The consensus estimate, as reported by The Lawrence Journal-World, was that fiscal 2015 would bring in $5.7 billion in tax revenues, the lowest number since 2010’s $5.2 billion, and $700 million less than the state collected in 2012, before the tax cuts were passed. Lawmakers and the governor would need to find about $400 million, it was announced on April 20, to close the deficit for the fiscal year that would begin on July 1.The striking thing to me about Brownback's tax plan is its admitted unfairness. Brownback believes that farmers and business owners should pay lower taxes than people who draw salaries. This is sometimes justified in economic terms, that is, because business owners drive the economy, but those arguments are economic nonsense and I don't think they explain Brownback's beliefs anyway. He just likes businessmen better than teachers or policemen or engineers, and he wants an economy of gamblers, not salarymen. Against this Democrats advocate the philosophy best put by Bill Clinton, who said the system should work better for people who just "work hard and play by the rules." What's wrong with just holding a job anyway?
Since the beginning of the legislative session, you could divide the conservative Republicans into three camps. The first was the Cutters, who thought that the state’s budget woes should be solved solely through reductions in spending; these were the hardest of the hard-liners, and their position did not get much consideration. The second was the Marchers, who were willing to raise sales taxes and other consumption taxes but not to raise income taxes. The third I call the Do-Overs, who were willing to raise some taxes but only if changes to the 2012 income tax cuts were included. The Do-Overs especially wanted to eliminate the zero-tax policy for business owners and farmers.
Each side brought numbers as evidence for the righteousness of its cause, but it was clear that they were motivated by something deeper — a reminder, for an outsider like me who now lives in a very different political climate, that math can never really resolve a debate rooted in history, culture and values. In Kansas, the Do-Overs, who had many legislative leaders in their ranks, wanted a system that valued fairness by taxing business owners and their employees equally. ‘‘I hope I can get 63 people to put their integrity and fairness ahead of their desire to return here,’’ Hutton told me. By contrast, the Marchers, led by Brownback and including Uncle Gene, wanted a tax system that valued risk and entrepreneurialism. . . . At a moment when the divide between the Do-Overs and the Marchers seemed unbridgeable, a public-radio reporter asked Melissa Rooker, a moderate Republican, if conservatives were acting out of political expediency.
No, Rooker said, these are true believers. If they were merely political opportunists, the gulf in Kansas — and nationally — would not be so wide. ‘‘You could get around the political expediency,’’ Rooker said; you could come up with acceptable alternatives. ‘‘But you can’t change people’s beliefs.’’
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Budget Politics in Kansas
Long article by Chris Suellentrop in the Times about the budget debates in Kansas, where governor Sam Brownback's tax cuts have created an ongoing budgetary crisis: