The reckoning in Kansas continues as the state's massive budget hole is swallowing up everything it can find, including it seems the options of Kansas Republicans in the state legislature. GOP Gov. Sam Brownback may have survived his re-election battle last year, but it doesn't mean the state's other Republicans are going to sacrifice their careers for his supply-side tax-cutting lunacy. Now the reckoning is coming, and the GOP has to decide if they want to call out Brownback and his tax cuts, or dump the tax burden on middle-class voters.
Just three years ago, many of these lawmakers passed the largest tax cuts in state history, saying they would lead to economic growth. But that growth did not appear, and after repeatedly trimming spending to close shortfalls, legislators again find themselves in a prolonged budget battle with no easy answers, where both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature are proposing tax increases.
The reason: even anti-tax Republicans are acknowledging that there is not much more to cut without significantly hurting popular programs, including education.
The fault lines now seem to run along the question of which taxes to raise. Some believe that income taxes are off limits and that they should raise sales taxes to shoulder the entire burden. Others advocate a mixed approach and said income taxes should be on the table. Democrats argue that increasing sales taxes would be another blow to low-income Kansans to the benefit of the business class.
And many worry that the only solution will be to repeal the signature piece of the law they passed in 2012: the elimination of taxes on certain types of small businesses.
You reap what you sow, Kansas. Of all the agriculture states in the Midwest, you should know this.
Since those changes, Gov. Sam Brownback and lawmakers have found themselves repeatedly tinkering with the budget to fill hundreds of millions of dollars in shortfalls. The governor has cut some state agency budgets by 4 percent, reduced contributions to the state pension system and shifted money between state accounts. Lawmakers have rolled back funding for poorer school districts and changed the way they allocate money to schools. They have slowed funding increases for entitlement programs.
Mr. Donovan said the results of the tax law were “never as good as we hoped.”
“We hoped they would just be a magic lantern and everybody would react to it,” he said. “But, eh, it’s hard to get a company to uproot their business when they’re established and move to another place just because of this difference in tax policy.”
Still, supporters of the tax bills are not necessarily willing to concede that the cuts were the reason for the state’s fiscal problems.
Trickle-down voodoo economics can never fail, they can only be failed. And now it's the poorest Kansans who will pay the price.
The House plan would tax the nonwage income on small businesses at 2.7 percent and increase the sales tax to 6.45 percent, but reduce it to 5.9 percent for food.
Some Republicans are holding the conservative line, saying cuts to bureaucracy could close most, if not all, of the gap.
“There’s definitely waste in the budget,” Senator Dennis Pyle, a Republican, said in an interview. “It’s my goal to not raise taxes. We have to let the private sector breathe and operate as freely as possible because that is the revenue driver.”
But Democrats called the Republican proposals inadequate for fixing the budget woes. “There’s a lot of things you could do to show that you are concerned about all Kansans,” said Valdenia Winn, a Democratic representative. “But are they doing it? Nope. So your little piecemeal baby steps don’t impress me one bit. They’re desperate because you still have those Tea Party people who cannot go home and say, ‘I had to vote for tax increases.’ ”
And so it goes. The only question is how much of the state's tax burden will be transferred from businesses and the rich to the poorest people in the state, which was always what the plan was from the beginning.