Opinion Columns & Blogs

Phillip Brownlee: Anti-tax groups want to wipe away our memories

Remember the "Neuralyzer" from the "Men in Black" movies, the penlike device that wiped away memories? Some anti-tax groups are trying the same thing with last year's budget debate and elections.

They don't want Kansans to remember what they said and did.

For example, a vice president for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce said last week that the state chamber opposes a proposed repeal of the statewide sales-tax increase. This is the same group that condemned last year's budget as catering "to the needs of those at the government trough" and that targeted for defeat lawmakers who "voted to impose higher taxes on job creators and families."

Now, not only does the state chamber not want the sales-tax increase repealed, it does not want it to expire in 2013, as per the state law. Instead, it wants the higher sales-tax rate to remain in place and for lawmakers to use the extra revenue to eliminate state corporate taxes.

Talk about a flip-flop.

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas also has been trying to erase memories. It recently had a letter to the editor on these pages claiming that the money it spent targeting lawmakers last election was an innocent "voter-education effort."

In one of those efforts, AFP sent out a full-color mailer and paid for full-page ads in The Eagle when state Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, was gaining ground on Mike Pompeo in last year's GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District. The large headline on the front of the mailer and at the top of the ads asked incredulously: "Who would vote to INCREASE SPENDING by $200 million... ?" On the other side of the mailer and lower in the newspaper ad, it continued:"... and then RAISE taxes. Answer: Jean Schodorf."

If AFP were really all about "education," it should have explained that the $200 million general-fund increase was to replace federal stimulus money, not increase overall spending. That's the same reason that Gov. Sam Brownback's budget proposal increases next year's general-fund spending by nearly $350 million while overall spending decreases.

A recent Eagle editorial noted Brownback's general-fund spending increase and wondered whether AFP would be sending out mailers criticizing Brownback. In its letter, AFP said "no" and suggested that this was mainly because "Brownback doesn't support increasing taxes."

But Brownback doesn't have to raise taxes, because former Gov. Mark Parkinson and the lawmakers AFP targeted already did the dirty work. And once Brownback was elected and realized how bad the budget situation was, he decided — as the Kansas Chamber now has — that the additional revenue really is needed.

In fact, Brownback's proposed general-fund spending — which was developed by budget director Steve Anderson, who previously was a consultant for AFP — is slightly more than what Parkinson's staff estimated could be available. Is Brownback feeding those at the government trough?

Our editorial gave Brownback credit for wisely changing his position on the budget. He is acting responsibly.

AFP and the state chamber want Kansans to stare at their pen.