kansas has been off $338 million in projected revenue collections in just the past three months.

The state has decimated a surplus replenished after the recession. More of the tax burden is being shifted to local governments, a painful setback for rural western Kansas in particular.

Health care, programs for the poor, courts and other state services have been hard hit. Education funding is stuck behind other states, where budgets for public schools have rebounded.

Job growth has lagged behind the rest of the nation, and Moody's cut the state's bond rating.

Unfortunately, it's all proof that private-sector growth in the Sunflower State cannot offset the cost of such tax cuts.

Yet as he seeks re-election, the governor wants to paint a rosier picture.

For example, Brownback boasted in a recent Wall Street Journal column that "In the past year, a record number of small businesses — more than 15,000 — were formed." But the state lost some 16,000 businesses over the same time period.

He's also claimed the state had just $876.05 in its bank account when he took office.

Not true. The figure represented the reported ending general fund balance June 30, 2010, six months before he took office.

Kansas' Comprehensive Annual Financial Report showed an all-funds ending balance of $163.4 million in Kansas government as of June 30, 2010.

That said, Brownback isn't the first politician to twist numbers and statistics to gain an edge, and he won't be the last.

The difference is that even as the actions of the governor and his ultraconservative GOP alliance have real consequences now, they refuse to acknowledge the problems and obvious need to change course.

Such is the alarming reality from a politician asking for four more years to continue on the same reckless path.

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