Conservative groups came together for a conference call Thursday, arguing against left-leaning media claims that Kansas’ steep income tax reductions have contributed to the downfall of the state’s economy.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback slashed the income tax in 2012 in an effort to reverse the state’s 15 year trend of trailing national economic averages. Some left-leaning media figures have blamed the cut for Kansas’ still lagging economy and plunging deficit.
Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert said the media’s claims are solely political rather than “honest economic discussions” regarding Kansas’ lagging economy. Trabert contested the notion that the tax cuts are to blame, pointing to the government’s inability to “finish the job and get spending under control” as the primary reason for the state’s slow economic growth.
“Kansas didn’t take the steps to make government operate efficiently,” Trabert said. “The states that spend less need to tax less—those are the states that grow more. It really comes down to that better service, better price mentality.”
Rep. Richard Carlson, R-Kans., called the media’s assertions “disingenuous,” saying the 18 months the cuts have been in place isn’t long enough for others to judge whether the reforms are working. Carlson said the state’s long-held liberal economic policies, including its high taxes, are also partially to blame for the lag.
Jonathan Williams, tax and fiscal policy director at the American Legislative Exchange Council, compared the nine states without income taxes to the nine states with the highest income taxes, and found that those without an income tax have 2.5 times higher population growth, 1.5 times higher GDP growth and 2.6 times payroll growth. This, Williams said, undermines the media’s conclusions that reduced income taxes stifle economic growth.
“We’ve already identified far more that needs to be done so that we can finish the job of tax reform without any tax increases,” Trabert said. “There certainly is an adjustment that needs to be made, but that adjustment goes back to finishing the job and going back to tax reform.”