Not in the same old Kansas anymore...

September 24, 2014

Kansas has been the focal point of a lot of national media attention the last few months, and for good reason. Under the leadership of Governor Brownback and the Legislature, Kansas is now on the map as a competitor for job growth and investment. So why all of the new attention? What of the Left's claim that the sky is falling? In order to answer these questions, it's important that we look back to how the state was competing before Governor Brownback was elected in November 2010.

Kansas has a lot of things going for it. We have a great network of infrastructure. Our well-funded schools were recently ranked fifth best in the nation. Kansans possess a strong work ethic. But the state struggled to grow, ranking 10th worst in the country for out-migration from 2000-2009, losing over 15,600 taxpayers and 17,600 dependents during that time. Our great schools have been educating the rest of the country's workforce. But while we were losing taxpayers, state government spending grew by $2 billion from 2003 to 2008, an increase of nearly 50% in six years. The fastest growing industry in the state from 2001-2012 was government. This path was unsustainable. The status quo in Kansas wasn't working.

In his first State of the State speech, Governor Brownback said "The days of ever expanding government are over." While Kansas has great schools and great roads, the tax policy in this state was abysmal. Kansas ranked 35th in the nation in state business tax climate in 2011 according to the Tax Foundation. Property tax revenue, due in large part to tax and spend policies of local governments, grew 115% on residential property from 1997-2013 (116% on commercial property).  Kansas and its 105 counties, like Washington, don't have a revenue problem; they have a spending problem.

Governor Brownback made economic growth his top priority. In 2012, Governor Brownback and the Kansas Legislature passed the largest tax cuts in the history of the state. All Kansans saw a reduction in their state income tax, and taxes on pass through income was eliminated for small businesses. Kansas has improved its business tax climate to 20th in the nation for 2014. Just recently, the Wichita Business Journal highlighted one manufacturing company who credits these tax cuts for their investment of over $4 million the past two years, with another $4 million to be spent in 2014 and 2015. Their staff has doubled in size in the last five years. That investment produces significant tax revenue for the state and there are many others who have similar stories.

The naysayers claim the sky is falling, that education has been slashed, that our state will go bankrupt. None of these claims are true when "fact-checked". These naysayers are the ones who were in power during the lost decade, when Kansas had fewer private sector jobs in 2011 than it did in 2001. They are the ones who believe government knows how to spend Kansan taxpayers' money better than Kansas taxpayers do. They are the ones who support the status quo. The status quo will bankrupt the state. We will eventually run out of enough revenue producers to support the unsustainable growth of government spending Kansas has experienced.

Governor Brownback's strategy is the same approach taken by President Reagan in the 80's. It's the same approach that President Kennedy took when he said:  "In short, it is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low. And the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now."

In the short time the tax cuts have been in place, Kansas, which has historically lagged behind, is now vigorously competing with and in many cases out-performing its peer states. Governor Brownback has shown great leadership the last four years, fulfilling his promise to make growth of the Kansas economy his top priority. Now it's time for Kansans to acknowledge the successes of the first four years and re-elect Governor Brownback so he can continue to make Kansas the best place to live and work.

Mike O'Neal
President & CEO
Kansas Chamber of Commerce

The Kansas Chamber, with headquarters in Topeka, is the leading statewide pro-business advocacy group moving Kansas towards becoming the best state in America to live and work. The Chamber represents small, medium and large employers all across Kansas. The mission of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce is to continually strive to improve the economic climate for the benefit of every business and citizen and to safeguard our system of free, competitive enterprise.