December 16, 2016
Perpetual budget woes are Kansas’ biggest problem — by far.
Yet Gov. Sam Brownback has offered nothing to address a $350 million deficit that could swell to beyond $1 billion without significant change soon.
Others, meanwhile, have shared ideas worthy of open discussion and debate.
The nonpartisan “Rise Up, Kansas” coalition of stakeholders who covet good education, roads and other vital state-funded programs recently revealed a comprehensive tax-reform plan to counter the governor’s damaging 2012 income-tax breaks.
Unfortunately, there’s no painless way out.
The “Rise Up, Kansas” plan would bring in more income and gas taxes. It would end Brownback’s “March to Zero” income taxes and restore the tax for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners now paying none.
Reasonable Kansans know the state cannot maintain core services if it continues to forgo many hundreds of millions of dollars annually in tax revenue. The “Rise Up, Kansas” plan would generate about $820 million in fiscal year 2018.
Brownback’s camp, which couldn’t even make ends meet with deep spending cuts and accumulation of unprecedented debt, blasted the proposed tax increases.
Yet in 2015 they raised taxes mightily in a failed attempt to fill budget holes, mostly through sales-tax hikes that punished lower-income Kansans. “Rise Up, Kansas” would drop the food sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5 percent.
When Brownback finally does weigh in on the current shorftall, he’ll probably want to cash in future tobacco settlement funds for pennies on the dollar — essentially an irresponsible payday loan and way to undermine that investment in effective early childhood programs.
Among losers would be families who need services from Russell Child Development Center, already hard hit by recent cuts.
A governor who’s stalled numerous road projects, dropped K-12 public school funding to unconstitutional levels and blocked health care for Kansans who need it most isn’t finished. He’d also dismantle a system proven to give young children a healthy start in life.
Voters made it clear they want his damaging money grabs, shell games and other budget gimmicks to end.
A Legislature with far fewer Brownback allies must have the courage to make difficult decisions and craft realistic solutions — starting with tax reform.
Read more from the Garden City Telegram here.