The interesting thing that happened when Kansas cut taxes and California hiked them

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Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders poses for a photograph with workers… (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

In 2012, voters in California approved a measure to raise taxes on millionaires, bringing their top state income tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. Conservative economists predicted calamity, or at least a big slowdown in growth. Also that year, the governor of Kansas signed a series of changes to the state’s tax code, including reducing income and sales tax rates. Conservative economists predicted a boom.

Neither of those predictions came true. Not right away — California grew just fine in the year the tax hikes took effect — and especially not in the medium term, as new economic data showed this week.

Now, correlation does not, as they say, equal causation, and two examples are but a small sample. But the divergent experiences of California and Kansas run counter to a popular view, particularly among conservative economists, that tax cuts tend to supercharge growth and tax increases chill it.

California’s economy grew by 4.1 percent in 2015, according to new numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, tying it with Oregon for the fastest state growth of the year. That was up from 3.1 percent growth for the Golden State in 2014, which was near the top of the national pack.

The Kansas economy, on the other hand, grew 0.2 percent in 2015. That’s down from 1.2 percent in 2014, and below neighboring states such as Nebraska (2.1 percent) and Missouri (1.2 percent). Kansas ended the year with two consecutive quarters of negative growth — a shrinking economy. By a common definition of the term, the state entered 2016 in recession.

The Washington Post

Bored voters produce lowest California voter turnout ever

 Dan Kysor's guide dog, Harry, lies next to him as poll workers help him vote using an adaptive computer at the California Museum in Sacramento, California, November 4, 2014.

Dan Kysor’s guide dog, Harry, lies next to him as poll workers help him vote using an adaptive computer at the California Museum in Sacramento, California, November 4, 2014.

SACRAMENTO —Democrats won every statewide office and a comfortable majority of the congressional delegation and legislative seats. Yet at Capitol Weekly’s election postmortem confab Thursday, Republicans were giddy and many Democrats were, well, agitated.

Even for California Republicans, Tuesday was heavenly. To start, they spent Tuesday night watching the GOP make big gains nationally — a happy change of pace. In state, it’s true as Democratic strategist Jason Kinney pronounced, Dems had a “wildly successful year.” The Dems won every statewide office on the ballot and the majority of legislative districts. Still, the GOP well may have poached three Democratically controlled congressional seats. Longtime incumbent Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, was trailing against a little-known Republican dairy farmer named Johnny Tacherra — even though Costa’s seat was not on politicos’ watch lists.

Republicans picked up seats and prevented the Democrats from holding supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. It’s the first time, wrote California Target Book publisher Allan Hoffenblum, that any Democratic incumbents were defeated since 1994. What’s more, the GOP put three Asian American women in the Legislature.

So the Dems should have been high-fiving each other, right? Instead, California Democratic Party Chief Financial Officer Angie Tate told the audience that people juggling two jobs and families didn’t feel like they had time to vote. And: “Did we lose some races? Most definitely. Did we know coming in we’d lose some races? Duh.”

The folks who watch these things believe that when all the ballots are counted, the turnout will be lower than the state’s record low turnout of 50.6 percent of registered voters in November 2002. Panelists predicted a new low, a turnout below 40 percent. Sacramento has passed a rash of laws to make it almost automatic to register, as easy as going to the mailbox to pick up your ballot, and Californians are increasingly less likely to vote.

And that is the big takeaway from the 2014 midterm election: Even where it was easier than ever to register and vote, people didn’t.

Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle

Why immigration reform has GOP leaders eating one of their own

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) speaks during a news conference with youths who are unable to serve in the military because they are in the country illegally. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

By Lisa Mascaro in the Los Angeles Times

Not only have House Republican leaders ditched a comprehensive immigration overhaul from the Senate, now they are even blocking a more modest effort from one of their own.

House GOP leaders have refused to allow a vote on legislation from Republican Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) that would provide legal status and a path to citizenship for immigrants who serve in the military.

Last week, Denham tried to attach his bill to the National Defense Authorization Act, a sweeping must-pass annual spending bill. But GOP leaders blocked a vote on the amendment. Denham has vowed to try again.

The country has a long history of naturalizing immigrants through military service. In 2002, President George W. Bush expedited citizenship for those who served after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — including those here illegally. Since then, the Immigration Policy Center estimates, 53,000 immigrants, those with legal status and not, have obtained citizenship through military service.

Denham, a former Air Force crew chief who served in Desert Storm, argued to his GOP colleagues that he knew many immigrants during his time in the service, and that they served the nation faithfully.

Just as important to Denham, he represents a Central Valley agriculture-heavy district in California that is 40% Latino, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

But Denham is a bit of an outlier in the party. Most Republican lawmakers represent districts that have been gerrymandered into conservative strongholds, with few minority populations.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times