Facts — not false bravado from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and others — matter most in reviewing the state’s dire financial situation.
After the Legislature approved deep income tax cuts that took effect in 2013, revenues have plunged. In recent days, the governor and others have tried to obfuscate this fiscal disaster.
Focus on what happened Thursday, when Brownback and a bipartisan group of top lawmakers agreed to borrow $675 million to cover bills early in the 2015 fiscal year, starting July 1.
That’s a huge leap from the $300 million borrowed in June 2013 to pay the current fiscal year’s bills.
Borrowing more money is bad, right? That’s what Brownback emphasized in a statement last year on this very topic:
“When we first came into office we were borrowing $700 million to basically operate the state, to float the state for a year. Now, we’re down to $300 million. So we continue to improve the fiscal situation of the state, which is really good news for the people of Kansas.”
But now that the situation has dramatically reversed, Brownback isn’t emphasizing the costs and risks tied to such a large amount of borrowing.
On Thursday, the governor returned to his unsupported claims, repeating his upbeat view of the Kansas economy, despite the harsh facts staring Kansans in the face.
Brownback said a dip in revenue had always been expected.
But it sure wasn’t this big. Plus, why didn’t the governor and Legislature make adequate spending cuts to better match lower expected incomes?
He once again claimed President Barack Obama’s tax policies had lowered expected receipts and surprised state officials.
Yet income tax revenues were down only 7 percent across the country the first four months of 2014 — but fell 24 percent in Kansas.
The governor praised the state’s admirably low unemployment rate.
That’s great, but it hasn’t done much to boost state revenues.
Brownback pointed to the “record number of people working in the state.”
That ignores the fact many other states have created jobs at a faster rate than Kansas in the last three years.
New data this week also didn’t paint an encouraging picture for the state.
The federal Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages report showed Kansas employment grew by 1.6 percent in 2013 — below the national average of 1.8 percent. Worse, the average weekly wage in Kansas declined by .4 percent, while the U.S. average stayed flat. Kansas’ wage figure of $832 a week was the 13th worst in the nation.
Brownback should stop the doubletalk and tedious excuses. They weaken his credibility and provide false messages to the public.