When it comes to giving the State of the State address, Gov. Sam Brownback may make a few other area governors a little jealous.
“In an era when many believe America has lost its way, Kansans know the difficult path that the Nation must take,” he said Tuesday evening. “And as has been our tradition since before statehood, our place, Kansas, will not be timid in doing what is right, even if much of the nation takes another way.”
Other governors are battling higher unemployment (Kansas is at 5.4%, tenth lowest in America) and other economic issues that Brownback doesn’t have to counter.
Because of that, Brownback and the reddest state legislature in America are free to experiment with conservative economic ideals.
Brownback and the legislature cut state income taxes for Kansans last year. This year, he proposes taking a similar course. His goal is to match Texas with no state income tax.
“When I started as governor, we had the highest state income tax in the region,” he said. “Now we have the 2nd lowest and I want us to take it to zero.”
The belief is that a better economy expands the amount of revenue generated in the state so a lower percentage is needed to bring in the same or similar revenue the government needs to educate children and provide other services.
“Where others choose to raise taxes, we will lower them so our people have more money, not the government,” he said. “Where other governments expand, we grow smaller.
Where others choose to grow spending, Kansas grows jobs.”
Brownback is also proposing eliminating many popular tax credits because, he says, the need for them will decrease as income tax bills fall.
“In important ways, our state is going against the tide and reflecting more of the values of the Greatest Generation, the World War II generation, more than my own,” he said.
I don’t know that everyone in the Greatest Generation want their values aligned with Brownback and the Kansas GOP.
After all, when you cut credits and the tax rate, the net tax rate most Kansans will pay will be the same or maybe even higher.
Brownback has also recommended no pay raise for any state employee in the past couple of years and he isn’t recommending one in 2014 or 2015.
Also, it was no surprise to see Kansas avoid the tidal wave of increased gun control legislation. But for Brownback to act like Newtown, Conn. and the shooting of two Topeka police officers never happened was obviously political myopia. He had to be worried that acknowledging that either ever happened might create a demand from residents for him to do something about it.
Page 2 of 2 - But guns don’t kill people… more guns make us safer… from my cold dead hands… etc.
But State Senator Anthony Hensley began his democratic response by reaching out to victims in Newtown and Topeka.
However, Hensley, remembering he was in Kansas, didn’t even call for gun control legislation. He merely suggested that Kansans remember the victims and thank educators and public servants when you get a chance.
That’s bold leadership.
Hensley went on to say that Brownback’s austerity measures seem to apply more to the poor than more wealthy Kansans.
“While the richest 1 percent of Kansas tax payers will see their taxes go down an average of $21,000, the poorest 20 percent of Kansas taxpayers will see their taxes go up,” he said. “Governor, that’s why I’ve called your tax plan ‘Robin Hood in Reverse.’”
Hensley said under Brownback’s plan, a doctor who makes $250,000 per year will get a much lower tax bill this year. But receptionist from the same office – a single working mother with two children, who makes $8.00 an hour or less than $20,000 per year – will lose hundreds because of credits Brownback wants to eliminate like the homestead property tax exemption and child care tax credit that affects 72,000 people.
In a strange reversal of roles, Brownback proposes keeping the six-tenths of a cent sales tax in place while the Democrats call for it to expire as planned.
“It’s time for the six-tenths of a cent to expire as intended,” Hensley said. “We should not break our promise to the taxpayers of Kansas. And, we should not impose more taxes to an already unacceptable, regressive tax structure.”
At the end of the day, it’s all just a matter of hoping the economy recovers and moving money from one pocket to the other until it does.
The political process is one of the worst means imaginable to formulate a budget. Intellectual honesty is important when dealing with financial matters.
Cutting income taxes a small amount while leaving sales taxes in place under a relatively large property tax umbrella isn’t exactly adhering to conservative ideals.
Hopefully, the governor and legislators can get beyond the politics and keep the state headed in the right direction.
Kent Bush is the publisher of The Augusta Daily Gazette, The El Dorado Times, and The Andover American newspapers. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org.