Gov. Sam Brownback’s fiscal policies are putting Kansas deeper in debt for its roads and pensions, while causing almost monthly budget crises. He should outline reasonable plans to solve these problems in his State of the State address Tuesday evening.
Unfortunately, the governor already has signaled he’s not going to do anything like that.
It appears he instead will continue insisting that his deep income tax cuts — which took effect three years ago this month — are reviving the state’s economy and bringing in new jobs.
A pair of dismal statistics show that’s clearly not the case.
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Kansas was close to the bottom of job growth in the United States for most of 2015. And Kansas collected $11 million less in individual income taxes in the first six months of the current fiscal year through Dec. 31, when compared to the prior year.
And even while Brownback often lauds the state’s unemployment rate of 4 percent as being among the nation’s lowest, that number obscures the fact that the state has added fewer than 10,000 total jobs in the last year.
Still, Kansans should pay plenty of attention to what Brownback does discuss on Tuesday. As his 2015 address last January showed, he can promote priorities that the Republican-dominated Legislature eventually will endorse. Some of those priorities have already proven to be bad for Kansas.
▪ The governor told lawmakers they should “repeal the existing school formula” and over a two-year span give itself “time to write a new modern formula.”
Despite stiff resistance from many educators, the Legislature approved a two-year block grant funding of public schools. A three-judge panel has found that the plan is unconstitutional, a ruling appealed by the state.
▪ Brownback criticized low turnout at spring elections in Kansas and said, “It is time to move local elections to the fall.”
The idea was criticized by some county and city officials, who said the state should not be diving into this kind of local matter. And some critics properly noted that such a move could make local elections more partisan. But the Legislature passed a bill changing city and school board elections to the fall in odd-numbered years.
Not all of the bad ideas in the governor’s speech a year ago made it into law. One would have ramped up politicization of the court system by asking voters to approve direct public elections of state Supreme Court judges.
Instead of proposing that plan again, Brownback ought to focus on the real priorities of Kansans. The top one is to fix the state’s ugly financial mess.