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Kansas Republican legislators override their Norquistian governor, restore income taxes

Having come to the realization that trying to drown the people’s government in a bathtub is actually a really, really, really bad idea, Republican legislators in Kansas last night joined forces with Democrats to restore income tax revenue that was lost when Kansas embarked on a disastrous tax cutting experiment several years ago at the behest of Governor Sam Brownback, a disciple of Grover Norquist.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports:

The Senate and House defied Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday night by overriding his veto of a bill raising Kansas income taxes by $1.2 billion over two years to fill a gaping hole in state revenue and bank money to improve funding of public education.

Both chambers adopted the landmark tax legislation, but Brownback wasted no time in rejecting their work on the 109th day of the annual session. The Republican governor issued a veto message declaring Senate Bill 30 the largest tax increase in state history, clearly damaging to businesses’ job growth and destructive to the well-being of families.

The Senate, which contains 31 GOP members and nine Democrats, voted 27-13 for the two-thirds majority necessary to reverse the governor’s action. The threshold was attained when Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, agreed to support the override after previously voting against the tax bill.

“The Legislature has the power to override the veto. I see no other path,” said Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia.

Desperately clinging to his unreasonable no-new-taxes position, Brownback had proposed a farce of a budget that would have weakened Kansas’ already perilous financial position even further. Kansas legislators rejected Brownback’s proposal and determined that the only way to safeguard the state’s future was to defy him.

Considering how Republican Kansas is, this is a remarkable development. Republicans run the show in Kansas — it’s one party rule there — and so they have to govern. They can’t be armchair critics because they’re in charge.

Kansas Republicans were warned that Brownback’s Norquistian plot would only lead to disaster. But they did not listen. And so they had to learn a hard lesson.

The truth about taxes is that they are necessary. Without taxes, we don’t have a country. Taxes pay for all the public services that we depend on in our daily lives. Schools to educate our children. Roads and bridges to drive on. Mass transit so we have mobility options. Police, fire, and emergency medical services. Libraries to permit access to knowledge. Parks, pools, and trails to recreate in.

These things, collectively the commons, or what we own as a people — aren’t free. We have to pay for them. Right wing Republicans have suggested for years that we either don’t need these things, or that we can have them without paying for them. And they are wrong — completely wrong — on both counts.

At times, Republicans like Sam Brownback have dishonestly tried to sell their tax cut schemes by claiming that tax cuts stimulate the economy to such an effect that revenue will not be impaired and there will be no harmful effects on public services.

But we know from experience that such schemes lead to disastrous results. Trickle down doesn’t. Giving tax cuts to the wealthy is a recipe for further impoverishment.

Public services need dependable revenue, and dependable revenue is generated by levying taxes. The taxes we pay can be thought of as the price of membership in our state and country. Together, by pooling our resources, we can invest in the things we need, like public schools. We can’t have those things otherwise.

And taxes should be levied as fairly and responsibility as possible. Ability to pay should be the primary consideration when drawing up a tax code.

Kansas sensibly has a state income tax. Restoring that tax so that it can once again generate a more appropriate level of revenue for the state was a necessary action.

The Legislature should have gone even further, but again, considering the degree to which the Republican Party dominates Kansas politics, what happened last night is something of a miracle. Enough Republicans came to their senses to override a veto by a man who ostensibly serves as Kansas’ chief executive, but has in reality been running the state right into the ground.

To the National Federation of Independent Business and other Brownback allies who are upset with this vote, we ask: Where is your patriotism?

It is patriotic to be a taxpayer and pay your dues. Healthy public services are the foundation for broad prosperity. Our economy is stronger when it is inclusive, and we can include more people in our economy by pooling our resources.

Every businessperson should understand and appreciate the concept of an investment. Paying taxes to create and sustain great public services is an investment. Through the wise investment of our tax dollars, we’ve been able to afford many scientific, medical, and technological breakthroughs.

Consider all the technologies developed by NASA or NASA’s contractors that were necessary for us to successfully explore space. The development of those technologies was a huge boon to our private sector.

A strong private sector requires a strong public sector. That is why it is so important we invest in our public sector. That is what taxes are all about.

Grover Norquist’s philosophy of drowning government in a bathtub is disastrous for the United States of America and will only lead to utter ruin.

It’s good to see at least some Republicans in Kansas now recognize that.