By Jim McClean
April 2, 2015

About 100 people rallied Wednesday within earshot of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s office to demand the repeal of income tax cuts they say are crippling the state.

The Rev Up Kansas coalition staged the event to call attention to the state’s ongoing budget problems, which organizers said are the result of tax cuts that Brownback championed in the mistaken belief that they would jump-start the Kansas economy.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president of Kansas Action for Children, said the steep drop in revenue is forcing cuts in programs that are essential to low-income children and their families.

“I simply don’t believe that Kansans want tax policies that short-circuit investments in the next generation,” Cotsoradis said. “Let’s reverse course before it’s too late for an entire generation of Kansas children.”

News of additional revenue shortfalls added urgency to the rally.

Late Tuesday, the Kansas Department of Revenue reported that the state had collected $11.2 million less than estimated in March. With three months left to go in the 2015 fiscal year, tax collections are running a total of $48 million behind already lowered estimates.

“When one is in a hole, one is advised to stop digging,” said Mark Farr, a Nickerson High School science teacher on leave to serve as president of the Kansas National Education Association.

Noting that the hole had just become $11.2 million deeper, Farr said, “We must agree to end the governor’s failed experiment.”

Literature from the Mainstream Coalition and other organizations that staged a rally Wednesday to draw attention to budget problems they believe are being caused by the income tax cuts championed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Literature from the Mainstream Coalition and other organizations that staged a rally Wednesday to draw attention to budget problems they believe are being caused by the income tax cuts championed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
CREDIT JIM MCLEAN / HEARTLAND HEALTH MONITOR
Just before the legislative session started in January, plummeting revenues forced Brownback to order allotments — a combination of cuts and cash balance transfers — to close a projected $300 million budget gap. But only weeks later, continued revenue shortfalls forced him to make another $44.5 million in cuts to state universities and public schools. If tax collections continue to fall short of projections in April and May, additional cuts will be necessary to ensure the state ends the fiscal year in the black.

Bigger problems lie ahead in the budget year that begins July 1. Brownback and lawmakers are facing a projected deficit of at least $600 million. A Senate-passed budget bill partially closes the gap but would require tax increases of $141 million to balance.

Speakers at the rally said repealing the income tax cuts would be the best way to solve the budget problems.

Former state budget director Duane Goossen said the first year the tax cuts were in effect, the state collected $700 million less in revenue than the year before and collections have continued to drop.

“Kansas does not have nearly enough revenue to cover normal, reasonable expenses,” said Goossen, now a senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth and the author of the Kansas Budget blog.

Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan continues to say that the revenue shortfalls are a “temporary” byproduct of the tax cuts. Both he and Brownback point to improving employment numbers as evidence that the administration’s tax policies are spurring economic growth.

Last week, Brownback said adjusted statistics by the U.S. Department of Labor showed Kansas ranked second in its five-state region for private sector job growth in 2014.

“These corrected numbers show that our tax policy is working, bringing jobs and people to Kansas,” the governor said in a news release.

Brownback has said he believes higher sales tax receipts eventually will replace some of the revenue being lost because of the income tax cuts. So far this fiscal year, sales and use tax receipts are $40 million higher than estimated. However, they were $7.8 million short of projections in March.

Read more from the Kansas Health Institute.