Budget Experts: Too early to tell whether tax cuts will work

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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ANDOVER, Kan. -- State budget experts said Monday night, given the numbers they have now, Kansas will begin taking in less than it spends in the next fiscal year.

However, they also said it is too early to tell whether reduced Kansas income taxes will generate enough economic activity in the state to make up the shortfall.

Chris Courtwright, the principal economist for the Kansas Legislature, and Duane Goosen, Vice-President of Health and Fiscal Policy for the Kansas Health Institute, who served as State Budget Director under three Kansas Governors, addressed a crowd of about 65 at Andover City Hall.

Some of those attending the meeting hosted by the Andover Chamber of Commerce and the Andover Parent Legislative Council worry what will happen if the income tax cuts don't bring about the economic activity hoped for.

"I wish there was something hopeful instead of just a lot of uncertainty," said Laura Roddy of Wichita, whose children attend Andover Public Schools.

However, certainty is something Courtwright and other experts have said it is too early to provide. That wasn't what Roddy was hoping to hear.

"Our legislators and our governor wanted to try some great experiment where we're out on the edge," she said. "No other states have really tried something like this with their tax policy and I wish they would be able to tell us we are able to see anything good from it yet."

Proponents of the "experiment" hope cutting income taxes will attract new business to the state, increase employment and economic activity and, ultimately, the state coffers.

Marge Zakoura-Vaughan is not convinced it will work.

"Not everybody comes to a state just because of low taxes," Zakoura-Vaughan said. "People want to know they can send their children to public schools. They want to know there are services for our families and for our neighbors."

Goosen, the former state budget director, told the crowd that, right now, Kansas' spending is expected to begin outpacing tax revenue in the next fiscal year. That makes increasing funding for anything, including public education, unlikely unless something changes.

Roddy worries what will happen if the revenue picture doesn't improve.

"I'm worried about even maintaining where we're at today, let alone restoring the cuts we had," she said.

Courtwright and Goosen said it is too early for economists to determine whether the tax policies enacted last year will work as hoped. That did not keep Zakoura-Vaughan and Roddy from worrying.

"I think that it's going to be much harder for families in Kansas," Zakoura-Vaughan said.

"Makes you fearful that it's going to get worse," Roddy said.

Just last week, the Kansas Department of Revenue said tax collections for February were $97.6 million more than expected. Supporters of the new tax policies, including Governor Sam Brownback, said that's an encouraging sign the policies are working.

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