On Wednesday, Gov. Sam Brownback took the coward’s way out.
He refused to show up and own the horrendous fiscal mess that his disastrous income tax cuts have caused in Kansas.
He did not dare face the public to discuss how — once again — he was going to have to propose slashing public services for 3 million Kansans.
Instead, Brownback sent out Budget Director Shawn Sullivan to talk to the media and discuss the fact that the state would have to slice $290 million in spending because of poor tax receipts.
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Sullivan outlined three general options he had discussed with the governor. All would further decimate public services as part of Brownback’s desperate bid to balance this and next year’s state budgets.
As these events showed, Brownback is completely oblivious to the harm his 2012 tax cuts have caused for Kansas.
The Legislature should not sign off on any of the three options, and Brownback should not put in place any proposed cutbacks he has the power to do by himself.
A fourth option is the best way to start to put Kansas back on more solid financial footing.
The Legislature must pass and Brownback must sign a bill that repeals part of the unfair tax breaks, the ones that were granted to 330,000 businesses and farmers. That move would restore about $200 million or more annually to state coffers.
It’s not reasonable to give up this money while making ordinary Kansans continue to pay their normal share of taxes.
It’s not responsible to continue insisting that these businesses are using the tax savings to create jobs, when the most recent figures showed that total employment in the state was unchanged for the entire last year as of March data supplied by Kansas officials.
More notably, it’s not wise to retain the tax cuts for businesses while further slashing funds for road repairs, K-12 schools, higher education and children’s health, while deferring payments for public employee pensions until who knows when. Those unfortunately were all included in the three options Sullivan discussed.
How delusional is Brownback about the harm he is causing?
Here’s what he said in a news release: “I do not believe it would be useful to have a debate about raising taxes on small businesses or anyone else. Instead, we will focus our support and attention on controlling government spending more efficiently.”
That kind of babble used to play well with Kansans upset with “big” government in the state capital.
But even these Kansans have seen how hypocritical Brownback can be.
Last year, he successfully implored the Legislature to pass the largest tax increase in history to save his precious income tax cuts.
By now, it’s clearer than ever that Brownback’s reckless fiscal and social policies are threatening to irreparably harm the future of Kansas.
So we have a simple question for all Kansans today.
What will you do to try to save your once great state?
For starters, the Republican-dominated Legislature better find the backbone to act, if only to try to save their skins in an election year. The members must seize their opportunity to tell Brownback that enough is enough, that his “experiment” of lower income taxes has been an utter failure. Repeal that special tax break for businesses and farmers.
Regular Kansans and business leaders have a big role to play, too. They must lobby lawmakers to act in the best interests of residents, not of the ultra-conservative, small-government organizations that for too long have controlled Brownback and the Legislature.
Time is running out. Lawmakers return next week to Topeka, where they will confront a host of unsettling problems caused by the governor’s economically destructive policies.