Reform means different things to tax council, KPI economist

The word reform just means to make changes in something in order to improve it. An economist with the Sandlian Center for Entrepreneurial Government at the Kansas Policy Institute has a different idea of reform than that espoused by Governor Laura Kelly’s new tax council, at least based on their first meetings.

“There was an overarching consensus that tax policy should provide some sort of ‘fairness,'” said Michael Austin. “There was little talk as to what fair tax policy actually is.”

There was even an idea floated of trying to create tax policy that would favor groups with certain backgrounds over others, which is an idea that could have not only policy, but overarching constitutional problems, if misapplied.

“This council is more focused on wealth transfer, as opposed to encouraging people to work more or lowering taxes for all,” said Austin. “Saying income redistribution is a policy that works is kind of like saying perpetual motion exists.”

Austin argues that if you want a sustainable tax policy, it’s got to help everyone.

“You do want to make sure that those people who are working and making the most amount of money can provide the best investment to the area economy,” said Austin. “That means you have to lower
those taxes for everyone across the board, including those who are wealthy.”

Austin notes that the vast majority of what the council heard in its first meetings were the needs of state agencies for more state funds. The Sandlian Center has noted previously that the state will need
an additional $1 billion by 2023 just to meet statutory obligations now.