Just in case no one has notice, Kansas is in sorry fiscal shape, due in large part to our conservative elected leadership that used the Sunflower State as a lab rat in a grand experiment.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback last week announced he would cut spending on Kansas’ public schools and universities and GOP legislators approved juggling funds to stem the budget bleeding. Why? They are trying to cover a massive revenue shortfall following aggressive, ill-conceived tax cuts.
The spending cuts announced by Brownback and a budget-balancing bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature would erase a $344 million deficit projected for June 30, against spending of about $6.3 billion. Top Republicans said lawmakers needed to approve a fix for the current budget by Feb. 13 to ensure the state pays its bills on time through the summer.
They say this will also give them time to plug a projected shortfall of nearly $600 million in the budget for the state’s next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Brownback has proposed slowing down future income tax cuts and boosting tobacco and alcohol taxes, and many GOP lawmakers want to pursue further spending cuts.
Brownback’s Kansas experiment was hailed by some national conservatives in 2012 and 2013 when he championed personal income tax cuts to stimulate the economy, dropping the top rate by 29 percent and exempting 191,000 business owners altogether. Revenue has since fallen short of forecasts, and Brownback won a closer-than-expected re-election in a heavily Republican state last year after arguing that the tax cuts would not hurt schools or sacrifice core government services.
Some Republicans have backed away from using Kansas as a tax-cutting example now that the state faces a fiscal crisis.
The governor has blamed a wide range of budget and revenue surprises for the state’s financial problems, rather than the tax-cutting he championed. But some GOP allies link the deficits to the tax cuts — and say it’s good that government revenues are pinched.
So, with this bleak picture, what do our leaders decided to do? Why, they remove civil liberty protections homosexuals, champion relaxed concealed-carry laws and propose stricter abortion legislation.
The point of this isn’t to take sides in the above issues. The point is that these are even issues at all now.
With the financial walls crumbling, our officials are doing the best they can to distract us, hoping we will pay no attention to the man (or looming crisis) behind the curtain.
We are not that blind. We see what is going on in Topeka.
Instead of blaming budget and revenue surprises, searching for scapegoats and going on witch hunts, they need to man up and deal with the mess they made.
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