Tax cuts look great on Election Day. Kansas House should have the courage to say no

The Kansas House is expected to debate this week a bill that would create a tax cut for many Kansas taxpayers.
The Kansas House is expected to debate this week a bill that would create a tax cut for many Kansas taxpayers. AP

It’s amazing what the threat of an oversized mailer from Americans for Prosperity can do to Kansas lawmakers in an election year.

Less than a year after ending the crippling tax-cut policies of former Gov. Sam Brownback, these same legislators are considering a tax cut that, while putting more money in many Kansans’ pockets, would mean $141 million less to tackle budget problems.

Lawmakers shouldn’t cave. Tax relief to constituents is noble, but this is the time to continue to fix funding for Kansas government.

Many moderate Republican and Democratic lawmakers saw their neighbors receive those oversized mailers last year. “Rep. John Doe voted for the biggest tax hike in Kansas history!” was a representative refrain.

In non-election years, casual observers throw away those mailers without much thought. This time, less than four months from primaries in the House and for governor, mailers have more meaning.

Moderate Republicans will be challenged in Aug. 7 primaries by more conservative Republicans with the backing of groups such as anti-tax Americans for Prosperity, a political group funded by the Koch brothers. That puts more pressure on moderates to back a tax-cut plan now.

A bill has already passed the Senate, with the House likely to debate a version during the wrap-up session that begins Thursday.

Lawmakers should remember the past six years of budget problems, declining revenue and the hurt put on government agencies. Decisions made during the 2017 session to begin to reverse Brownback’s plan began to help Kansas out of its deep hole.

With significant revenue gains anticipated, this year’s session can continue to correct some recent wrongs. More than $100 million in new funds are needed for social service programs such as Medicaid and the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

State budget director Larry Campbell said last week that new revenue estimates — almost $534 more than last fall — should mean a five-year, $500 million increase in school funding could be paid for without a tax increase.

That’s where lawmakers should stand. No tax increase, but no cuts, either. In a year where school funding was seen as possibly crippling Kansas government, this is a win.

Stand up to the postcards. Their biggest damage should be paper cuts.