A recent commentary by the Kansas City Star’s Yael Abouhalkah is another sad example of media not allowing facts to get in the way of their personal political beliefs. The author noted that individual income tax collections for the first four months of the current fiscal year (July through October) are $258 million less than in 2012 and angrily says tax reform is “…stripping funds from the state budget.” In other words, government isn’t getting what the author considers to be its due.
Kansas state government clearly can function on reduced revenue. Every state offers the same basket of services (education, social service programs, highways, etc.) but the states that tax income spend 49% more per-resident doing so in 2012. Kansas spent 37% more.
KPI even published a 5-year budget plan for Kansas that shows how to balance the budget without service reductions or tax increases. Kansas would have healthy ending balances each year and still be able to increase spending on education and Medicaid – all by making better use of existing resources. But the Kansas City Star refuses to share those and many other facts with readers. Last week we had to pay for ads in the Star to refute their misleading claims on education spending and state economic indicators (an editorial reply was not welcome). We even had to run an ad to set the record straight on facts contained within our budget plan; the Star didn’t share the conclusion of our budget plan but they went out of their way to misrepresent one of its elements.
Kansas does have a structural budget issue but that should come as no surprise to the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature who had no interest in adjusting spending when taxes were reduced in 2012. FYI, a reduction of $258 million over four months is about what was projected on an annualized basis by Kansas Legislative Research back in 2012.
It was wrong to not reduce spending then but the choice now for those heading for Topeka in January will be to raise taxes on everyone or (finally) make government operate more efficiently and provide services at a better price.
Maybe the Star’s actions are driven by their vehement opposition to tax reform and those who voted for it. Or maybe the Star doesn’t want to acknowledge the work of those with whom they have philosophical differences. But responsible journalists would not choose sides and withhold pertinent information from readers.