Government & Politics

Brownback denounces decision to kill his 2012 tax cuts, refuses to answer questions

The day after the tax cuts he’s long championed were defeated by the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature, Gov. Sam Brownback denounced the decision by lawmakers in a speech and then quickly walked from the room, refusing to answer questions from reporters.

He declined to weigh in on what the tax bill means for his legacy as a reporter shouted the question to him on his way out the door.

“I think we’ve taken a big step backwards,” Brownback said in his speech Wednesday morning. “I think it’s the wrong philosophy to implement.”

During the roughly five-minute speech, he continued to praise his 2012 tax cuts, blaming “global forces” for economic issues in Kansas.

“I just think this is the wrong way for us to go,” he said.

Brownback’s remarks came after he signed a bill that requires women in Kansas to receive more information from physicians before they can get an abortion.

Hours before, the conservative Republican speaker of the Kansas House spearheaded an effort to override Brownback’s veto of a tax bill that is estimated to raise more than $1.2 billion over two years.

The bill essentially guts Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts, which the Kansas Republican once dubbed a “real live experiment.”

His decision in 2012 to sign the tax cut package created a business tax change known as the LLC exemption, slashed income tax rates and removed a third individual income tax bracket.

Shortfalls, economic issues and budget cuts have followed.

Lawmakers’ decision to force the tax increases into law this week essentially ends Brownback’s signature economic policy.

The bill raises individual income tax rates to 3.1 percent, 5.25 percent and 5.7 percent by the 2018 tax year after an initial phase-in this year. It also ends the business tax exemption.

Brownback called the new tax policy “the wrong move.”

“A lot of people made it about me,” he said. “But it’s not about me. It’s about Kansas. It’s about the future of this state.”

After hearing about the governor’s speech, the leading Democrat in the Kansas House criticized Brownback for decrying the rollback of the tax cuts.

“I think the governor has made himself irrelevant,” House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said.

Leading Kansas Republicans made it clear during the debate Tuesday night that they respected the governor.

But that didn’t mean they agreed with him.

“Respect to me does not mean blind agreement,” said Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, an Emporia Republican.

“He still believes in this,” Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, said about Brownback and the tax cuts. “That’s OK. I don’t.”

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw