Budget crisis – The Brownback-suggested and Legislature-approved tax cut packages of 2012 and 2013 have placed Kansas in dire straits. While repealing them certainly would solve the budget crisis, there isn’t much appetite for such a move. To do so would admit they were a failure – something this administration’s pride will not allow. That is too bad – and a horrible stance for a governor to take.
We were promised a “shot of adrenaline” by Gov. Sam Brownback when he pushed his income tax cuts through the Legislature. The idea – long ago discredited – was that cutting income taxes would cause business owners to rush out and hire more people and invest in more equipment, and the economy would take off. Oddly enough, it seems that business owners don’t hire people they don’t need or buy equipment they can’t use just because they have more money. Who knew?
KC jobs – The Kansas City metropolitan area is ground zero for measuring the impact of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts on job creation. It is an article of faith among Brownback and his supporters that slicing taxes for selected Kansans will convince people and companies to jump the state line and work in Kansas. But is that really happening at a measurable amount? Recent data shows that the Kansas side of the metropolitan area has lost its longtime advantage in employment growth over Missouri since the tax cuts took effect in January 2013. Meanwhile, the cuts have produced huge revenue shortfalls that have gained national negative attention.
Highway funds – Kansas Department of Transportation officials seem to be downplaying highway concerns, but KDOT’s own figures paint a troubling picture of the impact of “sweeping” highway funds into the general fund to cover other state expenses. Since Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011, more than $1.3 billion has been transferred out of the highway fund into the general fund. In January, lawmakers approved taking $103 million from the fund to help fill a budget gap for the current fiscal year. Brownback has proposed taking another $139 million from the state highway fund for each of the next two fiscal years in order to balance the budget. Given the state’s current financial issues, it seems that total could go even higher. This is not a winning strategy for the state’s motorists or its economic vitality.
Money can be borrowed to finish highway plan projects or maintenance, but it comes at a price. That debt must eventually be paid by Kansas’ taxpayers, who were told a sales tax hike to fund the T-Works program would cover the bills. That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case now, and responsibility for that lies with the governor and legislators who refuse to acknowledge the state has obligations it must fund on a sustainable basis.
Abortion law – As Gov. Sam Brownback was triumphantly parading around Catholic schools last week to re-enact signing of another abortion restriction law, taxpayers were learning the state will pay as much as $450,000 to defend it. This is expensive lawmaking for legislation that ultimately might not even survive the constitutionality test.