PR stunt?

? The governor?s ?no tax increase? perspective isn?t true for low- and middle-income Kansans.

Kansas already had the ninth-most regressive tax system in the nation, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The tax increase signed last week by Gov. Sam Brownback to balance the budget will make the system less fair to low- and middle-income Kansans, according to Matt Gardner, executive director of the nonpartisan but left-leaning think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Regressive tax systems rely more on sales and excise taxes and less on income taxes. That, according to the ITEP analysis, taxes the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers at effective rates up to seven times higher than wealthy taxpayers; middle-income families pay effective rates up to three times higher.

Gardner said if Kansas lawmakers wanted to solve the state?s budget problems and improve the fairness of its tax system, they should have revisited the 2012 tax cuts rather than increasing sales and cigarette taxes. In particular, he said, they should have reinstated income taxes on more than 330,000 business owners whose pass-through and passive earnings were exempted by the 2012 law.

An ITEP analysis of all the state?s tax changes enacted since 2012, including this year?s tax package, shows that the poorest Kansans?those with an average income of $13,000?will pay an average of $197 more per year in taxes while the wealthiest 1 percent will pay an average of $24,632 less.

The ITEP analysis shows that even with the recent changes, about 60 percent of Kansas taxpayers will pay less than they did prior to the 2012 tax cuts. However, the bottom 40 percent will pay more, even though the tax package, starting in 2017, exempts more than 380,000 low-income Kansans from the income tax.

Gardner said many of the low-income Kansans exempted by the bill had little or no income tax liability as it was, in large part because of the tax credits for which they qualified. He said exempting them was little more than a ?PR stunt? to make the tax package appear less regressive.

?Dave Ranney, KHI News Service

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