School funding – The state’s attorney in the school-finance lawsuit actually argued Kansas doesn’t need the best educational system, and only must meet its constitutional obligation. While constitutionality should indeed be met, why dismiss the quest for excellence? No state interested in economic growth would lower its educational standards, as is happening in Kansas due to the relentless crusade to cripple public schools and shift support to privatized education – a shortsighted strategy that only gives business prospects cause to look elsewhere. Look for the latest run on public schools to be stymied by yet another court ruling, and compound chaos over the state’s self-inflicted budget crisis.
Tax increases – Before the state’s finances hit the skids, Gov. Sam Brownback and Co. told us all that freeing businesses from income taxes would drive the state’s economy to meteoric and previously undreamed of heights, like it was on an adrenaline high. Critics raising questions about the legitimacy of such claims, or anyone with facts to the contrary, have been dismissed as “liberals” who love taxes and hate freedom. Relying on such worn-out political labels isn’t working quite as well as it once did, now that the Legislature has decided it will raise taxes.
Even if the sales tax on groceries is reduced, as some plans have called for, raising “consumption” taxes enough to balance the state budget would place a disproportionate burden on low- and middle-income Kansans. The same is true of plans to eliminate or reduce many state income tax deductions for the people who still pay those taxes. To take such actions while preserving the income tax exemption for businesses would strike many state residents as unfair.
You know that awkward moment when you say something and everybody just looks at you? Sen. Les Donovan, the Wichita Republican who chairs the Senate tax committee, experienced more than his share of those as he floated a menu of possible tax changes that would help close the state’s $400 million budget hole. Raise cigarette taxes? Make the sales tax even higher? Correct the runaway business tax exemptions? Nope, nobody much liked any of those. Maybe committee members just need more time to figure out their best course is to roll back the reckless income tax cuts that caused the problem in the first place. Raising sales, gasoline or property taxes would place even more of a burden on low-income Kansans to pay for the damage wrought by Gov. Sam Brownback and like-minded lawmakers.
The Club for Growth and other conservative organizations will probably go after state lawmakers who vote to do away with or modify the income tax cuts to businesses. Especially if those legislators have been bought and paid for by those groups. But at some point, we’ll need just enough legislators to put the people of Kansas first – despite the robocalls and other threats.