Politics & Government

Kobach wants to restore Brownback tax plan, vows never to raise taxes as governor

Kris Kobach talks about taxes, as running mate Wink Hartman and longtime Republican activist Bob Dool look on.
Kris Kobach talks about taxes, as running mate Wink Hartman and longtime Republican activist Bob Dool look on. The Wichita Eagle

Secretary of State Kris Kobach said that if he's elected governor, he'll try to restore former Gov. Sam Brownback's tax cuts that were repealed with the state swimming in red ink.

"They put the tax cut in place without cutting spending, indeed there never was a cut in spending," Kobach said in a news conference Tuesday at Ink Construction in Wichita. "So while I support the tax cuts that were in place, I don't support the way they were done. They were done in a fiscally irresponsible way.

"It'll be done differently under a Kobach administration. We'll begin cutting spending immediately and then we'll be asking to return that money to the taxpayers."

He did not identify what spending he would cut.

Kobach also vowed to veto any tax increase and signed a national pledge to never raise taxes.

The Brownback plan, passed in 2012, cut income tax rates across the board and eliminated income taxes entirely for owners of limited liability companies and other closely held businesses.

Heralded by Brownback as "a shot of adrenalin to the heart" of the Kansas economy, the cuts didn't generate as much growth as was promised. That led to yearly state budget deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars and cuts in the state's credit rating.

The Legislature and voters rebelled. Last year, a less-conservative Legislature eliminated the LLC exemption and raised bracket rates over a Brownback veto.

At Tuesday's news conference, Kobach longed for a return to the tax rates from 2012 to 2015, after the Brownback cuts but before an increase in sales taxes. His argument to restore Brownback's plan echoed the same one Brownback used defending the plan.

"During that period, we saw an actual improvement, especially along the state line," Kobach said. "In the K.C. metro area, you saw 23 percent more businesses and residential growth on the Kansas side than you did on the Missouri side. In the Pittsburg versus Joplin (Missouri) area the same thing was going on. All of that has changed now since we entered this high-tax environment."

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas