March 29, 2017
Over the past several weeks, an insidious tax structure proposal has been making the rounds in the Kansas Statehouse: flat taxes. While the idea that everyone pays the same rate—regardless of income—may initially seem attractive, a basic look into the impact of such a tax shows that it’s anything but.
At the most basic level, shifting to a flat tax would take the failures of the current system and compound them. Take, for example, a bill currently under consideration that has a proposed 3.9% flat tax on all earners. Under this bill, those Kansans earning over $530,000 a year would receive an average tax cut of $4,300 while someone making $24,000 or less would see a tax increase.
Simply put: flat doesn’t equal fair. Flat taxes hurt working Kansans by asking more from hard-working Kansans, while giving virtually all benefits to the extremely wealthy. The 2012 Brownback tax plan already turned our tax structure upside down and implementing a flat tax would exacerbate the situation. Restoring brackets for different income levels to our tax structure must be a top priority in any comprehensive tax reform package.
Furthermore, the flat tax proposals currently making their way through the Kansas Legislature don’t generate nearly the revenue needed to fill the $900 million gap. The state needs tax reform that restores stability to the Kansas budget and closes ongoing budget shortfalls. Flat taxes do none of those things. In fact, some proposals end up generating less revenue than current tax policy!
Finally, flat taxes hurt Kansas communities by restraining the revenue needed to meet local and statewide needs. Communities across Kansas are already struggling to fund education, keep roads and bridges well-maintained, and make needed investments in public safety and health care. A flat state income tax would undermine our ability to invest in things, like schools and parks, and would sabotage future economic growth. Tax policy should encourage economic activity and shared prosperity, not stifle it. A flat tax is unaffordable and does not solve Kansas’ budget woes.