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The Budget Center communications team chatted with Kayla Kitson (she/her), Senior Policy Analyst at the Budget Center, who conducts research, authors publications, and provides technical assistance related to state tax and revenue policies.

This Q&A series is your chance to get to know our team, their areas of expertise, and how their work at the Budget Center supports policy change in California. In this conversation, we’ll explore Kayla’s recent endeavors to help advance policies that make the state’s tax system more fair and ensure that it raises enough revenue to support the services Californians need.

This interview was edited by Kat Petsalis, Communications Strategist at the Budget Center.

Can you tell us about your role at the Budget Center?

Since joining the Budget Center team in 2018, my primary focus has been on tax policy. I collaborate closely with Alissa and Jonathan to navigate tax equity and revenue adequacy in the state. Our focus lies in ensuring a tax system that not only promotes fairness but also generates enough revenue to support essential public services and programs that help Californians thrive.

How have perceptions of the tax system changed over the years?

Over recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in public perception regarding taxes. For a long time now, the prevailing narrative in this country has been that taxes are burdensome and undesirable. However, there’s been a growing realization, largely fueled by the efforts of advocacy organizations and increased public discourse, that certain segments of society, particularly the wealthy and corporations, are not contributing their fair share to support public services.

This recognition, reflected in public polling, has fueled a demand for more equitable tax policies. While progress is promising, there remains a significant portion of the population resistant to discussions about taxes, and navigating these conversations, even with political majorities, can be challenging due to concerns about constituent reactions.

What inspired your passion for research and public policy?

My journey into research and public policy started with my firsthand experiences as a counselor in a housing facility for homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses. Witnessing the systemic barriers and policy and funding shortcomings sparked a desire to effect change on a broader scale. During an internship at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in D.C., I dove into housing policy and began to grasp the impact of tax policy on societal inequalities. This realization led me to recognize tax policy as a tool for systemic change, inspiring my commitment to leveraging it for social justice and equity.

What is something exciting you have worked on or are currently working on?

One of the projects I’m most proud to have worked on at the Budget Center involved updating a comprehensive report on tax expenditures in California. Collaborating with colleagues, we analyzed data and examined the racial equity implications embedded within tax policies. Researching how tax breaks disproportionately benefit high-income individuals was both eye-opening and motivating. By shedding light on these disparities, we can better advocate for reforms that promote fairness and equity in taxation, ensuring that our tax system serves the collective interests of all Californians.

What’s one thing you can’t get through the workday without?

Definitely my crossword time during lunch. It’s become my go-to mental break during the workday, even though I know I should probably step away and take a walk.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I’m a bit of a TV buff — I find it a great way to unwind and enjoy some laughter. However, in the past year, I’ve also reignited my passion for playing the guitar after a lengthy break. I originally started playing when I was 15, mainly focused on learning specific songs without delving into the theory or technical aspects. Now, I’m making a conscious effort to revisit the basics, exploring music theory and improvisation.

Media Contacts

Kyra Moeller
Communications Strategist

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