April 20, 2017
When Governor Sam Brownback signed his signature tax policy into law in May of 2012, he did so with great fanfare. On that day, ignoring dire warnings from economists and budget analysts, he urged Kansans to simply believe in his plan – no matter what the data projected.
Job creation led the Governor’s list of promises, but he also assured Kansans that his tax plan would reverse a decades-long trend of out-migration. The Kansas City Star reported that, “the administration ultimately imagines…35,000 more people moving into the state over the next five years.” This promise fit into a larger narrative of what the Governor described as “pro-growth” tax policy.
But the people didn’t come.
According to data from the Census Bureau, from 2013 to 2015, over 9,000 more people left Kansas than moved here.When compared to surrounding states, only Oklahoma fared worse:
- Arkansas: -135
- Colorado: -4,352
- Iowa: +78
- Kansas: -9,099
- Missouri: +7,062
- Nebraska: -436
- Oklahoma: -9,904
In order to hit the 2012 target, more than 44,000 people would need to descend onto Kansas over the next two years, a number that has never been achieved in past years’ migration data.
Economic research shows that tax policy alone does not drive migration. Regardless of whether it’s a company or a family, a whole range of factors impact the decision. Tax rates may appear on the list, but it ultimately comes down to quality of life: excellent schools, strong investments in public health and safety, and solid roads, to name a few. When tax policy creates a financial crisis that decimates the other critical investments that play into the migration equation, the end result not only fails to move Kansas ahead, it leaves Kansas worse off than when we started.
Of course, this is just one of a long list of broken promises and unintended consequences created by the Brownback tax plan. When legislators return for the annual wrap up session on May 1st, they should send the Brownback tax plan packing and rebuild Kansas in a way that truly incentivizes other people to become our neighbors.