Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback must take the people of his state for fools.
How else to explain his glib behavior at a news conference today, when he inked his signature on a bill that calls for the largest tax increase in the state’s history and said it wasn’t a tax increase at all?
“Some would have you believe this bill represents a tax increase and that is not accurate,” Brownback said. “When looked at in totality, from 2012 to 2015, as I said at the outset, Kansans are paying less in taxes and continuing to move off income taxes to consumption-based taxes.”
In other words, if you combine the reckless 2012 income tax cuts for the wealthy with the new tax hikes that the Legislature passed to save the state from fiscal insolvency, the state overall is taking in fewer tax dollars.
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Fabulous! Kansas is still broke even though close to 50 percent of its residents are giving it more of their pocket money. Local governments are raising property taxes. College tuition and school fees are headed north. Public services are going south. But according to King Sam, everyone should be happy because he, the wise and powerful, is collecting less overall tax revenue than before.
Hello, Gov. Brownback, reality is calling:
▪ When you sign a bill raising almost $400 million in new revenues through a combination of higher taxes, that is a tax increase.
▪ When a low-income family pays more in sales taxes to buy groceries and necessities so that the state can keep the lights on, that is a tax increase.
▪ When you cut a tax deduction used by thousands of ordinary Kansans in half, that is a tax increase.
▪ If the top 1 percent of income earners ends up paying $25,000 less in taxes but the bottom 20 percent has to pay almost $200 more in taxes, you have most certainly raised taxes on the lower 20 percent.
▪ If you have to raise taxes and slash education and services to pay for your earlier tax cut plan, that plan is not working.
But Brownback has never been one to let reality intrude on his happy landscape. The sun is always shining in the Kingdom of Sam, even if everybody knows it isn’t.
Other gems from Brownback’s news conference:
▪ His assertion that “our policy is saving Kansans money and putting money in their pocket rather than the government’s pocket.” Unless you shop in Kansas, of course. Then you’ll pay more out of pocket.
▪ His preposterous contention that the extended legislative session wouldn’t have been such a train wreck if the Democrats had just come prepared. “The minority party put forward no proposals to solve this issue. None,” he said.
With less than one-fourth of the seats in the Legislature, Democrats usually are consigned to the role of principled opposition. But, actually, they did have a proposal, and so did the moderate Republicans who also occupy the figurative back row of the conservative-dominated Legislature.
Roll back the income tax cuts, they said, especially the exemptions that allow owners of certain types of businesses to pay zero income taxes, with nothing expected of them in return.
A brilliant idea. Resolve the problem by reversing the tax cuts that caused the problems in the first place. Too bad King Sam wanted none of it. He still thinks Kansans will buy his delusions.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly.