This will come as cold comfort to many Kansans, but some legislative Republicans are showing clear signs of remorse about the tax cuts that are devastating the state budget.
On Tuesday the House debated a bill that proposes to eliminate a shortfall of more than $330 million in this year’s budget mostly by raiding the highway fund and sweeping other designated accounts to fund general operating expenses.
The bill passed on a voice vote, but not before a few Republicans criticized the deep tax cuts that have made it necessary to put highway projects at risk, take money from schools and services and wipe out a plan to shore up the pension fund.
“There was a fateful day in May 2012,” Rep. Don Hill, from Emporia, said from the floor. “That’s the vote I regret more than any other vote since I’ve been in this chamber.”
Continuing the mea culpa, he said, “I will submit to you that we made a miscalculation or we made policy based on a miscalculation at best.”
Hill also said, “We were on the fly, we were rushed, we were pressured, we were, some of us, bullied.”
Rep. Steve Brunk, a Republican from Wichita, said there was no bullying, and that Kansans like the tax cuts. But to say at this point that things have panned out as advocates predicted back in 2012 with their “dynamic scoring” projections of robust economic growth is to rewrite history.
Rep. Don Schroeder, a Republican from Hesston, bemoaned the lack of options. “I don’t think there’s any way out of this mess without raising taxes,” said Schroeder, who didn’t vote for the cuts. “So get used to it.”
A third Republican to lament the tax cuts was Rep. Don Hineman of Dighton. The law, which he didn’t vote for, went “too far, too fast,” he said.
Hineman said he received a nice tax break this year as a result of the 2012 legislation, and used it on a trip to Florida. “I’m not sure how that dynamically scores,” he said, referring to unmet promises that small business owners would use their tax savings to create jobs and pump up the Kansas economy.
It’s true that Hill, Schroeder and Hineman are moderates, and that Schroeder and Hineman didn’t vote for the tax cuts to begin with. It’s also the case that House Speaker Ray Merrick and other GOP leaders remainly staunchly loyal to the cuts, and continue to insist that Kansas can cut even more.
But to hear even a few Republicans speaking so boldly against the tax cuts and even in favor of increasing income taxes from their current levels gives some hope that the sensible wing of the Republican party has not been completely silenced in Kansas.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly.