April 15, 2014
This tax season, Kansans earning the least among us are going to pay more while those with the highest incomes are going to pay less—a whole lot less. Why? Well, it all stems from the deep tax cuts enacted over the last two years, and it’s going to set us back in two big ways.
More economic inequality in Kansas: If you divide Kansans into five income groups, 40 percent of the state’s households – those earning, on average, between $11,000 and $28,000 – actually saw an increase in the taxes they paid in the first full year of Kansas’ “great experiment.” The lowest-earning households will pay $166 on average more this year, every dollar of which they could have used to pay for groceries, buy school clothes for their kids or put gas in their cars. Folks in the middle got a meager tax cut—nothing to crow about. But at the other end of the spectrum, the wealthiest Kansas (with incomes above $426,000) saw their taxes go down by an average of $19,000—that’s enough to buy more than 14,000 loaves of bread.
This exacerbates an already upside down tax system that asks low- and middle-income households to pay more in state and local taxes as a share of their incomes than higher-income households. It’s worth noting that these households are also seeing other taxes and fees go up as communities throughout Kansas struggle to make up for the smaller amount of revenue they are getting from the state because of the tax cuts.
Jeopardizing our most important investments: At the same time, the state income tax cuts have undermined our ability to support important services – like health care, quality schools, affordable colleges, well-maintained roads and safe communities – all of which are key to a strong economy and a better future for Kansas families and businesses. Libraries are cutting back on book purchases or reducing hours. Schools are increasing class sizes. Health departments are struggling to respond to health emergencies. Potholes aren’t getting filled and bridges aren’t getting fixed.
While supporters promised the tax cuts would bring growth to the state, they clearly haven’t. Here’s what they’re actually doing: leaving less in the pockets of families and compromising resources that people, communities and businesses rely on. As a result, more Kansas families are facing a longer road to recovery after the Great Recession, blocking the path to prosperity all around the state.