GOP philosophy of tax cuts shows glaring flaws

When Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback took office he decided, with the support of a Republican legislature, to experiment with the GOP philosophy that lower taxes spurs economic growth and job creation. The thinking is that if wealthy citizens and businesses pay less taxes they will invest more in their companies and hire more employees, and that these actions will increase economic development and state revenue. So Brownback slashed taxes and pushed through exemptions to protect businesses from taxes.

Today, Kansas is facing a $600 million budget deficit. It seems that rich people and businesses do not invest their tax savings into their communities. As a result, Kansas has had to slash education funding and other state services. Highways and bridges in Kansas are falling apart as highway funding is being diverted to other more-immediate needs. Does this sound like an attractive place to relocate your business?


Republican governors have won big in recent election cycles and their first acts, predictably, have been to push through tax cuts. But their own experiment with this strategy, in Kansas and many other states, demonstrates that their philosophy is flawed; deep tax cuts do not improve a state's economic development.

States where Republican governors — such as Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Mike Pence in Indiana, Rick Scott in Florida, Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Rick Snyder in Michigan — have significantly cut taxes now have budget deficits coupled with slow economic growth.

Louisiana, under the leadership of former presidential candidate Jindal, wanted to demonstrate his conservatism by slashing state taxes. Now, Louisiana is facing a $1.9 billion deficit. And they have one of the poorest school systems in the nation.

Snyder's tax cuts led to a $454 million budget deficit. The resulting budget cuts left his state with dire consequences. Just ask the people of Flint, Michigan, where Snyder insisted in 2014 that the city save $2 million by changing their water supplier. Scientists warned Snyder that the Flint River, the new water source, was corrosive and would need to be treated to prevent the water from leaching the lead out of the city's old pipes. But that would cost money, so the water was not treated. Now we have hundreds of children in Flint with lead poisoning.

Lead cannot be digested and causes brain damage, especially in young children. In 1977 we outlawed lead in paint and fuel. But many old lead pipes still remain, even in some of our schools. The cost of removing the lead pipes from Flint is estimated at $1.5 billion. But it will now cost the state much more to deal with the consequences of its not-so-real savings.

Unfortunately, following the pattern of other Republican governors, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan recently announced that he will be cutting taxes in the state by at least $36 million over the next fiscal year. I guess Hogan believes that all of our Maryland schools are adequately funded and that none of them need new roofs or new heating/cooling systems or new pipes to ensure that our children are drinking safe water from water fountains. Of course, there are many schools in Maryland that have these needs, some of which could be met if not for Hogan's tax cuts. I know that Carroll County Public Schools could use some of that money after several years of cuts to student services.

States with the lowest tax rates — Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi — in America also have the worst education systems and the worst state infrastructure. High-tech companies, and others that pay well, do not move to these states. Where did General Electric recently decide to move its corporate headquarters? Boston. Located in one of the highest-taxed states in the nation. Why? Because companies move to states where there is a strong education system with an educated population, and where the infrastructure is strong enough to support the needs of their businesses. Most of these states have high tax rates and, unlike the low tax states mentioned above, their economies are strong and growing.

You get what you pay for in America. Instead of tax cuts, we should invest in our schools and failing infrastructure.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. He is program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at