Joan Wagnon: Kansans dislike what Brownback is doing

04/23/2013 12:00 AM

04/22/2013 6:17 PM

Kansas has been home over the years to many progressive leaders as well as folks with wacky ideas. Fortunately, most of our governors and legislative leaders have carefully and patiently moved Kansas along a progressive path with commonsense ideas that made the state a great place to live and work.

This was true until Sam Brownback became governor and started his great experiment on Kansas.

A commentary by Kelly Arnold, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, excoriated the press for running critical editorials (April 16 Eagle). Blaming the press for not liking Brownback’s policies is just a ruse used to avoid the reality that Kansans strongly dislike what Brownback is doing to Kansas schools, our working families and our state.

It also saddened me to see Arnold continue to push the distortions and misleading statements that the governor repeats in an attempt to convince the public that his plan is working. The “publicly available facts, submitted for open review,” that Arnold cited have been refuted by numerous news articles as incomplete, misleading and, in some cases, just plain wrong.

The tax plan the governor devised is the centerpiece of his efforts to grow the Kansas economy, yet finance experts from both the left and right agree that it’s the worst state reform passed in the past two years. The truth is that Brownback is balancing his budget on the backs of hardworking Kansans. Here are some facts to back that up:

•  Brownback’s 2012 tax plan raised taxes on the poorest Kansans. By eliminating tax deductions such as the food sales-tax credit, the child care credit, and the adult dependent care credit, Brownback managed to raise taxes for low-income Kansans by cutting tax programs that benefit children and working poor.
•  Brownback’s 2013 tax proposal would raise sales taxes on all Kansas consumers. The sales-tax hike enacted in 2010 is set to expire; Brownback has proposed extending it.
•  Brownback’s 2013 tax proposal would raise taxes on homeowners by eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction.
•  Brownback’s tax plan has created a giant hole in the Kansas budget, threatening education funding. The Kansas Legislative Research Department estimated in fiscal year 2018 the “budget hole” would grow to $781.5 million as a result of the tax plan if no cuts were made.
•  Brownback already has cut more than $100 million from K-12 education funding, and now House Republicans are threatening to cut $63 million from higher education.
•  The unemployment rate in Kansas under Brownback is higher than the average for the “lost decade” that Brownback routinely bemoans. Today the unemployment rate in Kansas sits at 5.6 percent; the average unemployment rate for the governor’s “lost decade” was 4.94 percent.

The response by the Kansas Republican Party was just another version of Brownback’s prairie fairy tale. Just like in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Kansans are waking up to the fact that the tale Brownback and his Republicans are spinning is just that – a fairy tale of empty promises and no happy ending.

Brownback and the Kansas GOP can claim that the media, economists and commonsense Kansans are wrong. But when everyone thinks you’re on the wrong track, maybe everyone else isn’t the problem. Maybe, just maybe, it’s you.

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