Sam Brownback's D.C. training coming through
The Kansas City Star
Sam Brownback has relocated to Topeka, but he is a creature of Washington, where he spent 16 years in Congress, 14 of those as a U.S. senator.
For evidence, look at the Republican governor’s take-no-prisoners stance on the income tax reduction plan that he sees as his centerpiece legislation.
In March, this issue came before the Kansas Senate, which is controlled, by a razor-thin margin, by a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans. A bill under consideration would cost the state $3.7 billion over five years. Moderate Republicans initially opposed it but, after some arm-twisting by the governor’s staff, agreed to it as a basis for negotiation with the House in a conference committee.
But now, as the Lawrence Journal-World explains, Brownback and House Speaker Mike O’Neal are using that show of good faith as a hammer.
If the Senate doesn’t approve an income tax-cutting bill today, Brownback and O’Neal say they’ll return to the bill with the $3.7 billion price tag, which the Senate has already passed. O’Neal will whip the House into approving it, and the governor will sign it into law — fiscal implications be damned.
The bill the governor wants the Senate to sign today is less damaging, but only slightly. Multiple projections have been thrown around the capitol, but the reliable Kansas Department of Legislative Research estimates it will turn a nearly $600 million budget surplus into a $2.1 billion deficit in five years.
Income tax relief is great as long as it doesn’t devastate the budget. Brownback says growth will take care of everything, but there is little in the way of reliable studies to back that up. Kansas is on shaky ground for shortchanging public education and possibly violating federal civil rights laws with its failure to provide adequate services to disabled citizens. Lawmakers are right to be very careful about forfeiting money at this time.
But Brownback is putting the Senate into a vice — coercing moderate Republicans into voting for one drastic measure by holding an even more draconian bill over their heads. It’s a tactic and a mindset that hasn’t been seen in Kansas for a long time.
Just remember that, however this plays out, Brownback will own this income tax reduction. If, in five years, the state is sucking air while trying to pay its bills, it’s on the governor — whether he’s still around or not.