A Kansas Fairy Tale

Aug. 20, 2014

By now you’ve heard from tax cut advocates that Kansas is adding private jobs at a rate higher than we’ve seen in the past decade. But those claims are simply not true.

In reality, the tax cuts have hobbled our revenue collection and have put resources for crucial state investments—like good schools, safe neighborhoods, strong roads and healthy communities—at risk.

The rate of private job growth over the past decade has fluctuated, but when comparing Kansas to our region and the country, our position remains largely unchanged. (Kansas’ performance spiked in fiscal year 2007 for various reasons, including a jump in high-tech and green jobs as well as a small agricultural boom.)

You’re also hearing that Kansas has record total employment. That might be true, but the same claim could be made by most other states in the region, none of which has enacted unprecedented tax cuts. Kansas has a record number of employed people because our population is constantly increasing. For example, Kansas’ total labor force in 1980 was just about 1.2 million people—which include both unemployed and employed people—meaning it would be impossible for us to have the number of people with jobs (1.4 million) today were it not for population growth. Peak employment is just keeping up with the growth in population, as is the case with most states in the region.

When comparing Kansas’ performance throughout the last decade to its regional peers and the national average, it’s clear the unprecedented tax cuts have not resulted in extraordinary performance. In fact, our rate of private job growth has seen Kansas stay in the middle of the pack regionally and below the national average—both before and after the tax cuts. Looking at the average of the previous decade, we rank fifth in the region and we’re right at the average nationally.

In fact, Kansas’ private job growth was better in fiscal year 2012, before the tax cuts, and higher than the national average, than it was in fiscal year 2014, the first full year after the cuts. (The 2014 fiscal year ended on June 30.) After the cuts, we fell behind both the region and nation.

What have we gotten in exchange for our sub-par private job growth? Nearly $760 million in lost revenue, amounting to revenue decline of about 12 percent between 2012 and 2014.

The facts simply don’t support the notion that Kansas is posting record job growth. We remain in the middle of the pack among our regional peers.

And, without the tax cuts, we could have invested in much-needed services to bolster our economy and help Kansas rise to the top compared to our neighbors. Extra teachers could have been hired, roads could have been improved, statewide health and well-being programs could have been expanded. Instead, we’ve burdened ourselves with unnecessary revenue shortfalls that are a ball-and-chain around our economic growth.

The bottom line is that the tax cuts have not brought the boom in jobs that supporters claim, and the quick erosion of our revenue will only be an obstacle to the happy ending Kansans deserve.

ClayA Kansas Fairy Tale