And it threatens to launch a civil war within the state's Republican Party.—By Patrick Caldwell
Republicans have long sung the praises of trickle-down economics: Just cut taxes, and the economy will flourish as companies and individuals use the windfall to boost investment and create jobs. But a grand experiment in implementing those policies at the state level has revealed a far less rosy reality—and the consequences are threatening to spark a civil war among Republicans.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, launched an "experiment" in conservative policy after he was elected in 2010, drastically slashing the state's income taxes under the assumption that the move would kick-start Kansas' economy and rev up job creation. With help from Arthur Laffer, Ronald Reagan's mastermind of trickle-down economics, Brownback convinced lawmakers in the state to cut personal income tax rates across the board and eliminate the top tax bracket, with further reductions to come. Kansas also completely erased the income tax bills for the owners of certain "small" businesses, totaling 330,000 by this year and including a host of subsidiaries of Wichita-based Koch Industries. The Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity helped Brownback push the bill and has remained a staunch defender of the changes. The tax cuts were sold by Brownback with the idea that they would pay for themselves when a renewed economy boosted state revenues despite the lower rates.