Taxes raised on all Kansans—except 333,000 business owners—under the guise of averting a self-made financial crisis. The Kansas House, followed the Senate, and kicked the $400 million can down the road to next year – on the backs of Kansas children, working class, elderly and disabled.
This week started off similar to last, the Kansas legislature worked and waited and argued and stayed up late and then erased all of that and tried again, but this time around a big dose of threats were mixed into the pot. The governor and his budget director threatened to cut K12 schools, cut higher education, cut prison guard staff, cut public hospitals and more (The Topeka Capital-Journal).
Whether or not the scare-tactics were the leverage that triggered final action or more likely, were just hype to provide political cover to no-tax pledgers, the Kansas House passed a tax bill this morning at 4:00 am to shore up about half of the running budget shortfall (Wichita Eagle). Enough revenue will be raised to get us through next year, assuming the Senate concurs, until next year when the $400 million gap that was put on the credit card comes due.
Yet let’s be clear, this regressive tax package of epic proportions, was NOT necessary to prevent deeper cuts to programs and service. The one alternative that would provide a sustainable and fair solution is to restore the income tax to the 330,000 Kansas business owners’ who have been exempt since 2012 (follow the money). Despite the consequences, this solution was taken off the table by Governor Brownback. With the tax plan in motion:
- Kansas will now have the dubious honor of having the highest tax on food in the country, at 6.5 percent.
- The elimination of income taxes for 380,000 low-income Kansans is all but a campaign post-card maneuver, with any savings more than eaten up by the massive sales tax hike.
- The governor is expected to make another $50 million in cuts to round out the $384 million tax increase to an ending balance of $86 million, assuming revenue projections meet their targets. How many times have the revenue reports missed their targets?
The ball is now back in the Senate’s court. They are re-scheduled to convene at 2:00 pm’ish today on whether to adopt the House changes to the tax bill’s policy riders (SB 270), including the two big game-changers, sunsets on sales tax exemptions and mandatory local elections on city and county use of property tax revenues.
Governor Brownback has now signed 96 bills into law this session plus the Uber bill veto, over-ridden by the legislature. Noteworthy to decimating bills signed most recently include:
- Judiciary Extortion. HB 2005 – authorizes the judicial branch budget, with a non-severability clause that would strike funding if the state court strikes down the 2014 law which removed powers from the State Supreme Court to appoint chief judges for the district courts and to set district court budgets (New York Times).
- Elections. HB 2104 – moved primary elections for governing bodies and elected officials of any municipality from the spring to the fall of odd-numbered years, disrupting school boards and confounding critical non-partisan civic leadership positions in with the hyper-partisan election cycle.
- Elections. SB 34 – Amends various statutes relating to voter fraud and provides the Secretary of State and the Attorney General with prosecutorial authority related to voter fraud, for which the incidence rate is nearly non-existent.
- Education. Senate Substitute for HB 2353 – required fixes to the Block Grant statute, recently rushed to law. Fixes include funding for virtual schools and needs of schools with declining enrollment.
- Women’s Health. Senate Substitute for HB 2228 – requires a physician to be physically present for abortion procedures.
A complete analysis of the session will be posted next week. We enjoyed the comic relief provided by your haikus – thank you for playing along.