March 26, 2015
As states in our region – and around the country – use higher revenues to invest in education, Kansas’ deep tax cuts are causing our schools to fall behind. While facing a $344 million budget shortfall for the current year, Gov. Brownback announced $28 million in cuts to K-12 education.
Cuts to education are often low on the list of things lawmakers prefer to use to shore up budgets. When cuts do happen it’s often only during recessions. In Kansas, though, large budget shortfalls caused by unaffordable tax cuts are driving cuts to the entire state budget, and dollars for kids in classrooms are no exception. Meanwhile, states in our region and across the country that didn’t cut taxes are re-investing those extra dollars in educating kids.
The other states in our region did not drastically cut income taxes like Kansas. On average, they saw tax revenues increase by almost 3 percent and were able to increase general per-pupil education spending by about 1 percent. Kansas, on the other hand, saw a 2.6 percent drop in revenues and cut general per-pupil spending by 2.6 percent, or $129 per student.
Other states outside our region have failed to heed Kansas’ experience and have cut their taxes as well. Wisconsin made large tax cuts, leading to lost revenue, and is now making cuts to education too. In contrast, Maryland didn’t cut taxes and is investing more in its schools.
Where a state invests its money indicates its priorities. Smart investments in schools can deliver a big return for the economy by developing a strong workforce, attracting businesses and expanding opportunity. Tax cuts like the one Kansas enacted, on the other hand, have a negligible impact on state economies and jeopardize investments in kids, teachers and classrooms. We don’t have to go any further than our own backyard to see that.