Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas, doesn't just believe in whistling past the graveyard--he's willing to stroll past it in full-throated song.
Instead, job growth in Kansas trails the nation. The state's rainy-day fund is dwindling to zero. Month after month, revenue comes in even lower than fiscal officials' most dire expectations.
Who's benefiting? The rich, including those proud offspring of Wichita, Kan.: the Koch brothers.
Despite all this, Brownback resorted to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago to declare that "the early results are impressive." Among other statistics he cited, "In the past year, a record number of small businesses — more than 15,000 — were formed."
Yes, but as shown by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington economic think tank, 16,000 disappeared. And many of those businesses that Brownback crowed about were surely created to take advantage of one of the tax-cut quirks Brownback enacted. This is the elimination of all taxes on partnerships, sole proprietorships, and LLCs that pass through their tax liabilities to their owners. That allows everyone from freelancers and petty contractors to huge partnerships to avoid any state income tax at all, as long as they're organized as a certain type of "small business."
The record of Kansas since 2012 shows the folly of such draconian cuts in revenue. It's one thing to enact targeted cuts in tax rates during an economic upswing, when such a policy can add fuel to job generation. It's quite another to do so blindly during a slump, when cuts in state services undermine efforts at recovery.
In all, as the CBPP documents, the changes will cut the taxes of the wealthiest 1% of Kansans by 2.2%. The poorest 20% of Kansans will see their taxes rise by 1.3%.