OPINION: Gov. Brownback’s tax policies propose shortfall

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On Tuesday, a Kansas Senate committee passed a tax bill that will “repeal an income tax exemption for more than 300,000 business owners,” while also raising income tax rates across the board. The bill is not perfect by any means, but it is a start toward repairing the damages Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies have done to the state.

KWCH reported that the proposed bill would raise $660 million in Kansas over the next two years and is a “backtrack on personal income tax cuts championed by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.”

In response to the proposed bill, Brownback said it “needlessly harms the real people that serve as the lifeblood of Kansas. It punishes the middle class — teachers, police officers and nurses — working hard to provide for their families.”

Currently, our state is facing a projected shortfall of $1.1 billion by June 2019 due to the tax policies Brownback has pursued over the years and continues to champion.

So, I would like to say to Brownback that the middle class workers — the teachers, police officers and nurses you are talking about — are already being punished by your tax policies. While the state’s debt grows larger, public sector workers continue to have their funding cut to make up for state losses all because you refuse to raise taxes.

In his most recent State of the State Address, Brownback boasted the “state of our state is strong.”

This, of course, is looking through a very narrow window, which is nothing new for Brownback. Looking back through his past few State of State addresses, it seems our governor has had a bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to his policies.

For example, in his 2016 State of State Address, when addressing the Kansas Highway Patrol, Brownback said, “In December, the Kansas Highway Patrol graduated its 55th class of troopers. It was the largest class in recent years.”

A fact check conducted by the Wichita Eagle showed that while yes, 20 new troopers graduated in December, the KHP has 82 fewer troopers than 10 years ago. It also pointed out that the superintendent of the KHP wrote a letter asking for funding to “hire more officers, contending that short staffing is affecting the agency’s ability to keep the highway safe.”

Another claim made last year by the governor was that under his tax plan, “more than 388,000 low-income Kansans now pay zero income tax.”

This is partially true, yet when looking into the average savings per person, one will find it to be approximately $48 a year. To make up for this shortfall, the state increased its sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent.

This impacts the poorest in our state the most, since they are already scraping by and will now have to spend even more money for basic necessities like food and health products.

So really, this increase in the sales tax takes away the $48 that Brownback saved them, and probably takes away more money. All of this while the richest in our state continue to thrive.

The governor now sits at a 26 percent approval rating among his fellow Kansans, and that seems to be maintaining, if not dropping more. If we continue following Brownback’s tax policies, the next governor will inherit a fiscal crisis that may have the potential to shake Kansas’ economy to its core.

If you feel like we need to change our tax policies to actually benefit average Kansans, I urge you to call your representatives and senators, and tell them to pass this tax bill. You can find more info at http://kslegislature.org/li/.

Kyler Jackson is a sophomore in political science. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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