Costly tax cut bill harms Kansas' future
The Kansas City Star
The Kansas Legislature may be determined to prolong the agony, but we are ready to wrap up this 2012 legislative session.
It’s been awful, and the fallout from it may be disastrous.
Attempts to draft a sane income-tax reform bill fell apart Friday. Unless they can be resurrected, Gov. Sam Brownback says he will sign a bill that would cut income taxes by $3.7 billion, leaving a $2.5 billion hole in the budget by 2018.
“We will have pro-growth tax reform in Kansas this year that will create tens of thousands of jobs and will make our state the best place in America to start a grow a small business,” Brownback said in a statement.
Never mind that he forced his “reform” bill through the Senate with duplicitous tactics. And by one estimate, the state would have to gain 500,000 new jobs over five years to cover the loss of income tax revenue that Brownback intends to forgo.
The governor and his team have presented no credible evidence that drastically slashing income tax rates will bring jobs and prosperity to Kansas. The more likely outcome is a deterioration of the quality of education in the state, higher college tuition bills and an even more diminished quality of life for the disabled and poor.
By signing the bill on his desk, Brownback would turn Kansas into a radical economic experiment that only a free-market think tank would find acceptable. He could reconsider, or the Legislature could yet settle on a compromise bill. But we fear the worst.
Lawmakers limped through the 95th day of a 90-day session on Friday with other big issues unresolved.
The redistricting process is so bogged down that Secretary of State Kris Kobach —who doesn’t have a lot of common ground with U.S. judges — asked a federal court to resolve the issue.
A particularly bizarre attempt to redraw congressional districts split the city of Lawrence, with an actively Democratic part of the city going into the 1st U.S. House District, one of the most conservative in the nation.
The Legislature is at war over attempts to redraw the state Senate map, as conservative Republicans insist that challengers to moderate Republicans be drawn into their districts, even if it means blatant gerrymandering.
We find ourselves in rare agreement with Kobach. Let the courts sort it out.
Schools are still waiting to learn whether they will receive any funding increase next year. The House is entertaining the bizarre idea of adding $25 million to education financing by raiding the state’s highway fund. Hopes for structural reform of the state’s school financing formula went nowhere in this contentious session.
Once again, a legislative session ended with no serious plan for finding significant money to provide services for the thousands of physically and developmentally disabled Kansans on waiting lists. In fact, the Brownback administration has adopted a hostile posture toward those groups and their advocates.
Brownback is choosing to ignore the real possibility that the federal government may find Kansas in violation of federal law and a Supreme Court ruling for its failure to adequately serve disabled citizens. If ordered to put more money into services, the budget hole caused by a draconian income tax cut would only get larger.
We’ll drink to that
All was not completely lost in Topeka this session. Really.
Some progress was made on pension reform. The Legislature passed a bill funneling revenues from the new state-owned casinos into the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which projects an $8.3 billion shortfall by 2033.
The Legislature passed and Brownback signed a good law to encourage conservation of water in the Ogallala Aquifer.
And, last but surely not least, the Legislature sent Brownback an intoxicating set of bills aimed at bringing Kansas into the 21st century as far as liquor laws.
The biggest news: Happy hour would be legal. Also, micro-distilleries could sell and serve their products on site, and liquor stores could give out samples of their product.
Unfortunately, the Legislature drew the line at allowing sales of alcoholic beverages at grocery stores.
The 2012 session has been unduly stressful, which possibly explains why the looser liquor bills passed easily. A brutal election season lies ahead, and a monumental budget hole looms if Brownback signs the income tax cut.
See you at happy hour?