The point I want to make in this particular post is that deciding the level and methods for taxation is not at all simple and would be very difficult to fit on a bumper sticker, assuming most people don’t keep a spare magnifying glass in their glove box in order to check the fine print on each message as it zooms by. Although, if you did decide to bring that magnifying glass along with you on your next drive down the roads of Kansas, the fine print you’d read about “lower taxes,” might conflict with the original message. Because, in reality, “lower” is not automatically better...or even “lower” at all, when all the other factors are considered. When looking at taxes, our focus should be from an investment perspective. What brings us the best return can only be determined when all forms of taxation, and all the implications thereof, are considered.
For an example, with taxes for infrastructure, it makes no sense to assume that higher taxes are automatically bad. Lower taxes—or, in the case of Kansas, poor fiscal policy in general—often lead to delayed improvements and less maintenance. This short-sighted view will lead to much higher repair costs and taxes down the road, and much higher maintenance costs for “wear and tear” on your automobile or truck. Not to mention, a sound transportation system—which, for Kansas, primarily means our highways and bridges—is absolutely essential. Profitable commerce depends on it. This is important for supporting our urban areas, but it is absolutely critical to our rural areas. Think of all the grain, cattle, and milk that must be moved in order for our economy to prosper, and think of all the families who will have to travel those same roads to attain access to fresh food and other basic necessities.
So yes, we have cut income taxes, including totally eliminating them for a wealthy few, but yet, the 2015 legislative session delivered the largest tax increase in Kansas history. So, what’s in the fine print? The sales tax was raised (leading to higher prices for consumers on every purchase, including those who are struggling most in our state, who now pay a higher sales tax on their groceries than they would in almost any other state in the country), several excise taxes and other fees (including tuition) have been raised across the board, and most local governments have felt the impacts “trickle down” from the state level to put upward pressure on property taxes and local sales taxes.
Now, I’m not here to push limitless taxation and spending, we must absolutely aim to maximize efficiency, but a sound tax system should have balance, fairness, and allow us to appropriately fund key government functions and invest wisely in our future. When you are still paying a lot in taxes and not getting a quality return on your investment, how is that a good deal for anyone?