What Happened When 1 U.S. State Slashed Taxes to the Bone

Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" surveys her home state of Kansas

Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz surveys her home state of Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback made sweeping changes to the state’s taxes. | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The state of Kansas has embarked on what its governor, Sam Brownback, calls a “real live experiment” over the past several years. The experiment, in its simplest terms, was to enact sweeping changes to the state’s tax policy. Lower taxes are typically something to be celebrated, of course. But after witnessing what’s happened in Kansas, many people are rethinking their approach to the tax system, especially given that lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including the president, have tax reform on their agenda in coming months.

The gist of it is Kansas slashed tax rates to the bone. Brownback’s plan was heralded as one of the cleanest and truest economic experiments in recent memory. The problem is real people’s lives were at stake. It wasn’t merely guinea pigs who had nothing to lose. What, exactly, did Kansas do? And how did it all turn out?

We’ll start with the nuts and bolts of the plan itself.

The Kansas plan

In a nutshell, the plan was to lower tax rates considerably and reap economic rewards on the back end. The idea was to allow people and businesses to keep more of their money, rather than giving it to the state government, with hopes that they’d use the money to hire people, invest, or otherwise spur economic activity.

Bold? You bet. Feasible? We’ll find out.

Who is the man behind the plan? What happened after it was enacted and ultimately led to Kansas lawmakers abandoning it? We’ll do an autopsy to try to sum it up. But first, we’ll introduce you to Brownback, the politician who was elected (and subsequently re-elected), promising to make Kansas an economic powerhouse.

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