Kansas Legislators Repudiate Governor, Override Tax Veto — 2nd Update

In Kansas, States, Taxes On
- Updated

State legislators in Kansas have finally called a halt to Gov. Sam Brownback’s experiment to create a red-state model of tax cuts to spur economic growth.

In a vote Tuesday night, legislators overrode his veto of a bill to raise taxes and close a nearly $900 million budget gap over the next two years. Though both chambers are controlled by Republicans, the House voted 88 to 31 and the state Senate voted 27 to 13, in a harsh rebuke for the governor.

The bill is expected to raise $1.2 billion over two years and close a projected shortfall of $889 million over the same period. It will also bring in more money for a court-ordered increase in public-school funding.

“We have worked hard in Kansas to move our tax policy to a pro-growth orientation. This bill undoes much of that progress. It will substantially damage job creation and leave our citizens poorer in the future,” Mr. Brownback said as he vetoed the bill on Tuesday.

Tuesday night’s vote ends a yearslong tax policy debate that has been closely watched at the national level as a proxy for supply-side Republican economic philosophy. Mr. Brownback and his allies were trying to show that cutting tax rates could spur economic growth and attract investment.

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Republican Governor Has Tax Cuts Undone By Other Republicans

The outcome in Kansas was likely to send a signal to other red states pursuing similar tax philosophies about the risks and limits of the approach. Republicans control 24 other state capitals, and some have likewise pressed for tax reductions and limits on spending, though few have taken steps as bold or sustained as in Kansas.

Even before this week, Democrats in states like Nebraska and Iowa have held out the Kansas model as a cautionary tale for their own Republican-run states. “It is something that Iowans talk about, that they don’t want to find themselves in a situation like Kansas,” said State Senator Janet Petersen, a Democrat in Iowa, where business property taxes were reduced in 2013 and where Republicans took control of state government this year.

First elected governor of Kansas seven years ago by a wide margin, Mr. Brownback wasted no time steering the Republican Party on a hard-right turn. In his first term, he helped push out moderate Republicans from the Legislature. Under his leadership, Kansas loosened restrictions on guns, made it harder for women to get abortions and passed some of the strictest voting laws in the country.

Most famously, he instituted the largest income tax cuts in Kansas history, a move that he promised would act “like a shot of adrenaline in the heart of the Kansas economy.”

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Kansas Vetoes the Trickle-Down Con Job

The Republican Legislature and much of Kansas has finally turned on Gov. Sam Brownback in his disastrous five-year experiment to prove the Republicans’ “trickle down” fantasy can work in real life — that huge tax cuts magically result in economic growth and more, not less, revenue. Kansas has painfully found otherwise: State revenues dwindled along with job growth. Budget deficits ballooned. Education funding plummeted, and the state suffered multiple credit downgrades as Mr. Brownback played the mad doctor of supply-side economics.

It took too long, but state lawmakers who once abetted the Brownback budgeting folly passed a two-year, $1.2 billion tax increase this week to begin repairing the damage. To make it stick, they overrode a veto by Mr. Brownback, who remains a blithe champion of the supply-side shell game, as do many other Republicans, despite the failure of what the governor called his “real-life experiment” and its calamitous impact on vital services.

President Trump’s federal tax proposals are rooted in the same supply-side nonsense. And Speaker Paul Ryan, the House’s supposed guru in the continuing budget fights, embraces the trickle-down mantra he practiced as an aide to Mr. Brownback when the governor was in the Senate.

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