Editorials

Kansas Senate just passed a reckless tax cut. Is it a sign of more disasters to come?

A history of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts

The Legislature officially overrode Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto June 6, eliminating his signature tax cuts. Here's a look back at some key moments during his administration. The video was originally published June 7, 2017.
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The Legislature officially overrode Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto June 6, eliminating his signature tax cuts. Here's a look back at some key moments during his administration. The video was originally published June 7, 2017.

To no one’s surprise, Republicans in the Kansas Senate tossed the Sam Brownback years down the memory hole Thursday. They passed a reckless tax cut aimed at corporations and a small fraction of wealthier individuals.

The Kansas House must do what it can to stop this travesty from becoming law. If they don’t, we expect Gov. Laura Kelly to veto the measure and lawmakers to uphold the veto.

There are reasons for optimism on that score. While the Senate passed the $190 million tax cut, it did so 26-14, one vote short of a veto-proof margin.

That means senators might not be able to override a Kelly veto. And that suggests lawmakers who want to govern have room for negotiation.

It also means Kelly will remain an important voice in the debate about spending and taxation in Kansas. That’s critical for progress this session.

It’s increasingly clear that Republican leadership in the Legislature is determined to ignore the governor. The tax cut bill, which raced through the Kansas Senate in less than a month, is just a start.

If the tax cut become law, attempts to cut school funding will follow — the GOP will claim a self-imposed budget crisis. That, too, is a replay of the Brownback movie.

Plans to expand Medicaid will be dropped. The governor’s controversial plan to refinance the state’s retirement system, KPERS, will fizzle.

Any chance of tax reform that might actually help real Kansans will evaporate.

All of this is confusing and disappointing on a policy level. But it is horrible politics, too.

Kelly won election in November. She got more votes than her GOP opponent, Kris Kobach. Yet some Republicans already seem to have lost sight of the clear message that voters sent.

“I don’t think she had an election mandate at all,” Sen. Ty Masterson of Andover told the Associated Press. Masterson is a member of the Kansas Truth Caucus, which applauded Thursday’s tax disaster.

Remember: The concept of “truth” can be quite malleable in Topeka.

Kansans elected Laura Kelly because they are tired of gamesmanship in the state capital. That includes tax cuts meant to help special interests, constitutional threats over schools and hand-wringing about rural decline while small-town hospitals struggle with uninsured patients.

Kelly has an unequivocal mandate to address those issues and others. She must act on it.

She has made clear that she is prepared to seek compromise with Republicans willing to work for progress and common-sense solutions. At the same time, she can’t work with Republicans who have stopped listening to their constituents.

Thursday’s tax cut vote was clear evidence of that GOP stubbornness, with more potentially to come. It was deeply disappointing.

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