Yael T. Abouhalkah
October 1, 2016
No wonder Gov. Sam Brownback and other state officials have killed a quarterly report aimed at telling Kansans how his policies are affecting the state economy.
Late this week I obtained copies of two recent reports (thanks to the Kansas Center for Economic Growth) that were produced by the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors but basically hidden from the public. Brownback is the council’s chairman.
The “Indicators of the Kansas economy” — from November 2015 and February 2016 — showed a state that’s in the dumps.
That’s especially true when compared to a six-state region selected by Brownback’s team (Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma) and to the United States as a whole.
Sadly for Kansans, this is part of a long-term trend created by Brownback’s ruinous policies, most notably his costly income tax cuts from 2012. The quarterly reports have been downbeat for years; here’s an example from 2014.
Here are some findings from the February one, with the note that the November 2015 report included many of the same findings because the economy simply did not change much if any for the better in that three-month period.
▪ In perhaps the most important metric measuring Kansas’ economic growth, the state’s gross state product actually went down 1.1 percent in 2015 vs. 2014.
The six-state region came in at a positive 0.1 percent, while the whole country’s rate was up 2 percent.
It was the fourth straight year of Brownback’s time in office that the gross state product’s growth rate was below that of the region and of the nation.
▪ Personal income estimates showed a one-year growth rate of 2.4 percent in Kansas. That was below the 2.7 percent for the region and 3.9 percent for the United States.
The five-year change, essentially measuring Brownback’s time in office starting in 2010, showed Kansas with lower personal income estimates than the region and country.
▪ In a rare bright spot, per capital personal income estimates for Kansas were up 2.2 percent over the last year, just above the 1.8 percent rate for the region — but still below the national rate of 3.2 percent.
And Kansas’ five-year change in per capital personal income estimates was below that of the region and the country.
▪ Kansas’ sales tax collections were up markedly, but that’s misleading because — as the report noted — “two sales tax rate increases have been enacted” in recent years.
▪ The February 2016 report showed average total nonfarm employment in Kansas was up 0.8 percent in 2015, below the 1.5 percent for the region and 2.1 percent for the United States.
It was the sixth straight year that Kansas had trailed the region and nation in this all-important category.
▪ Yes, the state’s average annual unemployment rate has been lower than that of the region and nation for all of Brownback’s time in office.
However, the difference has narrowed quite a bit, as hiring in the last three years has picked up in the six-state region and around America.
▪ Finally, private industry wage levels in Kansas for 2015 were up 1.5 percent over the past year, which was better than the 0.9 percent in the region but worse than the 2.1 percent for the United States.
And Kansas’ five-year change in private industry wages trailed both the region and the country.
In 2011, when Brownback formed the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, he said, “Economic competitiveness requires a detailed understanding of regional, national and international economic conditions and trends. This council will operate as a board of directors for economic development in Kansas, working closely with me to assure strategy integration, coordination and accountability across all of the state.”
And even the opening sentence of the February 2016 report still noted that the governor’s council “continues the initiative as a service to its members and the public at large.”
It turns out that this statement should have come with an asterisk:
* “Unless this initiative continually shows a doom-and-gloom scenario for Kansas because of Gov. Brownback’s economic policies. Then we pull the plug on this public service.”