Editorials

Must veto tax bill

Animosity and dysfunction at the Legislature led to both chambers’ passage of a tax-reform bill that makes no fiscal sense whatsoever. Now, for the love of Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback must veto it.

Admittedly, that’s unlikely, given his Friday statement that he looked forward to signing it because “strengthening the Kansas economy cannot wait.”

But what is he thinking?

He needs to look at the numbers of the respected legislative researchers, who project the drastic reduction in individual income-tax rates and the elimination of tax on nonwage income of 191,000 companies could create a budget shortfall as soon as next year and widen it to more than $2.4 billion by 2018.

To offset such lost revenue, by one estimate, jobs would have to grow in Kansas at a rate of 50 percent over the next six years (even Texas, for all its fast growth, has only managed a 14.8 percent job-growth rate over the past decade). That’s not going to happen.

Brownback also needs to listen to some key voices in his own conservative camp.

Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, who chairs the Senate’s tax committee, called it “the worst tax bill ever to come out of” the Statehouse.

Brownback’s secretary of revenue, Nick Jordan, has warned that the bill will require legislators to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget next year, creating “a significant budget situation.”

And yet the governor is actually going to hold a signing ceremony and treat this as some kind of victory for the state and his administration?

If decimating the state’s ability to fund public education and social services was on his “road map for Kansas,” voters must have missed it back in 2010. In fact, Brownback claimed repeatedly that education is the state’s primary function, as important to Kansas as defense is to the federal government.

Yet the tax bill he’s poised to sign would kick K-12 schools while they’re down, dashing any hopes of reversing the severe operational funding cuts of the past few years.

It would leave individuals with disabilities to their lengthy waits for the services that could keep them living independently and out of nursing homes.

It also would ignore the real possibility that the state soon could be left no choice but to spend more on schools and the disabled – as a result of a pending school-finance lawsuit and the U.S. Justice Department’s probe of whether the waiting list for individuals with physical disabilities violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and court rulings.

The tax bill also will mean that local governments and school districts end up raising property taxes – the taxes Kansans really hate and want to see cut.

And once taxes go down, there’s no raising them again in our current political system, no matter how ill-advised it was to cut them in the first place.

Forget the GOP family feuding, some of it fueled by the governor’s keen interest in seeing conservatives take over the Senate, that got us to this awful point. Never mind the two other compromise plans that the Senate rebuffed, or the other less-aggressive proposals reportedly under discussion Saturday.

Now it’s all up to the governor.

He must veto this bill.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

  Comments