Brownback proposes another hit on middle-income Kansans
The Kansas City Star
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s surprises just keep on coming.
Even Republican lawmakers were caught off guard this week by a proposal to do away with an income tax deduction that many Kansans use to offset property taxes they pay on their homes.
It’s another bad idea aimed at burdening low- and middle-income Kansans so Brownback can pursue his unfounded and dubious theory that low income taxes are the key to the state’s prosperity — not to mention Brownback’s status in the national Republican Party.
We think the governor can make a case for eliminating the state’s home mortgage income tax deduction, which primarily benefits higher-income taxpayers and arguably distorts the housing market. But residential property taxes are onerous in many parts of Kansas. The income tax deduction — $125 a year for the average taxpayer — provides a small measure of relief.
If the Legislature were to approve eliminating the home mortgage and property tax deductions, someone currently claiming both would pay an average of $425 more in taxes. That is a hefty increase.
The proposal is more evidence of the fix that Brownback and the Legislature have gotten themselves into by enacting drastic income tax cuts for some individuals and businesses without figuring out how to pay for them.
Even as he says he wants more income tax cuts as soon as 2014, Brownback is scrambling to figure out how to pay for the ones that took effect this year without cutting further into state services.
To balance next year’s budget, he is counting on the Legislature to continue part of a one-cent sales tax increase that is supposed to expire in July, eliminate the mortgage deduction and use state highway funds to pay for school busing. All of that is a hard sell.
We have to wonder why Brownback continues to ignore an obvious and fair way to increase state revenues. Kansas’ sales tax structure is riddled with inconsistencies. Roughly two dollars worth of sales are exempted for every dollar of sales that is taxed. There appears to be no logical reason for why some organizations and services are exempt, and others are subject to the tax.
In his understandable quest for revenue, the governor should muster up the fortitude to slay a few sacred cows, instead of imposing an even greater burden on less-well-off Kansans who already are paying a high price for his fiscal experiments.