Sunday, March 13, 2011

Let's tell the Truth about Kansas' budget shortfall

Gov. Sam Brownback announced his plan to cut $50 million from public schools. His proposed cut to base state aid to education will reduce annual school spending per pupil by $22, from $4,012 to $3,990. In fact the Governor's proposed Education cuts total nearly 90% of the $56.5 million in overall reductions that have been announced thus far.

The legislators and even the press have chimed in stating that while these are difficult cuts, they are in fact necessary due to our current fiscal condition.

The only problem with this is that we all seem to act as though our current fiscal condition was magically imposed on us and that we are merely reacting to circumstance... When the Truth is, many of the very same Legislators who are now looking to take an ax to public schools, created or at least exacerbated our fiscal tsunami by going to Topeka and voting to reduce revenues year after year through irresponsible tax cuts.

Our Legislature has passed some form of tax cut in EVERY successive session since 1997.

In fact, if you just look at the tax cuts passed since 2005, to include the Corporate rate cut in the Omnibus Tax bill of 2008, the phase out of the Franchise tax, the phasing out of Estate taxes, the various sales tax exemptions, and others included in the 18 tax cutting bills we've passed during this period, the cumulative reduction in State revenues that can be DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTED to the passage of these bills is $668,086,000.00 as of 2011.

668 Million dollars in tax cuts since 2005 and now we're faced with a 550 million dollar revenue shortfall...

And each time business taxes are cut we are told that this is good for us, because by cutting business taxes, we'll entice more businesses to come to Kansas and our tax base will actually grow as jobs and revenue floods the State. We're told that by cutting business and corporate taxes, Corporations and business leaders will reinvest their windfall profits into their companies and expand, creating more and more jobs... But the economic Shangri-La we've all been promised never actually materializes. Our Corporate and Business leaders increase their handsome portfolio's while the rest of us trod along with frozen pay scales and worsening benefits, while trying not to get sick.

We've invested 668 million dollars in State Revenues since 2005. Where are the jobs that money was supposed to generate?

But of course, the answer to this question is - we simply need to cut more... Like SB95, now in the Committee on Assements and Taxation, that calls for a 5 year phase out of ALL income taxes for Corporations, or HB2284 which would make it a misdemeanor for any lobbyist paid with public funds to even ask for a tax increase.

So how do we dig ourselves out of this hole? - Well the legislature's answer seems to be that Step 1. we keep digging, and Step 2. we attempt to plug the hole on the fly by undermining the public schools.

Now I'm sure my friends on the other side of this argument will sharply disagree with my assessment. I'm sure they would all argue that these cuts are absolutely necessary so as to protect our children from inheriting a crippling debt.

But it is intellectually inconsistent to claim you are protecting the children's future by paying your bills with money you've taken from their schools. It is also morally wrong.

Bills like HCR5010 which would amend the State's constitution, eliminating the requirement for providing the necessary funding to offer a "suitable" education to all children, along with HB2193 to redefine At-Risk and redistribute Title I funds aways from the youth who need it most, reductions to Supplemental State Aid, and reductions of weighting factors are shortsighted and will ultimately prove destructive. And they are even less palatable when we consider that the money saved will be used to fill the shortfall caused by an irresponsible tax cut policy which our legislature has yet to abandon.

We've got to do more than just be angry...

We've got to put down our petty divisions and disagreements, stand together, and go up there and say HELL NO.

Now who's with me?

