Under Governor Sam Brownback, the state has gone all red at a rapid pace, putting in place scores of conservative policies like huge tax cuts and welfare restrictions. We’ve previously suggested that experiments like Brownback’s Kansas (or their blue equivalents) might give us great data on what kind of policies work. But unfortunately things seem less clear-cut. The Times covers the progress Brownback has made, in light of his upcoming re-election fight. So far the results seem neither mainly good or mainly bad, but mixed:
Unemployment fell to 4.9 percent last December, the lowest level in more than five years and lower than the national average of 6.6 percent in January. When he started his term in January 2011, the state had $876 in the bank; now there is more than $700 million in cash reserves and Kansas personal income, a measure of family earnings, is growing. The state had more than 15,000 new business filings in 2012, a record, and sales tax receipts have risen […]But there is far from universal agreement. Personal income and gross state product are growing at a slower rate than the national average. And the state’s nonpartisan legislative research department has projected that the budget will face a $213.6 million shortfall in fiscal 2017, in large part because of the deep tax cuts that are expected to cost the state about $3.9 billion over the next five years.
The experiment in Kansas is still ongoing, and it’s important to note that many conservatives themselves think Brownback’s agenda is too extreme or too simplistic. Still, this result is somewhat surprising because it suggests that even drastic policies changes might ultimately have only mild effects. We’ll be watching closely for any further data coming out of this experiment. In the meantime, read the whole thing.