Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Tax Cuts Impact Rural Areas

Ben Merriman looks at who gets hurt in his home state of Kansas:
Low population density makes rural communities extremely vulnerable to state cuts. The elimination of a school or clinic may force residents to drive to the next county (or the one after) to access a service. There are nearly 150 public high schools in the state with 150 students or fewer, many of them barely able to remain open. Cuts in state funding for public education, which could come to thousands of dollars per pupil in the coming years, will force many of these small school districts to close or consolidate. This will produce endless travel time for the unlucky students. It will also mean the demise of many small communities: the social life of the local school sustains many towns throughout the state, and when a high school closes, the community often dissolves.
Huge cuts to the state income tax will be offset by the continuation of a sales tax increase and the elimination of a number of tax credits primarily benefiting the poor. Kansans making less than $20,000 could see their annual taxes increase by several hundred dollars. This does not include other ways that life will be made more expensive. Lower levels of state support for necessary institutions such as universities, courts, and roads will be made up by increases in tuition, fees, and tolls. In the past decade, the University of Kansas tripled tuition in an attempt to make up for cuts in state support. Despite this the University has seen increases in class size and time to graduation, lower completion rates, and the deferral of vital maintenance.
Underneath taxation is an idea of society. Taxes in Kansas have long supported public goods that are both necessary and too expensive to be paid for solely by the people who need them. Because the state is huge and speckled with small communities, infrastructure and schooling were important funding priorities. Though the political life of mid-20th century Kansas was unglamorous, it supported an idea of prudent, rational government that attempted to provide for the necessities of civic life.
The suburbs get to keep more money, and the rural areas get hit. 

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