Selected Tax Cuts since 2000

Sales tax exemption for grain storage extended – SB 59 (2000);
“Telephonestead” income tax credits – SB 226 (2000);
Use of farm net operating loss carrybacks expanded – SB 226 (2000);
“Integrated plant” sales tax exemption codified, refunds provided – HB 2011 (2000);
Tax incentives for independent power producers – HB 2266 (2001);
Tax exemption for eligible electric generation facilities – HB 2245 (2001);
Income tax credit for abandoned-well plugging made permanent – SB 45 (2001);
Property tax exemption expansion for farm storage and drying equipment – SB 138 (2001);
Expansion of Job Investment Credit Act – SB 146 (2001);
Income tax credit for business research and development – HB 2055 (2001);
Income tax credit for historic preservation – HB 2128 (2001);
Certified capital formation company tax credits – HB 2505 (2002);
Business machinery and equipment tax credits expanded – SB 39 (2002);
Tax credits made available to railroads for first time – SB 39 (2002);
Special apportionment formula for investment funds service corporations – SB 39 (2002);
Diversion of tire manufacturer employee withholding tax – SB 39 (2002);
Low cost ($250 to $400) exemption expansion for business machinery – SB 39 (2002);
Agricultural land capitalization rate change lowers property tax value – SB 39 (2002);
Increase in sales tax from 4.9 to 5.3 percent – SB 39 (2002);
Increase in cigarette tax from 24 to 79 cents per pack – SB 39 (2002);
Reimposition of succession/inheritance tax on certain heirs – SB 39 (2002);
Historic preservation credits expanded – SB 39 (2002);
Various taxpayer fairness provisions – SB 39 (2002);
IMPACT program expanded yet again – SB 565 (2002);
Tax credit for port authority debt retirement – HB 2586 (2002);
Motor fuel tax increase 2 cents per gallon – HB 3011 (2002);
Sales tax rate of 5.3 made permanent – SB 265 (2003);
Statewide STAR bond (sales tax diversion) authority expansion – Sub HB 2208 (2003);
Employee withholding tax diversion (bonds) for major manufacturers – SB 281 (2003);
Tax amnesty – HB 2005 (2003);
Streamlined sales tax compliance provisions – HB 2005 (2003);
Succession tax repealed retroactive to enactment – HB 2005 (2003);
Estate tax filing exemption threshold to mirror federal in 2007 – HB 2005 (2003);
Retailers given temporary choice re sourcing (streamlined) – Sub SB 147 (2004);
Increase in franchise tax – Sub SB 147 (2004);
Imposition of presumptive sales tax on certain private car sales – Sub SB 147 (2004);
Diversion of revenues authorized for biosciences industry – HB 2647 (2004);
Further expansion of IMPACT program – HB 2647 (2004);
Rural business development tax credit – HB 2647 (2004);
Angel investor tax credit – HB 2647 (2004);
Sales tax exemption for computer software customization services – Sub SB 147 (2004);
Decelerated sales tax remittance schedule for certain retailers – Sub SB 147 (2004);
Repeal of presumptive sales tax on private care sales – SB 23 (2005);
Tax credits for employment of math/science teachers – SB 138 (2005);
Qualified manufacturer act authorizes diversion/return of withholding tax – HB 2265 (2005);
Further expansion of IMPACT program – HB 2265 (2005);
Six-year extension of sales tax exemption associated with enterprise zones – HB 2164 (2005);
Expansion of rural business and community entrepreneurship tax credits – SB 324 (2006);
Reaffirming phase-out of estate tax – SB 365 (2006);
Tax credit for employment of ex-military personnel – SB 432 (2006);
Property tax exemption for business machinery and equipment – HB 2583 (2006);
Extend rural business development tax credit sunset by five years– HB 2004 (2007);
Tax credit for certain film production activities – HB 2004 (2007);
Expansion of angel investor tax credit act – HB 2004 (2007);
Extend sunset on STAR bond authority by five years – HB 2005 (2007);
Phase out and ultimate repeal of corporation franchise tax – HB 2264 and SB 215 (2007)
Income tax exemption for certain social security benefits – HB 2031 (2007);
Single-factor apportionment formula for certain manufacturers – SB 240 (2007) ;
Homestead program expansion – Sub HB 2476 (2007);
Earned income tax credit expansion – HB 2031 (2007);
Property tax exemption for nuclear generation facilities – HB 2038 (2007)
Income tax incentives for biofuels – HB 2038 (2007)
Income tax incentives for renewable electric cogeneration – HB 2038 (2007)
Property and income tax incentives for waste heat utilization systems – HB 2038 (2007)
Expansion of certain incentives to all biomass-to-energy plants – HB 2038 (2007)
Sales tax exemption for certain storm-damaged business purchases – HB 2240 (2007)
Corporate rate cut and various apportionment provisions – S Sub HB 2434 (2008)
Disaster relief income tax credits for business investments – S Sub HB 2434 (2008)
Safe Senior Property Tax Credits – S Sub HB 2434 (2008)
Disaster-related sales tax exemptions – S Sub HB 2434 (2008)

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