The Kansas Chamber of Commerce used some over-the-top rhetoric during the state budget debate — making it seem as if the world would end if the Legislature raised taxes by even a dime.
Still, it was shocking that its interim president, Kent Beisner, blasted the Legislature Saturday for catering "to the needs of those at the government trough."
So schoolchildren and individuals with disabilities are akin to pigs at a trough? And lawmakers are bad for caring about those who depend on state services?
Gov. Mark Parkinson was rightly offended by Beisner's comment. He responded in a statement:
"Kansas mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers, who depend on Medicaid to receive care in their final years, are not pigs at the trough.
"Our children, who are given only one small window to receive a quality education and be productive members of our society, are not pigs at the trough.
"Our law enforcement, corrections officers and emergency responders who keep our streets safe and seek justice for crime victims are not pigs at the trough."
Not only did Beisner insult many Kansans, he also vowed to punish legislators who supported the tax increase. "In the coming weeks, we will be working tirelessly to expose those who voted to impose higher taxes on job creators and families," he said.
Before doing that, Beisner and the Kansas Chamber should reconsider whether their bullying is helpful or hurtful.
And local chambers might reconsider whether the Kansas Chamber is the type of organization with which they want to associate.
Already, several chambers have dropped their state membership. And in March, the chambers from Topeka, Salina, Overland Park, Olathe, Manhattan, northeast Johnson County, Hutchinson, Hays, Arkansas City, Emporia, Dodge City, Grant County and Kansas City, Kan., sent a letter to Parkinson and legislative leaders saying they could support "rational state revenue enhancements." The letter was later reissued to include the Liberal and Abilene chambers.
These chambers, which represent most major business centers in Kansas (with the notable exception of Wichita), knew that raising taxes during a down economy was a bad option. But they also understood that severely harming state services could be even worse. And they have grown frustrated with the state chamber's rigid anti-tax ideology and hostile rhetoric.
Parkinson said that "the hurtful words of the chamber are not reflective of the Kansas I know and love."
Do they reflect the views of most members of the Kansas Chamber? Do they reflect the views of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce?