Kansas GOP Sen. Sam Brownback may have won re-election, but it just puts him the the cross-hairs of his state's crumbling economy: a mess 100% of his own making as cutting state taxes to the bone has all but collapsed revenues and left the state in hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink. His plan to slash school spending is making him even more unpopular.
Now it seems Brownback has no choice but to raise revenues.
Gov. Sam Brownback will include proposals to increase tax revenue to help fill a projected budget hole when he unveils his budget plan later this week, his chief of staff says.
He also will tackle education spending, which accounts for more than half of the state’s budget, as part of his proposed fix, said chief of staff Jon Hummel.
When Brownback starts his second term — and the 2015 legislative session — on Monday, he will have to balance his signature tax-cut policy with a deficit projected at $648 million in the next fiscal year. His handling of this challenge, which his critics say is self-imposed, could define his legacy as governor.
“The governor has had a very consistent policy of wanting to limit growth in spending. He wants to keep income taxes low,” Hummel said. “And you know, circumstances have changed. Revenue didn’t come in quite as was projected. ... If we can do some things on the tax side and do some things on the budget side and still maintain that overall philosophy, then he’s always been open to that.”
And just like that, Brownback's tax cuts have caused the state to go from a balanced budget to $648 million in the hole. Now it's Kansas schoolkids and families who have to pay the price.
He confirmed that education spending, which Brownback left largely unscathed in the plan he announced last month to trim this year’s budget, would not remain untouched this time around.
“School finance will be part of our budget conversation,” Hummel said. “The governor feels like the growth in spending that’s occurred the last several years in school finance is unsustainable. He’s going to encourage them (the Legislature) to look at ways to do that, to address that. There’s different ways to do it. You could reform the current system or you go to a completely new system.”
I have little sympathy for Kansans who voted for Brownback twice despite his snake oil. And oh yes, he's still in more than a little legal trouble.
A few hours later The Associated Press reported that a federal grand jury is investigating loans to Brownback’s re-election campaign. The only loans the campaign received were from Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
The administration has dismissed the investigation as being without merit. But Beatty said it could hamper Brownback as he tries push through a budget fix.
“Certainly being under investigation weakens a governor,” Beatty said. “It weakens his ability to persuade…all those tools you use to get that bill on your desk the way you want it to be.”
Make your bed, Kansas. You voted for him. Now it's time for the consequences.