What do we want to believe?
Gov. Brownback provided salary figures claiming that Kansas teachers are paid 15% more than Missouri teachers. He did this by including the costs of benefits in the Kansas figure, but excluding them from the Missouri figure. According to the Kansas Department of Education, excluding benefits, the salaries are basically the same, $47,550 vs. $47,800. This was not an erroneous recollection responding to an unanticipated reporters question. It was a prepared chart at a July 24 news conference.
What is most notable is not that the governor presented such a blatant falsehood. It is that it works for him to do so.
We may want to believe that Kansas teachers are overpaid so the governor provides a false comparison with Missouri teachers. Kansas teacher salaries rank forty-second in the nation.
We may want to believe that state budget problems are caused by too much spending as Sen. Holmes and other proponents of income tax reductions have stated. The Kansas Legislative Research Departments calculation of the combined impact of both business and personal income tax cuts is $1,868 million over the past three years. This is about 10% of total expenditures. It is six times larger than the original 2015 fiscal year shortfall of $307 million. The impact of cutting income taxes is the entire budget shortfall problem plus a lot more.
We may want to believe that state income tax cuts have created jobs as the governor has repeatedly stated. The KLRD found there is no evidence that the business income tax cut caused new jobs. If even a fourth of the 34,400 gain in nonfarm jobs for the first two years had been caused by the income tax cuts, the income tax revenue loss calculates to $75,000 per year per job.
We may want to believe that the state income tax reductions are a benefit to all Kansas tax payers. But they have led to a long list of legislation and administrative actions that have cost Kansas tax payers: Each countys share of severance tax revenues has been reduced. Certain exemptions were eliminated increasing state severance taxes by $123 million over the last three years according to the KLRD. About $750 million of state road repairs and construction will not happen so that gasoline tax and other funds collected for the state highway system could be used to fund the income tax cuts. The state sales tax rate was raised from 5.7 percent to 6.5 percent increasing state sale taxes by something like $400 million per year. Income tax reductions benefit high income individuals the most. In proportion to income, sales tax and other tax increases cost low income individuals the most.
If we want to believe the major effect of the past five years has not been to benefit those of us with the most money, the governor, Sen. Holmes and the moneyed political interests that support them will provide us with the biased and even false information that will give us the opportunity to believe so.
All we have to do, in honest-as-the-day-is-long, straight-talking Kansas, is want to believe.