A recent McClatchy Newspaper editorial (“In the Holy Kansan Empire, only taxes matter”) on Governor Brownback’s goal of eliminating the individual income tax perfectly highlighted the greatest impediment to economic recovery in Kansas. Instead of thoughtfully and civilly examining the proposal, the author used superficial data and mockery to reject it.
The first step of problem resolution is acknowledging its magnitude, and Kansas is facing an employment problem of epic proportions. In the last recession, it took 32 months for private sector employment to hit bottom; we lost 46,200 jobs and it took almost 6 years to return to the previous peak. This time, we lost 90,400 jobs over 34 months and recovery will be much slower unless we take dramatic action.
We’re already falling behind. Kansas is the only state whose average annual private sector employment is below its 2010 average. Part of the reason is that, unlike most states, Kansas chose to continue raising taxes last year. Kansas Legislative Research says state and local taxes grew at nearly twice the rate of inflation between 2000 and 2010, with the full impact of the sales tax increase not yet realized.
Tax reform is not about how much tax should be collected or who should pay; it’s about solving a very serious employment problem.
Kansas lost 90,400 private sector jobs between April 2008 and February 2011, an 8% decline from peak to trough. 2010 average annual private sector employment was less than in 1998 and there is only one state whose average annual private sector employment is below its 2010 level – Kansas.