NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

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.

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