Brownback's radical tactics for a radical tax bill
The Kansas City Star
Kansans learned something this week about their governor. For Sam Brownback, the end justifies the means.
The second-year Republican governor double-crossed leaders of the Kansas Senate, tossed legislative decorum into the gutter and carpetbombed relationships throughout the statehouse to move along a radical income tax cut. He was aided by Republican House Speaker Mike O’Neal.
The machinations that transpired in Topeka might baffle citizens not steeped in legislative protocol. But the end results, if not corrected, will be seen in the form of shrunken school budgets, higher local taxes, and the inability to care for disabled and otherwise vulnerable citizens.
Several weeks ago, the Kansas Senate rejected a $3.7 billion tax-cut plan, with opponents arguing correctly that it would carve too large a hole in the state’s finances over the next five years. After an appeal from the governor, however, several senators changed their vote and passed the bill, with the understanding that the expensive plan would only be a starting point for more negotiations.
But on Wednesday, Brownback persuaded the House to pass the same bill, meaning it needs only his signature to become law. O’Neal cut off debate in the House in his haste to bring the bill to a vote before the Senate could pass a less draconian tax bill.
Brownback and O’Neal say they still want the Legislature to pass a tax bill that substantially cuts income taxes but eliminates more exemptions and risks less of a deficit. But they’re using the $3.7 billion price tag as a hammer to force moderate Republicans in the Senate to do their bidding.
It appears likely that Brownback will get want he wants — drastic income tax reductions. He will get them by trampling over lawmakers who are in tune with the needs of Kansas communities and schools. He will get them while lacking convincing evidence that they will result in anything close to the Texas-like growth that Brownback so envies.
In getting his way, however, Brownback has sacrificed something that up until now has mattered in Kansas.