Repealing former Gov. Brownback’s tax experiment was the right decision. His signature policy put the state in a dire financial position that resulted in cuts to essential services and led to multiple downgrades of the state’s credit rating.
Thankfully, legislators acted to reverse Brownback’s experiment, and we’re now benefiting from more than two years of stable revenue.
The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, a group of Kansas budget experts, met last week to finalize its projections for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the next, concluding Kansas is likely to have more than $500 million of additional revenue over the next 18 months. Since the repeal went into effect in July 2017, Kansas has exceeded its budget revenue projections in 27 of 28 months.
The experiment gave many Kansans a loophole to avoid their tax responsibility. With all Kansas taxpayers now contributing dollars to fund essential services, the Legislature had the money to fund public schools with suitable resources for the first time in more than 10 years. In addition, investments were made in road and bridge repair, child protective services, corrections, KPERS, higher education and mental health services.
State employees have also benefited from salary increases and adjustments to their health insurance premiums.
With the state returning to fiscal stability and the economy strong, questions continue to arise about what do with the additional revenue generation.
Ideas are floating for a variety of ways the money can be allocated — from tax cuts to higher education spending to transportation investments and more for child protective services.
The 2020 Legislature faces enormous pressure on how to spend the money, and we urge them to act with caution.
Rebuilding from the Brownback era is going to take time. Drastic cuts to programs and services were made, and recovery won’t happen quickly. Fiscal prudence is still necessary, even as the bank account shows favorable numbers.
“As we look forward to building the budget for next year, the consensus revenue estimates will allow us to reinvest in important priorities such as our infrastructure and our schools, and give us the ability to expand Medicaid while exploring common-sense tax reform options,” Gov. Kelly said upon release of the budget figures.
We support her approach but urge her to go further. Additional sweeps to the highway fund should be avoided. The state’s water plan needs full funding, and any changes to tax policy should first focus on reducing the food sales tax.
A fiscally responsible course that meets our commitments to the people of Kansas and makes investments in Kansas communities is the remedy that will spur continued growth and prosperity.