Gov. Kelly’s Council on Tax Reform is a 19-member bipartisan group charged with making recommendations to increase the effectiveness and fairness of our state’s tax system. As a member of this group, I want to respond to the recent editorial written by Alan Cobb, CEO and president of the Kansas Chamber.
When it comes to income taxes, President Trump took a page right out of Sam Brownback’s playbook. The president pushed for federal tax reform that primarily benefits wealthier taxpayers and large corporations at the expense of low and middle-income taxpayers.
His tax changes will significantly increase the federal deficit, resulting in budget cuts to critical services — problems Kansans are all too familiar with because of Brownback’s infamous tax experiment.
The damage done by Brownback’s reckless experiment was devastating. Although we are on a path of recovery, it will take many more years to fully recover. As a result, Gov. Kelly and the council have urged caution when it comes to making tax changes that would reduce revenue until the state has fully regained fiscal stability.
Changes made should not be done hastily nor should they be made because other states have done them. We must do what is best for Kansas.
In his editorial, Mr. Cobb touts tax reforms recommended by the Tax Foundation. But he neglected to point out that three of their recommendations, if enacted into law, would result in a reduction to the state general fund of $290 million! The more measured approach of the Governor’s Council on Tax Reform stands in stark contrast to these dramatic tax cuts.
The council supports returning to "the three-legged stool" system of taxation — parity between income, sales and property taxes. We oppose irresponsible changes to the tax system. From 2012 to 2017, while Brownback was governor, our tax system was way out of balance: 36% of total taxes came property and vehicles, 31.5% from sales and only 19% from income.
The council has already proposed restoring the food sales tax refund credit, which was repealed to pay for Brownback’s tax experiment. This would give tax relief to more than 400,000 senior, disabled, and low-income Kansans.
The council also wants to lower local property taxes and help level the playing field for our Main Street retailers in competition with out-of-state retailers.
The council plans to study Mr. Cobb’s suggestion of decoupling and broadening the tax base among other topics over the course of the year before releasing its final report.
However, ensuring continued investments in education at all levels; restoring critical services for our most vulnerable Kansans; expanding Medicaid; closing the bank of KDOT; and, making full, on-time payments to KPERS should all be much higher priorities than giving tax cuts to the wealthy and giant multinational corporations.
Sen. Anthony Hensley is the minority leader in the Kansas Senate.