Lots of people are buzzing about headlines in newspapers across the state this past week. Finally, the worsening fiscal condition of the state seems to be getting widespread attention.
Former state budget director Duane Goossen, in a recent talk with the League of Women Voters, forecasted that the state would be in the red in one year. The next day, Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan attacked Goossen’s credibility and denounced his revenue projections as untrue.
Goossen is one of the most credible people who has served our state. He worked as budget director under three governors — Democrat and Re-publican —and served 14 years in the Kansas House of Represent-atives as a Republican, mostly on the budget-writing committee. He also served as as one of the six revenue forecasters for 12 years. His numbers and pro-jections are consistently ac-curate and reliable.
Remember, state tax revenue fell $217 million short of pro-jections in May. The drop in revenue for both April and May puts tax revenue $310 million below estimates for the fiscal year with only one month left. That is an undisputed fact.
Jordan said it wasn’t the fault of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan but was due to changes in federal tax policy that caused many taxpayers to take capital gains the prior year. Jordan quoted part of a Rockefeller Foundation study to support his position.
This claim did not hold up under scrutiny.
A Rockefeller Foundation analyst said that Kansas leaders misrepresented her research on the cause of the state tax revenue drop and that Kansas could be forced to make cuts in the near future. “In Kansas it’s really not of that much im-portance,” the analyst told the Wichita Eagle in reference to the capital gains tax change.
So, why are Brownback rev-enue officials misleading the public? It boils down to the November election.
Brownback made his income tax reduction plan the center-piece of his administration’s accomplishments — putting Kan-sas on a “glide path to zero” in order to grow the state. However, study after study shows that cutting taxes, especially the way it was done in Kansas, doesn’t produce economic growth. And the severity of the cuts is eating away at the things Kansans hold dear — good public schools, quality roads and services for vulnerable populations. Without these, our quality of life suffers and growth will elude Kansas.
Goossen is right about the revenue forecasts leaving the Kansas budget in the red in a year.
And the Rockefeller Founda-tion analyst is right about the cause of revenue downturn being attributable mostly to Brownback’s tax plan, not changes in federal tax policy.
Last year the revenue de-partment said the drop-off in revenue attributable to the treatment of capital gains was approximately $30 million, not $217 million. Even if no one reported capital gains for 2013, the fiscal note would only be about $100 million — not $217 million, the actual size of the shortfall.
In the eight years I served as secretary of Revenue (2003-2010), I always gave straightforward, honest answers. It is sad for me to see revenue officials mis-leading Kansans about the fiscal condition of the state in order to sway public opinion prior to the election.