An Irresponsible Tax Bill

This week we present a guest column by Heidi Holliday, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth. KCEG has been at the forefront of demystifying tax policy and promoting responsible fiscal solutions for Kansas, and has been a partner for MainStream in economic topics. At issue in this column, the bill passed by the Senate to refuse almost $500 million in taxes owed to Kansas due to the Federal tax cuts. Quite simply, Kansas cannot afford to turn this money away. And who would be receiving this "windfall?" Not the poorest of Kansans. Not those who would most benefit from infrastructure jobs, a lowered sales tax on food, fully funded public education, or a stronger safety net. They claim taxes are theft? Just who is stealing from whom here?


Heidi Holliday

By Heidi Holliday

On April 7, the Kansas Senate passed Substitute for House Bill 2228. On its surface, this bill addresses issues from the federal tax plan passed in December. However, it also includes extremely fiscally irresponsible provisions that will cost the state at least $494 million over the next five years – revenue that Kansas cannot afford to forgo at this time.

The bill includes several provisions that are meant to align Kansas’ tax code with the recently passed federal plan, capturing revenue that would otherwise be lost. Many of the assumed “pay fors” are related to conformity with the international provisions of the federal plan – provisions that, according to the Department of Revenue, have great uncertainty:

  • “Amended and new federal statutes outlined in the [federal tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)] regarding repatriation and international income do not clarify how international income and expenses are recognized on the federal return. This creates uncertainty in how Kansas statute conforms to these international provisions. Such uncertainty makes estimation of changes in Kansas tax revenues not possible to quantify.” (emphasis added)
  • “Results given in this report should be considered as rough approximations and not a fiscal note.” (emphasis added)
  • “The total impact to Kansas tax revenues stemming from the TCJA changes to the federal tax code is roughly $140 million by fiscal year 2019.” (emphasis added)

The truth is, we don’t know what the revenue effect of federal tax reform on Kansas will be; the Kansas Senate approved this bill with no fiscal note. There are simply too many unknowns, and they won’t be resolved soon. In particular, little consideration was given to the very real possibility that proposed “pay-fors” in the bill will not generate revenue any time soon. Corporations will press to have them repealed and, failing that, challenge them in court.

This is not to say that Kansas lawmakers should not at a later date seek to enact legislation to capture this potential revenue, rather that lawmakers should not assume this revenue will be available anytime soon.

Other states, such as Georgia, that have passed legislation based on the assumption of revenue from state attempts to conform to international provisions were challenged immediately by corporate interests, leaving the legislature without a pay-for after the tax plan passed. More generally, the national corporate community has indicated it intends to challenge in court the constitutionality of state conformity to these international provisions.

Over the next year, lawmakers should track the effects of federal tax reform on Kansas taxpayers. They can return next legislative session ready to examine the impact and possible legislation addressing it.

Our state has significant needs. From enhanced funding for schools to investing in infrastructure, health care, early education, and thriving communities, we are on the road to recovering from the Brownback tax plan together. As we’ve said, that journey will take time.

Last year’s Senate Bill 30 phased back in deductions for medical expenses, mortgage interest and property taxes because lawmakers understood that we couldn’t afford it any other way. Ten months later, we still . Additionally, Senate Sub HB 2228 includes an entirely separate new tax policy – an increase in the state standard deduction – that will significantly reduce income tax revenue.

Lawmakers should reject calls for additional income tax changes and instead concentrate on the state’s laundry list of needs to address as Kansas recovers from five years of failed tax policy. Senate Substitute for HB 2228 would extend that recovery period. Instead, lawmakers should remember these priorities and opportunities for our state as any potential revenue reached the state as a result of federal changes:

Without a fiscal note and with many competing demands on Kansas’ budget, lawmakers should reinvest any revenue as a result of federal tax reform in our state’s recovery from failed tax policy – not spend it on another reckless experiment.

Oppose Senate Substitute for House Bill 2228

We urge lawmakers to oppose Senate Substitute for House Bill 2228. Without a certain revenue source to pay for such costly changes, Kansas simply can’t afford to do otherwise.

Republished with permission from

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