Democrats say Brownback tax cuts will result in $900 million in cuts to public schools, higher education
Topeka ? Democratic legislative leaders on Tuesday said public schools and higher education will suffer $900 million in budget cuts because of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts.
And their argument got support from a public policy group, the Kansas Economic Progress Council, which released a report that said the Brownback tax cuts will lead to state spending cuts, a raid on transportation funds and do little to help the economy.
In public statements, Brownback has vowed to protect school funding and what he calls core services, and his office hit back at the Democrats.
“It must be getting near Halloween season with these Democrat scare tactics,” said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for Brownback.
But House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence and state Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said they were just doing the math.
Displaying a tax cut projection produced by legislative researchers, Davis said, “Gov. Brownback can no longer tell people with a straight face that big cuts to their public schools, their universities are not on the way. The cuts are coming and they are coming as a result of the Brownback tax plan that disproportionately benefits the wealthiest of Kansans.”
The projection showed the impact of subtracting the tax cuts from state revenue, while adding 4 percent in annual revenue growth.
Based on the overall reduction in tax revenue, if applied proportionately, public schools would be cut $750 million, and higher education $150 million over a four-year period starting next July.
Overall, the Legislature’s research staff projects the tax cuts will create collective budget shortfalls approaching $2.5 billion over the next six years.
The state is decreasing its individual income tax rates for 2013, with the top rate dropping to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent. Also, the state will exempt the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes.
Brownback has said the tax cuts will boost the economy and create jobs and that his administration will propose the necessary adjustments to state spending.
“No amount of inaccurate scare tactics will changes the facts. For the first time in years Kansas is adding jobs. We turned a $500 million deficit into a $500 million ending balance,” Jones-Sontag said.
Democrats have said much of the ending balance at the end of the last fiscal year was the result of the temporary state sales tax increase that was approved before Brownback was elected.
And the KEPC, a not-for-profit group that includes businesses, trade organizations, chambers of commerce and others, said the tax cuts signed into law by Brownback went too far.
“It is obvious to KEPC and many others, including respected conservative legislators who favored some kind of income tax cut, that there are serious consequences to this legislation. They include likely significant cuts to education and other state services,” the report said.
In addition, some tax credits and programs aimed at helping low-income Kansans were eliminated by the massive tax cutting plan. Davis said the elimination of those provisions was “absolutely reprehensible.”
One of those tax breaks eliminated was the food sales tax rebate, which means Kansas will join Mississippi and Alabama as the only states that levy a tax on food and don’t provide a break on that tax to help low-income residents.
On the jobs front, the KEPC report said Kansas would have to add 550,000 new jobs over a six-year period to make up for the projected revenue shortfall. That would be a 50 percent increase in jobs.
“Kansas would have to grow over 5 and a half times as fast as Texas has been growing to get to a zero ending balance,” the report said.
Related to school funding, Davis and Hensley also criticized Brownback’s formation of a task force that will focus on trying to find efficiencies in school spending.
None of the 10 task force members appointed by Brownback currently work in the education system. “Our children are simply far too important to bet their futures on a group of individuals with little or no education experience,” said Davis. Jones-Sontag said the governor wanted finance and budget expertise on the task force.