To the editor:
Kansas has a budget surplus and taxes should be reduced, but not with the proposed flat tax.
In his Oct. 5, Great Bend Tribune public forum letter, Kansas Policy Institute CEO, Dave Trabert, offered readers a copy of his 2018 book, “What Was Really the Matter with the Kansas Tax Plan.” The last chapter of the book describes Trabert’s approach to his role as a professional propagandist. It includes statements such as: Truth is irrelevant. Restructure ... perceptions to create the position you desire. Messaging must be ... relentless.
Trabert’s Nov. 11 letter is an example of this. He claimed the impact of a tax reduction on the state economy would be much more with the proposed flat tax than with our current three bracket income tax. He noted that with a flat tax, as income increases, the tax rate on the next dollar of income does not increase. A taxpayer does not move into a higher tax bracket because there is no higher tax bracket to move into.
The weakness in this argument is that those us with the most money already have a flat marginal tax. About one-third of Kansans are in the top adjusted gross income bracket of $60,000. For these Kansans, the tax rate on the next dollar of income does not increase even with our current three bracket income tax. A flat tax would make no change in their marginal decisions, or what they will do with their next dollar of income.
What Trabert wants, is to reduce the existing flat marginal rate for high-income Kansans from 5.70% to 5.15%. How can he afford to do this? Partially, by raising the marginal rate on lower-income Kansans from 3.10% to 5.15%. The one-third of Kansans with the lowest income would have to pay a higher rate on their next dollar of income, so that high-income Kansans could pay less. Middle-income Kansans would have essentially no marginal rate benefit as their current rate of 5.25% would change to 5.15%.
Dark money funded political propaganda platforms such as KPI, and our state legislative political party bosses with whom they align, function with an unspoken first loyalty: Work to provide a benefit to those of us with the most money relative to those of us with less. The flat tax is the latest version of this effort.
As a professional propagandist, Trabert pretty much never presents a directly false statement, but pretty much always presents a false depiction.
He claims Kansas has a high tax burden. The 2021 Kansas total state and local spending was $10,694 per resident, which was below the national average of $11,097 and the Plains states average of $10,738.
He describes Kansas being economically stagnate for the last 43 years as shown by job growth. It would be news to the Kansas businesses and industries that have increased state employment by 53% and 686,000 jobs, that they are stagnant.
He infers that Kansas job growth would match the historic national average with tax cuts. Nationally, the major shortcomings of Kansas are the lack of ocean shoreline, 80-degree February days, Rocky Mountains, and petroleum reserves. These regions have far outperformed the rest of the nation. Since 1979, Kansas job growth has been 53% compared to the Plains states average of 57%.
Please do not buy into the KPI’s propaganda. By keeping our current three bracket income tax and prioritizing property tax relief and sales tax reduction, we can put the same value of tax reduction back into our private job market as a flat tax, but route more of the benefit to Kansans with middle and lower incomes.