At 3:30 in the morning today, the Kansas House of Representatives passed a tax bill. It took 23 days of extra session, almost a million dollars in overtime pay, and Governor Brownback threatening them twice. The bill, which still needs to be passed by the Kansas Senate, but looks very much like a bill they already passed once, is not good for Kansas.
It raises sales taxes on all Kansans, but has no provision for lowering sales taxes on food (as previous versions did). In some communities, Kansans will now pay 10% sales tax. It does not restore any of the income taxes cut from LLC business owners, despite the lack of evidence that those cuts are creating jobs. And it includes a lot of pet pieces that were designed to get votes: property tax lids, income tax ratchets, and more.
All of this, all of these tax increases on every Kansan, are happening because the Governor refuses to admit his experiment has failed. His shot of adrenaline, his instant economy, his promise that Kansas would grow, has failed.
Kansas was supposed to be flush with new jobs by now, and yet we trail the states in our region, and the nation, in every category but one: number of new businesses incorporated to take advantage of the LLC exemptions. We are left with lawyers paying no income tax, while their secretaries do, and single-owner companies "hiring" their grown children so they can avoid taxes, too.
As someone pointed out on the House floor, if we had not enacted those tax cuts, we'd have a billion dollars in excess funds, and we could be cutting taxes for everyone, instead of raising them on working Kansans.
But this is old news. The Kansas political leadership bows to the discredited tax schemes of trickle-down economics, and the ultra-conservative, selfish ethos that says, "taxes are legalized theft."
We know this about them. Their disregard for community, for every Kansan is reprehensible, but we know this.
What was new was the emergence over the last few weeks of an unlikely alliance of House legislators fighting back for their constituents. Some were on opposite sides, but they all understood that this tax bill was bad for Kansas. They stymied the Governor repeatedly, voting down bad bills sent by the Senate. Thousands of Kansans sent email urging them to fight for their constituents. And they did.
And yet, last night and early this morning, they gave in to the Governor's threats. In caucus with the GOP, Brownback threatened that if they did not pass his plan, he would either cut 6% off of everything (millions cut from K-12 schools, roads, hospitals, etc.) or he would veto funding for higher education with a sweep of his red pen. Legislator after legislator stood up and said, "I dislike this bill, but I am voting for it to keep the schools open."
The Governor and his allies created this mess with their income tax cuts in 2012. Those cuts have been proven to have failed. And yet, they refuse to repeal them, instead forcing a massive tax increase on all Kansans to make up for their scheme. This was their fault.
The Kansas House should have forced the Governor and the Leadership to own this. They should have forced the Governor to show every Kansan his true colors: that he would decimate education, and the future of Kansas and Kansas children, in favor of a discredited tax scheme that benefits only his cronies. Instead, the legislators gave up their principles, and now they share the blame.
These are the legislators who voted for these tax measures. These are the legislators who share the blame.
- Those who voted "Yea" in the House
- Those who voted "Yea" in the Senate (they have another vote today)
Next year, when every House and Senate seat is up for re-election, all Kansans will be there to remind them.