Barbara Shelly

Gov. Sam Brownback: Kansas is great, full speed ahead on ruinous tax cuts

Gov. Sam Brownback was in a congratulatory mood for his State of the State speech Thursday.
Gov. Sam Brownback was in a congratulatory mood for his State of the State speech Thursday. The Associated Press

Tonight Gov. Sam Brownback told the people of Kansas exactly how the next four years are going to go.

His way.

Despite the $700 million hole in the state’s budget, he will continue his quest to drive Kansas’ income tax to zero, the newly re-elected GOP governor declared in his State of the State speech.

A defiant Brownback spoke mostly in generalities. The real news will come Friday, when Brownback will unveil a budget that he said would close the immense shortfall. “I will present a two-year budget that will be balanced with revenues exceeding expenditures,” he said.

Well, yes, he is constitutionally required to do so, at least on paper. But how he’s going to do that will cause a lot of people to lose sleep overnight.

Schools will definitely receive less money. Brownback made the astounding claim that “the majority of the shortfall we face is due to increases in K-12 spending since 2014.”

Actually, the majority of the shortfall Kansas faces is due to reckless tax cuts and shocking miscalculations of how much revenue the state would be receiving. But Brownback’s brazen willingness to blame education spells nothing but trouble for families, schools and teachers. He told the Legislature he wants to rewrite the school finance formula, presumably to redefine what should pass in Kansas for a constitutionally adequate education.

Brownback accepted no blame for the creating the state’s fiscal crisis. That was all the fault of excess spending by previous administrations, he said.

As he did in his campaign, Brownback boasted about cutting the state’s welfare rolls in half. He even introduced a Kansas resident who had moved from welfare to work. What he didn’t say is that poverty has not declined in Kansas, and his welfare cuts are making life tougher for families.

In flashbacks to his fiercely fought campaign against Democrat Paul Davis, Brownback threw out a number of dubious boasts and misleading claims.

He continues to use 2011, when all states were still struggling from the effects of the deep 2008 recession, as his benchmark. Since then, Kansas has added 59,000 private sector jobs, Brownback said.

That claim is accurate, but Brownback omitted the information that since the tax cuts took effect Kansas’ private-sector job growth trails that of neighboring Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma and Colorado, and none of those states (so far, in the case of Missouri) have blown a Kansas-sized hole in their budget.

Brownback’s speech contained few new ideas, and those he presented aren’t exactly earth shaking

He wants to create “urban opportunity zones” to complement his rural opportunity zones, which offer certain incentives for people who chose to relocate to the zones.

In what sounded like a move to molify critical bond rating agencies, Brownback said he wants the state to pass a constitutional amendment stating that debt will be paid before any other spending.

He wants to move local elections from spring to fall, when more people participate.

And, of course, he still wants to change the way Supreme Court justices are selected, preferably giving that power to the governor so he won’t have to deal with those pesky checks and balances.

Brownback ended his speech in full preacher mode, quoting “the Ancients” as saying that the state’s actions should be “first pure, than peaceable, gentle, open to reasonk, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”

That ought to last all of overnight, until the governor’s budget is unveiled.

I’ll give you dimes to dollars that his spending proposal will not be gentle, or open to reason. And the Capitol in Topeka will not be peaceable any time soon.