Kansas editorial boards speak with one voice, leading outsiders to believe conservatives were vanquished from the Sunflower State circa 2016. That’s poppycock.
Kansans elected Gov. Sam Brownback twice, and despite the best efforts of leftists and their allies in the media, conservatives make up about a third of the Kansas Legislature. Meanwhile conservatives make up about zero percent of editorial writers at Kansas newspapers, who went into overdrive this weekend making an almost universal plea for the Governor to allow a massive tax hike to become law.
The Topeka Capitol-Journal bemoaned: “If Brownback decides to kill this bipartisan attempt to save Kansas from its worsening fiscal crisis, he’ll be abdicating his responsibility to do what’s in the state’s best interest.”
The Emporia Gazette piled on in an editorial entitled, “Sign Here, Mr. Governor.”
Not to be outdone, the Kansas City Star, a Missouri newspaper, said the legislators who passed the tax increase, “showed enormous courage.”
“But the message to the governor and the people of Kansas was clear: Half-measures and one-time accounting tricks are not acceptable. The budget must be balanced,” the Star editorial intones.
The Lawrence Journal-World editorial board took a slightly softer tone: “The last hurdle the bill faces is Gov. Sam Brownback, who could sign the bill, veto it or simply ignore it, which would allow it to become law. The latter is the right thing for the governor to do. That way he could register his opposition without having to veto a plan that has both legislative and public momentum behind it.”
Perhaps the most venomous of editorial boards, the Garden City Telegram, spared readers the niceties, suggesting Brownback’s motive for defending tax cuts is pride rather than the Republican principles of economic freedom and limited government.
All of the editorials spared Kansans large helpings of the truth, making misleading claims that today’s budget challenges are the result of 2012 tax cuts. They ignore that Kansas was having trouble paying its bills long before Brownback took office. Nary a mention of overspending.
Several of the editorials note that Kansas has budget challenges despite tax increases in 2013 and 2015, but they fail to connect the dots between raising taxes and spending that continues to outpace tax revenues.
If the last two tax hikes haven’t balanced the budget, what makes editorial writers believe these new proposed taxes will?
In 1996, the state spent $3.4 billion. In 2016, the state spent $6 billion. If the 2012 tax cuts busted the budget, state coffers would be low. Not true. Despite tax cuts to small businesses and to most citizens, the state brought in more money in 2012 than it did in 2013.
Of course, these tax myths are helped along by legislators unwilling to do the difficult task of parsing through department budgets and finding cuts. Consider an update by Rep. Don Hineman. He wrote in a weekly update to constituents that even with the tax hike he voted for, residents will still be “paying income taxes at a lower rate than they were in 2012.”
Hineman neglects to mention that the tax hike doesn’t reinstate the full mortgage-interest deduction. He also ignores the tax hikes of 2013 and 2015, which will remain on the books. Some residents may be paying less in income taxes. That’s debatable, since homeowners now take smaller mortgage interest deduction. Also residents still pay higher sales taxes than they did in 2012.
Every editorial makes the laughable claim that Kansans want higher taxes. There’s no evidence to support the claim that citizens are clamoring to pay more. Instead, consider a recent newsletter from Sen. Julia Lynn.
“Curiously, my rather voluminous phone calls and emails are running 3-1 against further taxes and 2-1 against cuts to school funding,” she wrote.
Residents may want to send more money to public schools, but they don’t want to pay for it with higher taxes.
It’s difficult to find a single piece of campaign literature for any legislator that lauds raising income taxes on the middle class. The editorial boards also apparently missed results from a recent survey of 500 voters that revealed only 4 percent support raising income taxes.
How quickly Kansas editorial writers forget what Moody’s said about Kansas prior to the 2012 tax cuts. The bond credit ratings service said Kansas has “weak pension funded status;” the state had “a continued use of non-recurring measures to achieve operating budget balance;” and Kansas “reported fiscal 2010 general fund balance was negative for a second year.”
The majority of editorial writers pretend the sun shone brightest in Kansas prior to 2012. Those glory days included economic stagnation, explosive spending, excessive taxation and more school funding lawsuits. Not that you’ll hear that story from media or their left-leaning allies in the legislature.
The good news is you won’t find many Kansans reading the vaunted opinions coming from the Kansas editorial board echo chamber. Newspaper readership is in the dumps. Weekday circulation is circling the drain, and those losses picked up speed in 2015. Perhaps that’s because editorial writers and even reporters have lost touch with many of the people they say they serve.