Window on the West column
by Mary Rupert
It’s a shame the old year, 2012, ended on a dismal note. The main national news topic on New Year’s Eve was the dismal science, economics, specifically the federal “fiscal cliff,” enough to dim the celebration of the new year.
Budgets are my least-favorite topic to write about, and when the nation talks about the topic on a holiday, it reminds me of a dysfunctional family arguing about money at a family holiday gathering.
When it was announced that a deal was near, the markets rebounded on Dec. 31. People were optimistic that the matter would be settled in the next several days. But everything in the months leading up to this man-made crisis was brainless. It was just another example of various political interests testing their power by throwing a wrench into the works. Who were the victims this time? Almost everyone. Probably countless retail stores suffered when consumers cut back their buying in the holiday season out of fear that they might have to pay more taxes in 2013. Businesses were frozen in their planning for the future, not knowing what to expect.
In 2012, Congress was asked to make a decision on these economic matters. It brings to mind the story of Solomon resolving a dispute between two women about who was a baby’s real mother. Those who were willing to go over the fiscal cliff are like the woman who was willing to push her own interests to the point of seeing the baby divided in half.
A little more common sense and willingness to work together would have paid much greater dividends for the nation. Had the nation’s leaders decided to go in the opposite direction and inspire consumer confidence, instead of presenting dire warnings and pushing their own philosophies to the point of going over a cliff, the economy might have been far ahead of where it is now.
Our nation was full of stubborn elected officials about 150 years ago, when we fought the Civil War. Maybe it’s time for voters to elect people who have the skills to work together and work out their differences peacefully.
At the state level, there have been some similar dire warnings in the past few years about the necessity to lower taxes, with the top beneficiaries being large corporations and the wealthiest residents. As far as I am concerned, there is no crisis. It is all man-made, an attempt to shift the tax burden onto the middle class.
For those who are interested in taking a closer look at the state budget picture, I would recommend a blog by a former state budget director, Duane Goossen, online at www.khi.org/weblogs/budget-blog. At the basic level this year, the state will be deciding whether to raise revenues or cut spending, or some combination of the two.
One of the more interesting items on this blog shows that the state’s estimates of gaming revenue from the new casinos have been reduced from $87.7 million to $79.3 million for fiscal year 2013. The biggest chunk of the state’s gaming revenue is used for paying the state’s debt service, according to the blog.
Of the state’s three casinos, the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., had the biggest revenue estimate change. Instead of a fiscal year 2013 estimate of $157.7 million made in April 2012, the estimate was reduced to $119.6 million in October. The state receives 22 percent in its the Expanded Lottery Act Revenue Fund, so the state’s share is reduced from $34.6 million to $26.3 million under the new estimate.
The estimate of casino revenues going to the Unified Government also dropped, from $4.7 million for fiscal year 2013, to $3.5 million for the same period.
While not making as much money for the state as expected, the casinos are essentially a voluntary tax filling a gap in the budget. We haven’t seen much public information released yet on who exactly is paying that tax here – residents or tourists, Kansans or Missourians, or wealthy or poor. The state’s wealthy residents or corporations have the potential to be the biggest winners, especially if the casino is raking in most of its dollars from the poor.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published Jan. 3, 2013.