This year will be highlighted by increasingly intense Kansas politics — moderates wielding more clout and additional one-time budget gimmicks are expected. But my predictions also touch on Missouri and national events.
First, how did I fare with last year’s predictions?
My favorite miss was one of the great lollapaloozas of all time, at least over the decades I have been writing columns.
I predicted — drum roll — that Ted Cruz would win the Republican nomination, and if that were not a bad enough whiff, I furthermore predicted Hillary Clinton would beat him in a landslide. Have mercy on me. Virtually no predictor picked Donald Trump to win the whole thing.
The moral of this story is, I should stay closer to home on my predictions, where, at least, I have some inkling as to what’s going on.
In December 2015, I said this in my prediction:
“Closer to home, the unpopularity of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and his buddies in the Legislature will lead to some very surprising events in legislative races. In the House, eight seats will switch from conservative Republican to either moderate Republican or Democrat. In the Senate, six seats will switch. If that happens, it will have a marked impact on legislation. Conservatives, particularly in the Senate, could be forced into compromise.”
I nailed the story line. But, in fact, I underestimated the statewide revolt, The House now has 12 new Democrats and a dozen new moderate Republicans. The Senate has one new Democrat and seven new moderate Republicans.
This spurs the following predictions:
The special income-tax exemption for 330,000 businesses is toast. The sales tax on food — the highest in the nation — will be reduced significantly. Income taxes on the wealthy will be raised back to levels near where they were before the 2012 cuts. But all that doesn’t mean there won’t be more one-time gimmicks to balance the budget. Legislators will rob future tobacco settlement money by taking a lump-sum now. That will address the upcoming Kansas Supreme Court mandate that — I predict — will be $500 million, over five years in additional school funding.
I have my doubts as to whether Brownback will be tapped for a job in the Trump administration. More likely, he will finish out his last two years as governor.
But here’s a prediction we’ve been making for months, and you can take it to the bank. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be catapulted to a lofty federal position that will give him the authority – heaven help us – to guide immigration policy in the United States as some sort of “immigration czar.” As strongly as Trump feels about illegal immigration, Kobach is far more obsessed and infinitely crueler. This will be Trump’s most dangerous appointment.
Still close to home, but across the state line, I predict the $800 million infrastructure ballot issue in Kansas City will pass with 59 percent of the vote, two points more than is required. People want new sidewalks and repaired streets.
I predicted for 2016 there would be no interest rate increase. I almost got away with it. Alas, the first and only increase was a quarter-cent in December. But what now? The conventional wisdom suggests there will be four increases in 2017. No way. There might be three, but more than likely, there will be no more than two. Inflation will continue to be extremely tame.
Here’s my wild card prediction:
Bill and Hillary Clinton will officially separate. It may not happen in 2017, but it is coming very soon. The politically expedient relationship has no future. Bill’s eyes are elsewhere.
Let me know how I did.
Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org