Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fiscal Irresponsibility

By Duane Goossen

A year ago, the Brownback administration cut off $70,000 of federal grant funding that local charities were using to connect Kansans who need food with the federal food stamp program. 

Stopping the grants did not save Kansas taxpayers a dime. Nor did it help the Kansas general fund.

But that financial decision did hurt hungry Kansans and the charities trying to help them, and denied the Kansas economy some federal dollars that now flow elsewhere.

Such a decision, which saves no money, takes dollars out of the Kansas economy, and hurts Kansas citizens all at the same time, is fiscally irresponsible and also just plain mean.

The governor has also kept Kansas from expanding Medicaid eligibility to more people. For the first three years, the federal government would have paid the entire cost of Medicaid expansion and then 90 percent of the cost after that. As many as 180,000 Kansans could have benefitted and received health care coverage. A majority of states have already done an expansion. The constantly running “ticker” on the Kansas Hospital Association website shows that Kansas has missed out on over $270 million federal dollars just since January 1, dollars that would have helped Kansans, the state's hospitals, and our economy.

That’s fiscally irresponsible.

The decisions to cut outreach grants and deny Medicaid expansion came in addition to the Kansas fiscal experiment. The state sales tax rate was kept high, which means Kansans pay more for their food. But income tax rates were lowered sharply, and the income for many businesses, including some very large businesses, was exempted from state income tax entirely.

The net result has been a dramatic drop in state revenue, down $688 million in FY 2014 and dropping further in the first quarter of FY 2015. Expenses are hundreds of millions above receipts. The savings account being used to pay the difference is almost gone.

The premise of the tax policy changes was to create jobs and economic activity, but Kansas has been surpassed by its neighbors in job creation. The Brownback policies have shifted more tax responsibility toward low-income Kansans, and at the same time have left Kansas in a financial position where we must cut back and pull away from critical education and service programs.

The financial decision the governor made to implement the experiment was fiscally irresponsible and utterly reckless.

Don’t reward fiscal irresponsibility. Return Kansas to a commonsense, practical approach.

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