Advocacy organizations joined forces Wednesday at the Statehouse and asked Kansas legislators to change course on tax policy.
The event coincided with the Legislature’s return to Topeka to wrap up the session. One major issue that stands between them and adjournment is a $290 million revenue shortfall.
Gov. Sam Brownback recently proposed three options to address the projected shortfall, but the groups at Wednesday’s event say he should consider a fourth: reversing a 2012 tax cut bill that exempted more than 330,000 business owners and farmers from state income taxes.
Annie McKay, with the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, is a frequent critic of the governor’s tax policy. She said the state needs a long-term budget fix. Without one, she said, growing costs for services such as education and Medicaid will produce continued budget deficits.
“We don’t have the ongoing revenue to pay for those, so this idea that we can cut our way out of this is simply a false choice that’s being presented,” McKay said. “It’s not a long-term solution.”
That plan will be a tough sell in the Statehouse, where Brownback and his supporters in the Legislature maintain the tax cuts are helping boost the economy. They also say now is not the time to raise taxes.
The three options established by state revenue leaders and the governor would take money from higher education, the Kansas Department of Transportation and early childhood programs, among other programs.
However, McKay and others said a revamped tax plan could help the state avoid repeated revenue shortfalls.
“We are going to be in this situation year after year after year, because we will be facing budget shortfalls and gaps year after year after year until we address the structural issue that we face,” she said.
Groups participating in the event included the Kansas-National Education Association, Kansas Action for Children, Kansas Organization of State Employees and Kansas Contractors Association.
— Stephen Koranda is a reporter for Kansas Public Radio.