When Jeff Colyer and I took office in January of 2011, tens of thousands of fewer Kansans were working in private sector jobs than a decade ago. Our state was losing residents to all surrounding states. We had the highest taxes in the region and ranked among the worst in private sector job creation. Something had to be done if Kansas was going to be a place where our children and grandchildren could stay to find a job and raise a family.
When we took office, there was $876.10 in the state's coffers and a projected deficit for the next fiscal year of $500 million. Through a combination of fiscal restraint, smart cuts, and focusing our resources on the core functions of government, we took that half billion dollar deficit and turned it into a half billion dollar surplus. This billion dollar swing was achieved in one year.
Now that Kansas's economy is getting back on track and we've taken the necessary steps to get the government's fiscal house in order, it was time to take a stand for the future of our state. In May, the Kansas Legislature passed and I signed the largest tax cut in state history, eliminating state income taxes on small businesses and reducing the tax burden on every hardworking Kansan.
From day one, my administration's top priority has been to grow the Kansas economy and create jobs. We had to reverse the trend of capital loss that we were suffering to every state around us and still the tide of rural population decline. This is what we ran for office promising to and we have taken swift and decisive action.
We did this because it was time to shake up the status quo of taxing, spending, and declining. In our federalist system, state governments are forced to compete against each other for capital, jobs, and residents. Competition offers two options: you can either refuse to adapt to changing conditions and fall behind those who do, or you can lead the way to the future. Kansas had to change the way it competes regionally and nationally for residents and jobs, and so far we have made great progress.
In addition to reducing the tax burden on Kansas families and small businesses, we also improved our economic development toolbox with targeted incentives like letting businesses of any size deduct 100% of the expense of new business equipment and machinery. We created Rural Opportunity Zones to help recruit people to counties with sharply declining populations. And we established education programs to increase engineering and tech career students to meet our businesses' future workforce needs.
Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. It will pave the way to the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs, bring tens of thousands of people to Kansas and help make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business. It will leave more than a billion dollars in the hands of Kansans -- they know far better how to spend their money than the state government. An expanding economy and growing population will directly benefit our schools and local governments.
We will continue to work to provide a business environment that will keep our state regionally and globally competitive. We will continue to reform state government so that it is more efficient, effective and responsive to our citizen's needs. We will continue to meet the needs of our state's most vulnerable. We will continue to provide for high quality schools.
But most of all, we will continue to strive to make our state even better. Kansas' lost decade is over. No longer will we be satisfied with our children moving to another state for better opportunities. No longer will we accept having the highest tax burden in the region. Now is the time to grow our economy, not state government, and that's what this our policies will do.
We are just getting started in Kansas, but we are off the sidelines and in the game.