Math is Wrong on Kansas Migration

Dec. 17, 2014

Following Kansas’ deep, damaging tax cuts, the state had a net loss of population to other states in our region and the U.S. as a whole, not the increase that Gov. Brownback recently claimed.

The tax cuts of 2012-13 haven’t caused people in the region or country to flock to Kansas because it’s a low-tax paradise. No surprise there—Lower income taxes have little to do with why people move to a new state, research shows. In fact, most people move to another state for a milder climate, lower housing costs or for job-related reasons. In 2013, when the bulk of the tax plan went into effect, more Kansans moved to neighboring states than vice-versa. Almost a third of those people moved to Colorado, Iowa and Oklahoma—none of which made the unprecedented tax cuts that Kansas did.

Regional migration

When you broaden the picture, about 4,200 more people left Kansas in 2013 than moved here. And, if people move to a state to get a lower tax bill, then it becomes hard to explain why Kansas lost people to Maine, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Virginia—all of which have higher top-tax rates than Kansas.

Natl Migration-01-01

There’s no need to hit the panic button just yet. Just because someone leaves a state it doesn’t necessarily mean an economic loss for the state they’re moving from. That’s because they don’t take their jobs—or income—with them. For instance, a computer programmer moving to Virginia from Wichita doesn’t take their same job and salary out east. Instead, they usually go to a different job and someone in Wichita will fill that computer programmer position. To put it simply, money doesn’t walk.

The mantra, ‘if you cut taxes, they will come,’ is not playing out. It’s pretty simple to see why. People want to move their families and businesses where they know they’ll have the kind of good schools, roads and safe, healthy communities that come with strong state investments. Cutting taxes has left Kansas with far less to invest in these essential parts of a successful economy. In fact, Kansas is facing larger revenue losses as a result of the unaffordable tax cuts than we did through three years of the Great Recession combined. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear—the tax cuts are no yellow brick road leading people to Kansas.

ClayMath is Wrong on Kansas Migration