Brownback Offers Three Plans to Further Degrade Kansas

Laughing_brownbackIn response to yesterday’s reduction in estimated tax collections, Governor Brownback and his Budget Director Shawn Sullivan quickly released three proposals to balance the budget.

The first option would take nearly all of the remaining sales tax revenue dedicated to maintaining roads and highways further jeopardizing the safety of Kansas’ transportation infrastructure and extend a 3% reduction to Universities into FY 2017. Under this option he also asks the legislature to give him permission to bond the tobacco fund money (known as the Kansas Endowment for Youth and the Children’s Initiative Fund) and turn this continuing revenue source into a continuing debt. This money is currently used to provide services including pre-school for Kansas children. The Governor promises that most of these programs would be preserved in the state general fund. But of course, we know what happens to such promises as the state’s revenue stream continues to erode.

The second option also takes the highway fund money and continues the reductions to Universities as in option one but instead of selling off the tobacco receipts delays more payments to KPERS and delay paying KPERS back until 2018. Don’t forget that the Governor has already delayed $93 million in KPERS payments. Option three is expected to delay another $99 million in KPERS payments.

Option three takes the highway fund money as in options one and two but instead of delaying more KPERS payments or bonding the children’s initiative fund asks the legislature to give the governor the ability to cut most state agency budgets between 3 and 5%. Under this plan K-12 education would be cut by more than $57 million.

Promises, Promises

Brownback and his allies are full of promises to Kansans. They promise that they will fund pre-school programs even if they sell off the tobacco settlement money. They promise that they will repay the KPERS funds with 8% interest. They promise that their radical reckless tax cuts will be a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. They promised that their education block grant program would provide certainty in school funding.

But after four years of continuing economic collapse and broken promises, what faith do any of us have that they will keep any of their promises in the future?

If revenues continue to decline, what promise will they break first? Dump pre-school programs? Renege on the 8% interest on KPERS fund delays? Don’t pay back KPERS at all? Make ever deeper cuts to K-12 and higher education?

We wonder how much faith the people of Kansas have that promises made will be kept.

Who is Responsible for this Mess?

Back in 2012, when Brownback launched his “glide path to zero income taxes” plan, based upon advice from the architect of trickle-down economics Art Laffer the plan eventually ended up in Senate Substitute for House Bill 2117. It was initially voted down in the Senate but after moderate Republican senators were persuaded by Brownback that the bill as it was would never become law – it was only a vehicle to get a tax conference committee to write a better plan – there was a vote to reconsider and the bill was passed and sent to the House. There, the much more conservative House moved to concur in the changes to HB 2117. At first the bill was not passing but after a long call of the House and much arm-twisting and wood-shedding from House leadership and the Governor, 64 votes were cobbled together and the bill became law.

Since its passage the revenue situation for Kansas has been grim. Month after month, revenues have declined resulting in massive spending cuts and sweeps of millions of dollars in fee funds and highway fund to shore up the budget. In desperation, the Governor called for the largest tax increase in Kansas history – a sales tax increase that, like Laffer’s trickle-down plan for income taxes, falls heaviest on the lowest income Kansans and has driven residents of border counties across state lines to shop for food.

Despite the sales tax increase, revenues have continued to fall until we came to yesterday. Now we are faced with even more draconian cuts to already badly damaged state services.

So who among today’s incumbent legislators were among those in 2012 who enthusiastically embraced the Brownback agenda?

Here’s the list!

Representatives in 2012 who voted in favor of the reckless Brownback tax bill:

Alford, Arpke, Bruchman, DeGraaf, Denning (now a Senator), Garber, Goico, Grosserode, Hedke, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Huebert, Kelley, Kerschen (now a Senator), Kiegerl, Kleeb, Knox (now a Senator), Mast, O’Brien, Osterman, Peck, Powell (now a Senator), Rhoades, Rubin, Ryckman, Sr., Scapa, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Smith (now a Senator), Suellentrop, Tyson (now a Senator), and Vickrey.

Senators in 2012 who voted in favor of the reckless Brownback tax bill:

Abrams, Bruce, Donovan, King, Love, Lynn, Masterson, Merrick (now in the House), Olson, Ostmeyer, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, and Wagle.

So far most of the above legislators have shown little appetite to revisit their tax cuts and put Kansas back on the road to recovery.

And the original group of moderate Republican Senators who reversed course when the Governor assured them this bill would not be the final product? The Governor joined the campaign against them and managed to oust all but McGinn, Longbine, and Schmidt from the Senate, replacing them with more obedient conservative Republicans.

Look at the list carefully. We expect that many of them will soon be campaigning for re-election. Feel free to ask them about their votes on tax policy when they come knocking on your door.