Brownback's Tax Experiment: How Does Kansas Compare with Nebraska?

Apr 7, 2016

Gov. Sam Brownback
Credit Orlin Wagner / AP photo

In an attempt to understand how well Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s grand experiment of slashing taxes to stimulate economic growth has affected unemployment, The Pittsburgh Gazette recently compared the state’s stats with those of Nebraska.

Though Kansas has a million more people than its northern neighbor, they’re otherwise pretty similar. In, for example, median household income, per-capita income, percentage of the population living in urban areas, and acreage under cultivation, the two line up. And both states are run by Republicans.

The difference? The Nebraska legislature has never approved a Kansas-scale tax-cut experiment. Here’s what the Gazette found regarding unemployment: The numbers actually look okay for Kansas. The unemployment rate remains higher than in Nebraska (which is tied with Colorado for fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the country), but it has fallen farther.

However, when the Gazette realized that Nebraska has only a tiny fraction of Kansas’s production, they decided to factor out oil and gas jobs, which have struggled everywhere regardless of how well the general economy is doing. When they did that, things looked significantly worse for Kansas.

On top of that, noted the editorial, “the damage being inflicted on the state’s educational system may begin to exercise an economic drag of its own.”