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Opinion: Can’t kick Kansas around anymore

Hello, United States. Hello from Kansas. It appears that Congress and the president are about to enact a Kansas-style income tax cut for the nation. Good luck with that.

Kansas went down that road six years ago and ended up with a budget-busting, economic-deadening disaster. Our reputation got kicked around for it, too. The national press focused on telling the story of the Kansas tax experiment, and, as our financial decline deepened, we had to absorb disdain and snickering from around the country: “Haha, what were you all thinking? How could you harm yourselves like that? Don’t ever do what Kansas did.”

But now as the whole United States is about to do just that, Kansans are done taking guff about self-destructive tax policy.

You see, in Kansas we dealt with our trouble. “We mopped up our mess.” Kansas citizens educated themselves, saw the mistake and corrected it. Kansans did not figure it out in time to keep from narrowly re-electing Sam Brownback in 2014. By 2016, though, Kansans were upset enough to change the Legislature and give the tax experiment the big boot.

To be sure, much work remains to bring Kansas back to financial health. And while surveys show that a large majority of Kansans now believe our tax cuts were wrongheaded, not everyone owns up. Note, for example, our out-of-touch congressional delegation casting votes for the U.S. tax plan. Or the hometown Koch-funded Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity spending a million dollars to mail Kansans mega-numbers of postcards bashing legislators who successfully voted to reverse the Brownback tax plan.

Even so, our hard-won experience and newly achieved turnaround allow us to offer lessons:

First, tax cuts don’t pay for themselves. The revenue loss from the Kansas tax cuts was steep, immediately throwing the state budget badly out of balance. The U.S. tax cut plan will add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt and threaten Social Security and Medicare, just as the Kansas plan threatened public education and highways.

Second, tax cuts for the wealthy don’t trickle down. The Kansas plan primarily cut taxes for the wealthiest, while lower-income Kansans ended up paying more. Promised new jobs never arrived. Likewise, corporations and people with substantial “pass through” income benefit most from the national plan.

Finally, and more hopefully, rotten tax policy can be corrected by an engaged citizenry working together in a bipartisan way.

But alas, it looks like the U.S. will pay little heed to Kansas’s lessons. The die appears cast. Just don’t ever say one more derogatory thing about Kansas.

Kansas is a special state and a fine place to live. The prairie is beautiful. We place high value on public education. Kansans are friendly and hard-working. And practical. Deep down we know we have to have enough income to balance our budget and pay for the quality of life we value. We lost that balanced approach during our tax experiment, but we got it back.

Best wishes to the United States.

— Duane Goossen formerly served 12 years as Kansas budget director.

Comments

Dick Sengpiehl

The Trump Administration has made the same ridiculous mistake Brownback did. Only citizens happy about this bill corporations and huge estates. This bill will cause untold harm in future
Years. Can’t wait to canvas my neighborhood next year

1 month ago

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Bob Summers

There is too much drift wood in America and Kansas.

There are not enough people with any skin in the game.

What is it now? 40 or 50 of the population offer no money in taxes?

Too much drift wood.

1 month ago

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Michael Kort

Predictably, every so many years there is a financial crisis .

The Savings and Loan Scandle, the Long Term Capital Managenent hedge fund mess, The mortgage melt down in 2008,....and Trumps plans count on all things going just right (?) ......but what if they don't ?

What if Venezuela's recent formal financial world recognized financial defaut triggers a world wide derivative mess envolving US Banks?........because there are derivatives tied to derivatives based on Venezuelan oil production income that are going south................might be a reason why Trump has spoken openly of a US military action in Venezuela ?......where the Chinese and the Russians are the ones with property to be taken by the people of Venezuela rising up......so we send in the military ?

Trumps history as a financial planner is easily questionable...........because just as the Kansas balance sheet went way off of trajectory........we could be headed for more than a 1 Trillion dollars added to our debt, in tax giveaways that Republicans say will be at costs added to the national debt ?

1 month ago

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Scott Burkhart

To compare national and state taxation and economics is stupid. They aren't the same animal. I could give you a multitude of reasons but suffice to say the author of this article, qualified as he may seem, doesn't know squat or is intentionally being dishonest.

4 weeks ago

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Steve Hicks

Thanks, Mr. Goossen, for your above piece.

I appreciate your first-hand expertise, and your candid comments about the political idiocy that has driven Kansas', and now the nation's, snake-oil budgets.

3 weeks, 6 days ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Well misery loves company. I guess the rest of the nation is going to learn what we learned. I just got my Medicare and am going to take care of my cataracts quick. I might as well get some of the money I paid into it.

3 weeks, 6 days ago

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Gary Stussie

Polls indicate that the public’s dislike of the bill is because they don’t really think their taxes will go down. What happens when they find out that Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who called the bill a “punch in the gut for the middle class,” or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has called the bill a “scam” and “Armageddon,” are lying to them?

You folks are in trouble in the mid-terms! As Charles Barkley out it ..."Poor People have been voting for Democrats for the last 50 years,........and they are still poor."

Just Making America Great Again!

2 weeks, 5 days ago

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