They’re working hard not to gloat.
That slim but hardy band of Democrats in the Kansas Legislature insists it takes no pleasure in the ongoing trials of their Republican colleagues. The GOP faces the herculean challenge of balancing a budget more than $400 million out of whack.
But if Democrats turned smug, could you blame them?
Conservatives are fighting themselves. They face the prospect of raising taxes — perhaps on multiple fronts. Can you imagine conservatives raising taxes when they practically took blood oaths to never do such a thing?
Meanwhile, they continue to face bleak economic numbers that raise doubts about the effectiveness of those massive income tax cuts. Imagine conservatives reversing themselves on such a bedrock principle. Tax cuts, they’ve long insisted, always stimulate growth.
Then this week, one of the Senate’s most imposing figures let loose. Sen. Les Donovan, who chairs the tax committee, leveled a broadside at his fellow Republicans.
“We’ve got to learn the art of compromise,” he insisted. “Somehow it seems to have disappeared. Compromise is not a dirty word.”
Compromise not a dirty word? Come on! Conservatives have said for years that principal is far more important than compromise. Being too quick to compromise, they insisted, is what got this country into trouble.
In other words, conservatives who rule Topeka are having to face down their most cherished beliefs.
Democrats, in the meantime, stand on the sidelines. They use cliches to describe their attitudes about it all.
“It’s a little bit of what you wish for might come back to bite you,” Sen. Pat Pettey of Kansas City, Kan., said. After all, Gov. Sam Brownback went to the mat to elect the conservative Legislature that now balks at every option.
Pettey insisted that a sense of satisfaction doesn’t quite get it right. Her leader, longtime statehouse denizen Sen. Anthony Hensley of Topeka, agreed.
“I don’t know how to find any particular satisfaction or pleasure in this because the state is in such dire straits,” he said.
There’s no interest among Republicans in what Democrats have to say, Hensley said. So they sit by, for the most part, quietly.
“They have so many people who are anti-tax, anti-government, that an end to the session is not in sight.”
Hensley can’t help himself and offers one more cliche. He said he warned Republicans what was ahead if they cut taxes this much.
“It is almost like an ‘I told you so’ situation.”