News Briefs

Kansas governor touts improved credit rating, warns flat tax could damage score

By: - March 1, 2023 11:53 am
Gov. Laura Kelly

Gov. Laura Kelly says the state’s improved credit rating makes it clear that Kansas is back on track by growing the economy and paying off debt. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The state’s credit rating has improved again, Gov. Laura Kelly announced this week, but her administration warns that a Senate-approved flat tax plan would damage that score.

S&P Global changed Kansas’ credit outlook from stable to positive, recognizing passage by the Republican-controlled Legislature of several of the Democratic governor’s financial initiatives. They include balancing the state budget and paying off Kansas Public Employees Retirement System debt.

“This is great news for Kansas’ budget and economic outlook, making it even more likely that our state will be seen as a smart investment,” Kelly said. “It is clear that we have put Kansas back on track by growing our economy and paying off debts.” 

S&P said Kelly’s recommended budgets for fiscal years 2023 and 2024 could lead to another rating upgrade, although costly tax cuts, like the flat tax proposal, could cause the rating to fall again. The flat tax proposal would establish a 4.75% flat income tax rate for all individuals earning more than $5,225 or couples earning more than $10,450. 

The cut would cost the state $568.5 million in the first full fiscal year after it takes effect, according to the state’s estimate, and has drawn criticism because it is projected to benefit the wealthiest Kansans while offering little relief to low-income earners across the state. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, estimated the annual cost to actually be $764 million.

Brianna Johnson, spokeswoman for Kelly, compared the flat tax proposal to disastrous tax policies passed during former Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, which contributed to the downgrading of the state’s credit rating.

“Global economic experts are recognizing that Governor Kelly has gotten Kansas’ fiscal house in order by cutting taxes in a way that maintains our state’s ability to balance its budget and fully fund schools,” Johnson said. “The Kansas Legislature shouldn’t roll back that progress by passing tax cuts that our state cannot afford — and that, like we saw during the failed Brownback tax experiment, would lead to our state’s credit rating being downgraded.”

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.