Already in this youngish election season, we hear grumbling about the “progressive” agenda, how it is off-base, that people should at most take no more in government benefits than they pay in taxes.
Fine, but Kansans must look in a mirror. A recent study from the Rockefeller Institute of Government examines the distribution of federal budget receipts and expenditures across the United States. The report outlines the difference between the taxes a state sends to Washington and what that state receives in federal expenditures.
Forty of 50 states get more than they give. Kansas is among them.
Ten wealthier states – including Nebraska and Colorado – appear to support the others. A few, including New York and Connecticut, pay far more in federal taxes than they receive in federal spending.
The report is derived from state and federal documents for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. It took roughly 18 months to research and publish the 44-page analysis; it makes no harsh judgment. It lists, line by line, the flow of federal money from, and into, each state.
The Institute calls this a “balance of payments.” Federal spending in each state is seen through four basic categories:
– Direct payments for individuals under programs such as Social Security and Medicare;
– Federal grants to state and local governments; the biggest of these grants is for Medicaid. Other significant components include highway spending, antipoverty programs, and Federal education grants. Medicaid expansion – or not – in states impacts per capita federal spending in this category.
– Contracts and other federal procurement;
– Wages of federal workers.
These two categories are important for per capita spending totals. Virginia and Maryland had the highest per capita contracts because they are so close to Washington, D.C. New Mexico and Alaska, with large military and Federal research installations, also had high per capita federal wage totals.
The numbers in the report are from categories and data fixed in government budget documents. They do not include the side deals, the logrolling and earmarks obscured in late-hour deals, the fine print that legislators rarely bother to read. Or prefer to ignore.
The study puts Kansas in the bottom half of the 40 states receiving more per capita than they pay. In fiscal 2016-17, the state sent $25.5 billion in federal taxes to Washington and received $31.3 billion in federal money – $5.8 billion more than we paid in. That’s $1.23 returned for every dollar in taxes paid. Twenty-eight states took in more – some, a lot more.
Missouri sent $48.13 billion in taxes but received $72.27 billion in federal expenditures, a return of more than $24 billion or $1.50 for every dollar in taxes.
Oklahoma did even better, paying $29.39 billion in taxes but receiving $45.06 billion in federal money, a return of $1.53 for every dollar paid in taxes.
Colorado and Nebraska were among the ten states that paid more than they received. Colorado paid $57.99 billion but received $57.46 billion (a negative $533 million; for every dollar paid in taxes, 99 cents returned.) Nebraskans paid $18.05 billion but received $17.74 billion (a negative $314 million; for every dollar out, 98 cents returned.)
New York and New Jersey were among the most “giving” states. New York, $256 billion in taxes out, $221 billion in federal money in (a negative $35 billion, or 86 cents per capita for every dollar paid in taxes); New Jersey paid $119 billion, the feds spent $97.7 billion, a negative $21 billion, or 82 cents for every dollar paid in taxes.
California seemed to break even: $435.7 billion paid in federal taxes, $436 billion received in federal payments, a positive $455,000 – roughly a dollar in for a dollar out.
Six states received double or more on taxes sent to Washington – two dollars for every dollar paid in taxes. They were Kentucky, New Mexico, Mississippi, Virginia, West Virginia and Alabama.
Kentucky was the highest, paying $30 billion in taxes but receiving more than $70 billion in federal aid and expenditures. That $40 billion difference meant $2.35 returned for every dollar paid in taxes. New Mexico’s positive payment balance was $18 billion, a per capita return on a dollar at $2.34; Mississippi’s favorable balance was $25 billion and $2.19 per capita, and so forth.
There’s more but that’s the idea. It’s striking that the poorest states, those who most need help from Washington, seem to get it. All the while, leaders in a lot of them rail on about the government, its intrusion, its heavy hand and wasteful habits, the threat of its “socialism.”
Kansas ranks 28th among the 40 states that receive more than they pay. This is a function of need, rather than greed. It should remind us to be grateful, less inclined to bite that awful, federal, helping hand.