Americans for Prosperity has launched a mail campaign encouraging Kansans to thank lawmakers who have previously pledged to keep taxes low and to hold them to that promise as the Legislature looks to fill a projected budget hole.
The state is projected to spend $800 million more next year than it expects to collect in tax revenue. Fund transfers and other budget moves will close nearly half of that hole, but lawmakers are still staring down a shortfall of more than $420 million that probably will be filled by raising taxes.
AFP has been aggressively lobbying lawmakers against raising taxes and, in particular, against making changes to the 2012 income tax cuts, which many economists blame for the budget shortfall. The anti-tax group, which has ties to Koch Industries, has instead called for lawmakers to cut spending.
“The truth is it’s gone up. It’s not going down and I think some things need to be looked at,” said Jeff Glendening, AFP’s state director.
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AFP has been mailing out postcards in the districts of Republican lawmakers who have previously campaigned against raising taxes.
“Sometimes our elected officials let us down by refusing to take a firm stand on an issue,” a postcard sent out in Sen. Ty Masterson’s district reads. “But Senator Ty Masterson stated his first priority would be to cut spending and not raise taxes when state revenues are less than expenditures. Senator Ty Masterson knows that it is important for government to live within its means and not force higher taxes on Kansas families.”
Masterson, R-Andover, is one of the co-chairmen of the Joint Budget Committee.
Glendening said the campaign is meant to “hold them accountable” as lawmakers make decisions about the budget and also “thank them for taking that stance.”
“They’re under a lot of pressure and sometimes it’s good to be recalibrated back to what you believe in, what you said you believe in during an election year,” he said.
Masterson said as budget chair he has kept his promise to constituents to look for spending cuts first.
“We’re not going to vote on a budget that doesn’t balance. We have a responsibility,” he said. “But on the flip side I feel completely comfortable that I have operated within my commitment to look at spending first.”
Masterson said the budget committees will review the budget again for additional savings before its final passage, but he could not say how significant those savings would be.
In addition to the mailer targeting Masterson, The Eagle obtained a copy of one aimed at freshman lawmaker Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta. Glendening said the mailer went out to several districts.
“We are watching and we’re paying attention and we’ll be educating their constituents,” Glendening said.