Words can frame an issue the way its authors want it to be perceived, rather than how it really is. Such might be the case with the use of the word “regressive” to describe Kansas’ new tax rates. In this case, “regressive” suggests the Sunflower State is becoming less advanced or returning to a less developed condition in terms of how its tax rates are executed.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, along with the Legislature, is changing the state’s tax method to reduce property taxes, while increasing the sales tax. This change is expected to put a greater burden on the state’s lowest-income earners. A new report by the Kansas Center for Economic Growth says that states labeled as “low tax” states often have the highest taxes for low- and middle-income families.
The average overall tax rate in Kansas varies from 3.9 percent for the top 1 percent of income group — those earning $400,000 or more — to 10.3 percent for the bottom 20 percent income group — those earning less than $19,000. Those average overall tax rates include sales and excise taxes, property taxes, income taxes, corporate income taxes and federal deduction offsets. That change is a Robin Hood-like turnaround in Kansas that hurts the poorest among us and benefits the wealthiest. Part of the reason for the regressive label is because it includes a higher sales tax rate, which hits groceries, and is proportionately paid for as a heavier percent of household expenditures by Kansas’ lowest-income earners.
Progressive taxes typically are income taxes with a graduated rate structure. Recent tax change developments in Kansas include the elimination of the child and dependent care tax credit, as well as the homestead refund for renters, which worsen the tax picture for low- and middle-income earners.
To read more about this report for Kansas and across the U.S., to to www.whopays.org
Taxes often prompt heated debates, and Kansas is in the heart of it now with sweeping changes by lawmakers proceeding virtually unchallenged in our highly partisan executive and legislative branches of state government. Determining who is right or wrong on the taxation issue depends on an individual’s view of what is fair. Perhaps this new tax structure will bring about the promised pot of gold for the state’s coffers, but we’re guessing that won’t be the result. By the time we know for sure, it might be too late to do much about it.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher