Tax time has become all the more taxing for many Kansans.
The annual ritual of preparing income-tax returns has produced an unpleasant surprise in reduced itemized deductions, a tactic designed to help offset revenue losses caused by deep income-tax cuts.
Gov. Sam Brownback and company lowered state deductions allowed for mortgage interest and property taxes to 50 percent of taxpayers’ federal itemized deductions.
Unfortunately, far-right Republicans in charge also saw fit to eliminate a state itemized deduction for medical expenses.
That shortsighted move in particular promises unnecessary pain. For example, elderly people paying for costly assisted living could see their Kansas taxable income go up without the deduction.
Of course, the governor always had such strategies in mind to pay for his “trickle-down” economic approach. When he slashed income taxes in 2012 — mostly benefiting the wealthy and small businesses — Brownback wanted deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions eliminated to help cover significant losses in revenue.
Brownback didn’t get those so-called “pay-fors” — and moderate lawmakers hoped that would stall the disastrous tax plan — yet the extreme-right faction forged ahead. Kansas soon faced crippling budget shortfalls that triggered significant funding hits for public education, highways, mental health care and other vital state-funded programs.
Rather than revise the overly aggressive tax cuts, Brownback and fellow ultraconservatives approved the biggest tax increase in state history, mostly sales taxes, in the last session.
Although radical, the move still wasn’t enough to make ends meet, while disproportionately punishing low- and middle-income Kansans with food taxes among the highest in the nation.
While that blunder drew great public scrutiny, the changes to state income-tax deductions mostly flew under the radar.
At least the lost itemized deductions won’t affect every Kansan, as with higher sales taxes. An estimated 20 percent use mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and fewer claim the medical deduction.
But that’s little consolation to those affected, and particularly older Kansans with medical expenses who don’t need any extra tax burden.
The reduced deductions were nothing more than back-door tax increases. Unfortunately, many Kansans have been shortchanged yet again due to the governor’s ideology-driven nonsense.