An ironic storyline is being crafted by those attempting to shift blame from their disastrous economic agenda to the coalition of traditional Republicans and others who have repeatedly pointed out families in this community, our children and grandchildren are being hurt by an ideological agenda pushed by an administration with no tolerance for compromise.
I have been consistent with my message in the Legislature for four years — the 2012 and 2013 tax cuts were radical changes that fundamentally destabilized our tax code. The Kansas governor’s allies hope your memories are short, but the record clearly shows the contents and potential effect of these changes were well-documented at the time.
Right-wing super-majorities rammed the agenda through, and boasted about their success in the national media. Since then, we burned through reserve funds of more than $750 million in a matter of months, while record borrowing and fund sweeps have decimated programs, starving state agencies in the name of “efficiency.”
All the while, these same extremists (calling themselves conservatives) have maintained control of the governor’s office, the Kansas House and Kansas Senate. Leadership has carefully manipulated committee chairmanships and the legislative calendar to stifle meaningful debate.
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Midnight votes happen deliberately, guaranteeing as little public scrutiny as possible while breaking the spirit of enough lawmakers to assure the desired outcome. This corruption of the process brought us the disastrous tax plan of 2012.
“Unintended consequences” cannot be prevented if stakeholders cannot read a bill, and the public is denied input. Late this session, the House was given only 30 minutes to consider the summary of a hastily crafted proposal before taking a straight up-or-down vote.
It was classic Washington, D.C.-style politics — vote on a proposal without the opportunity to read, vet or amend — carried by a colleague unable (or perhaps unwilling) to answer questions. When specific questions about the contents of a bill are answered with a shrug of the shoulders and “I don’t know. We didn’t look at that,” it is cause for alarm.
The so-called “LLC fix” was not an honest attempt to get Kansas back on track. It was an election-year stunt designed to provide cover for a group of lawmakers who until now have cast votes and used influence to protect the governor’s “March to Zero.”
We absolutely need to put LLCs back on the tax rolls. But raising taxes without also removing the language embedded in statutes that triggers additional tax breaks if revenue growth exceeds 2.5 percent will simply throw gasoline on the fire.
Any serious attempt at reform must address this component. Additionally, a delayed implementation date meant none of the cuts to fiscal year 2016 or 2017 would have been prevented by passage of this bill.
Rather than engaging in serious discussions, leadership chose adjournment on Day 73 in order to claim “the shortest legislative session in modern history.” Many of us are willing to sit at the negotiating table, hammer out a plan that restores balance, fairness and sustainability to our tax code in order to stabilize the state’s finances and restore a climate of certainty for businesses and families alike.
We understand the art of compromise, incremental progress and consensus building. However, all we have seen from the governor and his allies is the largest tax increase in Kansas history, the highest food sales tax rate in the country and a series of back-door tax increases that nickel-and-dime families while protecting tax breaks that are destroying our economy.
This election season, meaningful change will need to happen at the ballot box. It will be up to voters to decide whom they trust and what direction they wish to lead the state. The choice belongs to the people — elect candidates who have a track record of enabling the governor’s disastrous tax plan or elect those of us fighting for the responsible reform our state sorely needs.
Our voting records are widely available and are composed of much more than one midnight vote on a single bill meant to distract Kansans’ attention from the real wrecking crew.
Rep. Melissa Rooker, a moderate Republican, is responding to a May 11 Danedri Herbert 913 column, “They could have fixed that LLC loophole, but didn’t.” She is completing her fourth year in the Kansas House, serving on Transportation, Transportation & Public Safety Budget and Vision 202 committees in the House, as well as the Kansas Forestry Service Advisory Council. She spent 15 years working in development for Clint Eastwood at Malpaso Productions, earned a bachelor's degree from University of Kansas, has two children and makes her home in Fairway with her husband, Tom.