Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 06.11.17
Just Outside Washington


Dorothy leaves Kansas for Oz

Sam Brownback has been a star of the Tea Party, both in Congress and since he was elected Governor of Kansas. In May 2012, he instituted a package of drastic tax cuts to produce what he predicted would be "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy."

Brownback stated that "[on] taxes, you need to get your overall rates down, and you need to get your social manipulation out of it, in my estimation, to create growth."

These cuts were based on model legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is funded in part by the Koch brothers. And Grover Norquist defended the Brownback cuts as a model for the nation.

If this tax plan all sounds familiar, it's because President Trump has proposed the same approach in his Budget and Tax proposal. Also, Paul Ryan has a similar tax cut plan and he says: "With this plan, everyone in our country -- the anxious and the eager, the Old America and the New America -- can unite and build a confident America."

Supply-side guru Art Laffer, advisor to Sam Brownback and President Trump, promised Kansans that the cuts would pay for themselves in supercharged economic growth. So, how did the Tea Party tax plan work out in Kansas?

Instead of leading in job growth, Kansas trailed the nation.

Revenue came in even lower than fiscal officials' most dire expectations. Both Moodys and S&P lowered the Kansas bond rating, and more than 16,000 small businesses disappeared. The Kansas City Star reported "the state had to divert billions of dollars in road funding, slice higher ed money, cut social services, reduce support for public pensions and fall behind on previous pledges to improve funding of K-12 schools."

Brownback's policies were designed to make Kansas the showcase for tea party economics, but the results have been dismal. In 2017, Kansas job growth lagged its neighbor, Missouri, more fiscally responsible states such as California, and the U.S. as a whole. The chart show economic growth after Sam Brownback became governor in 2011. Economic growth in Kansas (purple line) fell behind that of the U.S. (blue), neighboring Missouri (green) and California (red).

Not a pretty picture: After Sam Brownback became governor in 2011 -- economic growth in Kansas (purple


In 2012, Governor Brownback said: "We'll have a real live experiment." And so it was. Now the report card has arrived. Just recently, the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature overwhelmingly overrode Brownback's veto of the bill to increase taxes. The bill rolls back Brownback's 2012 tax cuts -- one might say Repeal and Replace. It will produce $1.2-billion in revenue over the next two years.