Threats flew around Topeka on Sunday, as the dysfunctional Kansas Legislature failed on the 101st day of its extra-innings session to plug a $400 million budget hole.
Officials revealed that furloughs for state employees could begin as early as next weekend, which could imperil public services for Kansans.
Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan said Gov. Sam Brownback would veto any bill that would reduce the excessive tax breaks bestowed on thousands of business owners. That pushback surprised even some Republican members who think the 2012 tax cuts they passed went too far.
And a senator unveiled a rushed proposal to kill up to $650 million worth of tax exemptions now given to schools, hospitals, farmers and organizations such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Senators eventually killed that bad idea just before midnight.
But all of these maneuvers could not spur the GOP-dominated Legislature — meeting at a cost to taxpayers of an extra $43,000 a day — to do its job and pass a balanced budget.
Instead, House members went home early on Sunday without even trying to debate the merits of several plans.
The Senate continued to meet late into the evening, but it wasn’t accomplishing much of anything positive. Instead, legislators discussed ideas that had been scrapped earlier in the session or hadn’t been adequately debated in the last several months.
The nonproductive weekend kicked off with a press conference peppered with misleading information from Brownback.
He finally emerged Saturday to unveil his proposal to increase taxes on Kansans, all because the income tax cuts he and the Legislature approved three years ago have failed to bring in the revenue once promised. Instead, those cuts have drained the budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, a fact Brownback still can’t bring himself to admit.
Brownback said he favored boosting the sales tax by one-half a percentage point, to 6.65 percent. That could cost Kansans more than $230 million a year. The governor didn’t highlight that, though, preferring instead to contend that his plan would allow 388,000 low-income Kansans to get out of paying income taxes.
However, it turns out more than 100,000 of those residents already don’t pay those taxes.
And an analysis on Sunday by a nonpartisan group showed that the poorest Kansans would still pay more overall in taxes. That’s primarily because of the proposed higher sales tax, which would apply to food.
Brownback continued his ploy of claiming the state had created lots of new jobs thanks to his tax policies. But one figure he used Saturday was two months out of date and overstated employment in Kansas.
As we have noted for months, the tax cuts have not brought the promised flood of jobs and public revenues. Kansas lost 300 jobs in the first four months of the year, and it’s in the bottom 10 of states in job growth over the last year.
The Legislature this week must focus on passing a plan that does not burden 3 million Kansans with a far higher sales tax. The best way to do that is to roll back some of the 2012 tax cuts, despite Brownback’s veto threat.