December 6, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Star Fails to Find People Who Oppose Tax Increase

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A reporter tours the state and has trouble finding anyone who opposed a giant tax increase. This story defies belief.

Somehow, a reporter for the Kansas City Star toured Kansas and could barely find a single person opposed to a massive tax increase that will cost the average family about $600 per year.

This story defies belief.

The tall tale recounts how Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed a $1.2 billion retroactive tax increase but was overturned by the Kansas Legislature. It criss crosses Kansas, apparently, seeking sources to bash the Governor, admit they made too much money, and celebrate a massive tax increase. Most of the story reads as if the reporter stumbled into a Resistance meeting.

“If the voices of these Kansans are any indication, the mood of many people seems to be one of relief. The overall sentiment: ‘What took so long?'” the story asks.

The reporter’s first source says he’s a Republican, but his first comment for the story is calling the Governor “dumb.”

In all of their travels across the state, readers are expected to believe that a Star reporter and photographer could only find one people who worried that the tax increase might damage businesses.

In an Olathe diner, a bunch of retirees call the Governor names and consider moving to states that don’t tax income, while simultaneously suggesting that the Kansas needs to tax its citizens more.

“I’m actually thinking of moving out of the state of Kansas,” says one retiree. “I can go to three different states right now that I don’t have to pay state income tax on my retirement. And that’s a lot of money.”

Either the reporter couldn’t find citizens with an understanding of basic economic principles or the reporters simply misconstrued the citizens’ sentiments. Either way, the tale paints a unusual picture of Kansas that people who actually live in the state are unlikely to recognize.

In what was billed as a referendum of Brownback’s tax policies, Brownback won re-election two years ago by an almost 4 percent margin. Perhaps those voters were busy working when the Star reporter stopped in coffee shops around the state.

One source, a John Deere franchise owner used a business tax exemption to hire employees and expand the business, while paying taxes on their income, while worrying that schools aren’t being funded enough. Perhaps the reporter should have asked where the taxes from their newly employed staff members went.

Another business owner in Hillsboro said she was sorry to see taxes increase, but has been sad to see state revenues in such tatters. Perhaps if the media had been honest all along about the state of Kansas’ budget, the business owner would realize state spending is up.

The story gives the impression that the state spending decreased after the tax cuts were implemented–an absolute falsehood. Prior to the Brownback Administration, state spending increased, on average, by 8 percent each year. Brownback didn’t eliminate spending. He slowed the rate of government growth while digging the Sunflower State out of an enormous state pension hole. When Brownback took office, the state ranked almost dead last in unfunded pension liabilities. Today, Kansas sits squarely middle of the pack. Yet the Star reporter–through ill-informed sources–intones that KPERS funding suffered staggering losses during Brownback’s tenure.

The tale conveniently omits all evidence that Kansans prefer spending cuts to tax increases to balance the state’s budget. That’s according to all recent polling. A Fort Hays State University poll revealed that 75 percent of Kansans preferred spending cuts or a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to balance the state’s budget. A Kansas Chamber poll revealed that 57 percent of respondents preferred spending cuts. A full 77 percent of respondents opposed increasing taxes on the middle tax.

And yet the Star reporter had trouble finding sources to suggest the state spends too much money. Finally, the Star reporter finds a source who makes the less-than-subtle suggestion that Brownback policies damaged black children. Someone should tell that to the low-income students who benefitted from a scholarship program that allows them to escape to private schools.

It certainly appears the reporter began his story with a premise–that Kansans wanted a tax increase. Despite polling and other evidence that they don’t, the reporter found sources who echoed his biases. It’s revisionist history. Star readers deserve better.




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