Time for Brownback to face facts of the tax cuts

on March 16, 2016 at 12:00 PM

By Jason Probst 

For Gov. Sam Brownback, it is well past time to stand up, face Kansas and admit what he did wrong

He should exercise some of that personal responsibility he and his followers always talk about. Display some of that strength and compassion he holds in such high regard. Own his errors and stop pretending that what is clearly present doesn’t exist. End the practice of blaming others for his mistakes. Confess before Kansas the folly of his pride and admit, once and for all, that his experiment with the lives of Kansans has gone very sadly wrong.

Kansas took in $53 million less than expected for the month of February, and that’s after the expectations already had been reduced in the face of the reality that it would be impossible to meet previous projections. Individual income taxes for February were down $27 million, corporate income tax was down $7.7 million, and sales tax was down $12.3 million

So far this fiscal year, the state has fallen nearly $80 million short of revenue expectations. Only once in the past eight months has the state met its forecast for tax collections.

Brownback, ever reluctant to abandon the center of his gubernatorial campaign and the cornerstone of conservative economic philosophy, will not admit this experiment has failed, nor will he admit that it is damaging the state he governs.

"In balancing the budget, I will not support or call for a tax increase on small business in Kansas,” Brownback said. “My focus is on managing spending, not on raising taxes. Our goal is not to fund the growth of state government; it is to help the Kansas economy grow.”

And while the governor and his cohorts disingenuously argue the state has a “spending problem,” they know that isn’t so. Basic logic and sense tell all of Kansas the only problem we have is that Brownback & Co. decided to eliminate income taxes on a huge swath of businesses before first running the numbers to see if we could afford it.

In the world of regular, working-class people that’s akin to quitting a job before you have another lined up. In the sensible world of family and business, spending and income go hand-in-hand. One doesn’t cut off a portion of reliable income without first reducing expenses, nor increase expenses without first making sure there’s income to support it. But that’s not the world Brownback and his loyal lawmakers live in. No, in the governor’s world it’s acceptable to sever the hand that feeds you, then scream that you’ve been eating too much anyway.

The blame for every cut – to public schools, universities, highways, public projects, retirement plans – rests squarely on Brownback’s shoulders, as does every increase in sales and property taxes and additional user fees paid by Kansas taxpayers. It is not because of President Obama. It is not because of Democrats or liberals. It is because our governor decided to make Kansas his laboratory, and its residents his test subjects. And because of his blind devotion to ideology, despite a hypothesis proven faulty by the evidence.

It is time for the governor to be a leader, to be a Kansan and to admit that he made a mistake – one that violates the spirit of Kansas common sense – and begin a real discussion about how what’s wrong can be made right again.