Spending and taxing in the states, Kansas and Texas in particular

Taxes flowing to the capitol

In the current policy debate in Kansas, we often compare our state with Texas. The prevailing themes sounded by Democrats and other spenders include that because Texas has no income tax, its other taxes (sales and property) are higher. We also hear that Texas is “atop a sea of oil” from which the state collects a gusher of tax revenue.

But what are the facts? Regarding taxation: In 2011 Kansas state government collected $2,378 in taxes for each person. Texas collected $1,682. We see that Texas collects far less tax per person than does Kansas. Texas may have higher sales or property taxes than Kansas, but the total tax burden in Texas is lower.

Spending follows the same pattern. In 2011 Kansas state government spent $5,115 per person in total, with $1,974 in general fund spending and $130 in bond spending. For Texas the total was $3,718 spent per person in total, with $1,654 in general fund spending and $50 in bond spending.

The lower level of spending means Texas has a less burdensome state government, which allows more money to remain in the productive private sector. In Kansas, we spend more on government.

The “sea of oil” and bountiful severance tax revenue: In 2011 Kansas, which has a severance tax of its own, collected $42.54 in this form of tax for each person. How much did Texas collect from its severance tax? $104.29 per person. The difference between the two — $61.75 per person per year — is only a small portion of the difference between Kansas and Texas taxation.

To see how your state compares with others in spending, use the interactive visualization below. To use the visualization, click the check boxes to add or remove states and years from the chart. Use the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window. Data is from National Association of State Budget Officers and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.


(alternate link to the above table)


(alternate link to the above table)


4 thoughts on “Spending and taxing in the states, Kansas and Texas in particular”

  1. Interesting statistics, but you really can’t draw much from it for one simple reason. Texas has well over 20 million people and Kansas has less than 10% of their population. No lower level of spending is indicated and it doesn’t mean Texas has a less burdensome state government allowing more money to remain in the productive private sector. Per capita figures don’t matter with a mass like that because you can generate more with less and serve more in a congregate fashion. There are economies of scale in government just as in other endeavors. For example, a 5 mile highway with 6 lanes still costs the same to build and maintain though one here may carry fewer than there. You also have to factor in federal assistance offsetting what otherwise would be larger state taxes. And per capita severance tax draws no comparison because the land mass over which it is collected and number of operating wells are far greater. (There is a reason domestic oil pricing is determined by West Texas Intermediate Crude.) So what is the point when it’s apples and oranges? Interesting comparison and that is about it.

    In fact, comparative data of the states with similar tax systems to Texas shows they all have dissimilar attributes and to the extent they are comparative there really isn’t a correlated result. But we will see here in a few years because we’re all in the Petrie dish now–and it didn’t dissuade Boeing from leaving now, did it.

  2. Great article, Bob.

    As much as people hate to hear it: Spending is the key. More to the point, lower government spending!

    Kansas has one of the highest ratios of government workers to citizens in the nation. If we could trim that it would help. I have seen some of this slicing from Topeka, but we need more.

    The entrenched govt. worker will not give up their cushy jobs anytime soon. It will always be an uphill battle to curb the spending. The unions can mobilize their members and intimidate the legislators like no one else could.

  3. Aren’t you forgetting that Texas has state income that Kansas doesn’t have? And Texas also does not tax groceries.

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