Kansas governor Sam Brownback wants to eliminate the state income tax. Yes, you read that correctly. The governor wants to join the small list of states that have chosen to eliminate a crucial revenue stream. In 2012, Governor Brownback sharply cut income tax rates to the tune of $850 million dollars in lost revenue for the coming fiscal year. Amid those big tax cuts that primarily benefit high-earners, he found time to eliminate tax provisions that benefit low-income Kansans, including a refund of sales tax paid on food and a state tax credit for child and dependent care expenses.
Consider these numbers: The poorest 20 percent of Kansans will spend, on average, an additional $148 per year on taxes because of the repeal of tax provisions aimed at low-income people. This is a significant blow to women and female-headed families in Kansas, 13.8 percent and 40.9 percent of whom live in poverty. Meanwhile, the richest one percent of Kansans will save an average of $21,087 per year on their state income taxes. As one Kansas state legislator told the New York Times, this tax package is “Robin Hood in reverse.”
Something, of course, has to fill the budget holes these tax cuts created. And not surprisingly, the governor is taking from the poor to give to the rich. He’s already introduced stricter eligibility requirements for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and a plan to privatize Medicaid in the state . Given the size of the projected budget shortfall, more cuts to government services are likely.
As if major cuts to social services weren’t enough, the governor wants to cover part of the cost of his income tax cut by extending a higher sales tax that was set to expire. Swapping the income tax for a higher sales tax is regressive policy. Target and the Gap aren’t going to check customers’ adjusted gross income before applying the sales tax. This means low-income Kansans will feel the bite of a high sales tax and the sting of lost tax benefits, while high-earning Kansans will enjoy a nice income tax break.
You’ve heard us say it over and over again. A tax system that lines the pockets of the wealthiest Americans while cutting tax benefits for the neediest is bad policy. It’s bad for the women and families who benefit from the low-income tax provisions Governor Brownback eliminated, and it’s bad for the women and families who rely on the government programs that are slashed because of reduced revenues.