July 19, 2017

Number of Kansans living in poverty almost twice the population of Overland Park
Continued tax reform efforts necessary to ensure all communities thrive

TOPEKA – If poverty were a city in Kansas, it would be the state’s second largest, according to a new infographic from the Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG). With nearly 370,000 Kansans living in poverty, 12.7 percent of the state’s residents, including families with children, are unable to make ends meet. A family of four whose income is below $28,290 – the federal poverty level for 2017 – simply cannot sustain themselves or afford the basics.

“This year, we’ve heard many debates about the potentially negative impact of comprehensive tax reform on the ‘working poor,’” said KCEG Executive Director Heidi Holliday. “However, since 2012, the state’s residents with the lowest wages, especially the massive number of Kansans living in poverty, were repeatedly hit with costly tax shifts because of Governor Sam Brownback’s commitment to eliminate the state income tax. The Governor persisted despite all indications both at home and nationally that his plan was irresponsible economic policy. The state’s reliance on sales tax, for instance, limits the ability of low- and middle-income Kansas families to afford basic necessities, like groceries, because of an unbalanced state tax code. This year’s comprehensive tax reform legislation positions the state to make the tax code more equitable in the future.”

A strong Kansas economy – one that ensures every resident has a chance to thrive, including the most vulnerable – is built upon a strong Kansas tax code. Often referred to as the “three-legged stool,” an equitable tax structure is well-balanced across the three key sources of revenue: income tax, sales tax, and property tax. To pay for Governor Brownback’s 2012 tax experiment, the state became more reliant on sales tax and property tax. In passing Senate Bill 30 – a comprehensive tax reform package – lawmakers took a major step in repairing the state’s income tax structure, thus rebuilding the broken leg of the stool. Critical to this reform package was the inclusion of the closure of the “LLC loophole” and the inclusion of the phase in of the Child and Dependent Care Credit – two components of the bill that restore equity to the Kansas tax code. By beginning Kansas’ financial recovery after five years of crisis, legislators have laid the groundwork for future opportunities to create a more balanced tax code that works for all Kansans, including lowering the food sales tax rate.

“Some Kansas communities have one of the highest food sales tax rates in the nation. This disproportionately impacts low-income Kansans who are already pinching pennies to put food on the table or pay for expenses, like child care, that allow them to work,” said Holliday.

Senate Bill 30 has begun the path forward to re-stabilize the budget, increase revenue, and rebalance the tax code. Now that the first piece of a long-term solution to the failed tax experiment is established and the state’s economy can begin to recover, Kansas can once again look to the future and begin to modernize and broaden state tax policy.

Download the infographic here.

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ClayRELEASE: Number of Kansans living in poverty almost twice the population of Overland Park