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SPOTLIGHT
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State revenues

Published on -5/1/2014, 10:21 AM

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Time has a way of changing one's perspective. Consider Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan's feelings about the state collecting some $41.7 million more in April 2013 than the same time frame a year prior.

"We've predicted that a fiscal environment where Kansans get to keep and invest more of their paycheck would bring economic growth to the state," Jordan said. "The first quarter of 2013 met those expectations."

The state's top money man claimed Kansans had more money in their pockets -- all because of Gov. Sam Brownback's fiscal policies that were rubber-stamped by the Legislature.

This year, the report isn't as rosy. Year-to-date revenue tax receipts for the state are $92.8 million short of budget.

Secretary Jordan's take?

"This is an undeniable result of President Obama's failed economic policies of increasing taxes and over-regulation," he offered in a press release.

Brownback agreed: "What we are seeing today is the effect of tax increases implemented by the Obama administration that resulted in lower income tax payments and a depressed business environment."

In other words, this administration appears comfortable taking the credit when times are good -- and blaming the president when they are not. In the game of spin control, such an approach only works if voters aren't paying attention.

With a state budget yet to be completed and elections on the near horizon, we believe Kansas citizens are tuned in. Moderate Republicans and Democrats, who have been shut out of the process for at least two years, need to take advantage of this unfortunate opportunity.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence and likely that party's nominee for governor, did just that Wednesday.

"I think this is really further proof that the Brownback tax plan is failing," Davis said. "It is drying up state revenue that is needed to fund the public schools and deliver the critical state services the public counts on."

So, is it Obama's fault or Brownback's? We are much more skeptical about the governor's plan to starve state government, but believe that will become obvious in the coming months and years if he's re-elected. For now, we'll let the politicians posture for credibility and simply look at the numbers.

Last year's strong first quarter performance -- 53 percent above the previous year -- was driven by taxpayers "realizing capital gains and other income in tax year 2012 to take advantage of more favorable federal tax rates set to expire Jan. 1, 2013." That isn't our assessment; that comes straight from the Kansas Department of Revenue.

Since forecasters were aware of the boost, and its cause, not accounting for it in this year's budget either was an oversight -- or pure foolishness. One-time tax events by definition will not repeat. Why Revenue not only expected the numbers to be there this year, but added to that optimistic predictions about Brownback's pro-growth strategy, defies common sense.

There should be no surprise Kansas tax receipts are down 45 percent from last year. Various states throughout the nation that are bemoaning similar bad news this week are guilty of the same bad judgment.

We would recommend the Department of Revenue, the governor's office and the Legislature pay close attention to the realistic numbers already created by the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department. Those number-crunchers do not allow political fantasy to enter their spreadsheets, and they clearly reveal the enormous gaps being created by the radical and unsustainable tax cuts. Nobody in positions of power should be surprised by the $92.8 million shortfall.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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