Kansas Democrat Paul Davis has offered a holistic approach to long-term growth. It presents a welcome contrast to Gov. Sam Brownback’s false promise of deep income tax cuts magically transforming the state’s economy.
More a statement of principles than an actual plan, Davis’ “economic vision” correctly names strong schools and universities, well-kept roads and highways, and smart energy and technology policies as the building blocks of a thriving economy.
Davis accurately observes that Brownback’s income tax cuts threaten all of those assets. The cuts have created a full-blown financial crisis. Davis wants to postpone scheduled additional income tax cuts that would make matters worse.
That clearly needs to be done. Kansas spent $350 million more than it gathered in revenues in the just-completed fiscal year, and the budget approved for the current year was out of balance when Brownback signed it.
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The state is relying on a rapidly dwindling reserve fund to pay its bills. More income tax cuts would decimate schools and services.
But Davis stopped short of calling for a repeal of the existing income tax cuts or outlining his ideas for a better tax balance in Kansas. Instead, he fell back on a call for a commission to be created to work things out.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. No serious candidate actually promises to increase taxes. And there’s nothing wrong with the commission idea. But Kansans need to hear during the campaign more details about Davis’ ideas for straightening out the tax structure.
Davis’ call to postpone the next phase of income tax cuts until per-pupil public education funding reaches the level it was before the 2008 recession is on target. Unfortunately, that corrective action would have to be taken by a GOP-controlled Legislature that considers school funding to be adequate and income tax cuts to be its signature undertaking.
Davis is by nature a cautious politician, and his announcement last week reflects that. It also reflects the grim reality that confronts Kansas.
The Brownback income tax cuts cratered the state budget with remarkable swiftness. Digging out of the hole is likely to be a longer process.