Americans for Prosperity, the anti-tax, Koch brothers-funded political group, is carpet-bombing Kansas mailboxes with campaign-style fliers to discredit lawmakers who voted for tax increases this year.
Both political parties are being targeted.
But the conservative organization has it wrong. The lawmakers in their sights — about 60 across the state — are heroes. They should be honored for having the political fortitude to do the right thing.
In fact, there’s a distinguished honor for such boldness. It’s the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Each of the 115 senators and representatives who voted in June to override Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a tax plan aimed at raising more than $1.2 billion is deserving.
Americans for Prosperity, though, sees things as Brownback does: Any tax increase is evil. Any tax increase will drive away small businesses. “Melissa Rooker’s $1.2 Billion Retroactive Tax Hike Left Real Kansans To Pay the Price,” proclaims one AFP flier about the House Republican from Fairway. Says another, “Rooker used this tax increase to fund the state’s largest budget.”
This is misleading malarkey.
Rooker and her colleagues did the right thing. One of those is House Speaker Ron Rychman, a conservative Olathe Republican who resisted tax increases for much of the 2017 session before recognizing that the state had little choice but to do otherwise.
Overriding a gubernatorial veto requires extraordinary majorities in both chambers, and these days Republicans dominate both the House and Senate.
Lawmakers cobbled together a broad coalition of moderate Republicans, such as Rooker, conservatives and Democrats to reject Brownback’s veto. They put an end to the governor’s shortsighted tax-cut experiment that had ushered in an era of fiscal irresponsibility.
The state, of course, has gone reeling under Brownback. Major ratings agencies had downgraded Kansas credit ratings — some more than once. The state Supreme Court was forced to order lawmakers to spend hundreds of millions more on its underfunded public schools.
Guard shortages due to lousy hourly wages contributed to prison uprisings. The state has robbed its highway fund of hundreds of millions of dollars to keep the budget intact, meaning that crummy roads will soon become a daily inconvenience.
Under Brownback, Kansas has taken many, many steps backwards. And a huge swath of the Legislature recognized it. They were willing to reject the governor’s signature policy: those too-much-at-once tax cuts of 2012.
That’s why voters elected commonsense, gutsy lawmakers like Rooker. The time had come to stand up to a reckless governor.
Some facts: As significant as the tax cuts were, the new rates remain lower than prior to 2012. And Rooker and other lawmakers were able to ease the blow of the tax increase on the middle class by reinstating deductions that had been stripped away, such as popular ones for home mortgage interest, property taxes and medical expenses.
Don’t be fooled by Americans for Prosperity’s effort to mislead Kansans and lay the groundwork for contentious 2018 primary fights. Anyone cited in these fliers should be hailed for a job well done.