Yael T. Abouhalkah

Voodoo economics scheme runs out of steam for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is hanging on to his beloved, but costly and unfair, tax cuts for businesses and individuals.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is hanging on to his beloved, but costly and unfair, tax cuts for businesses and individuals. AP

Even while facing a budget gap of $400 million for the next budget, Gov. Sam Brownback has protected his costly income tax cuts for thousands of Kansas businesses and his “march to zero” on income taxes for individuals.

So far.

But how long can the Kansas Legislature — which entered its record-breaking 108th day of the session on Sunday — hold off on changing unfair tax breaks that are siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars from a budget needed to provide services to Kansans?

How long can the members ignore the factual evidence that Brownback’s voodoo economics scheme is not leading to dramatic increases in either jobs or new tax revenue for the state?

The frustrating debate in Topeka is taking its toll on thoughtful and reasoned governing.

Late Saturday night, Sen. Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican who’s been trying to put together a tax plan to balance the next budget, threatened to resign.

“I am ashamed of how you are behaving,” he told his colleagues. “I’ve been used as a pawn and I’m sick of it. Find another tax chair.”

But Donovan made it to yet another meeting later that night and appears ready to resume the grind in Topeka.

And that’s what it has become, a grind, because lawmakers can’t decide on how much to cut in the budget — if anything — but also can’t agree on how high to raise taxes to generate more revenue.

The worst idea so far came from Brownback, trying to protect his income tax cuts: He proposed a large regressive sales tax increase, from 6.15 percent to 6.65 percent.

Fortunately, at least so far, lawmakers have refused to embrace it. Democrats think it’s too high; some ultra-conservative Republicans don’t want to increase taxes.

Again, at some point, the Legislature needs to do the right thing and challenge Brownback’s tax-cut philosophy.

Some of his fellow Republican members must desert the governor and at least roll back part of the tax cuts for businesses, while permanently ending the march to zero for individuals.

And it would be totally fair. These businesses need to pay something for the public services they receive, such as roads, public safety and education for children.

However, no plan to change the tax cuts has gained enough traction to pass in the Senate or the House.

That’s partly why House leaders already have said it won’t officially meet again until Monday.

Yes, that would be a record-breaking Day 109 for the Kansas Legislature, and another $40,000 or so in extra costs for taxpayers.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Folllow him on Twitter: @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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