The S&P, a financial ratings agency, reported that Kansas’ fiscal problems are likely to persist, despite the largest tax hike in history. Kansas editorial boards are scrambling to cast doubt on S&P’s prognosis while simultaneously casting blame on Gov. Sam Brownback. The Topeka Capital-Journal scribblers also take aim at Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for good measure.
The editorials are part of an ongoing attempt to take pressure off lawmakers who voted for the retroactive $1.2 billion tax increase last month.
“While the state has boosted ongoing revenues through income tax increases, appropriations also have increased, leading to the persistence of structural imbalance in the biennium,” S&P said, echoing the sentiments of the Brownback administration. When Brownback signed the bloated budget, he said the 2017 legislators made history for all the wrong reasons.
“Passing the largest tax hike in history, this legislature passed the biggest budget in state history–and they’ve already spent every dime,” Brownback said.
Media cheerleaded the tax increase, and now are rising to defend the big spenders. (The big spenders are on their own public relations’ tours attempting to ease the anger of people now taking home smaller paychecks.)
The Kansas City Star editorial writers condescend to their readers: “The state has gone back to those piggy banks over and over again in recent years. At some point, Kansas taxpayers will have to refill them. That’s the ‘structural imbalance’ idea that the budget wizards talk about,” the editorial sneers.
There’s no mention of the current legislature drawing on the same tricks to balance the budget. The budget sweeps funds from the Kansas Department of Transportation and defers KPERS payments.
Underfunding KPERS is a long-standing Kansas tradition. When the state has extra money, lawmakers spend it all rather than directing money to the pension program. The Kansas City Star also avoids mentioning that the Brownback administration has paid more into KPERS than any administration in decades.
The Topeka Capital-Journal at least mentions that the new budget is balanced using the same old tricks, though the editorial board says the S&P report shouldn’t be interpreted as a “damning rebuke of the Legislature.” It’s odd the same editorial board viewed a more favorable report from another financial service, Moody’s, as a raving review of the legislature’s efforts. Moody’s adjusted Kansas’ credit rating from “negative” to “stable” after lawmakers passed the largest tax increase in history, and the Cap-J scribblers called Moody’s adjustment “evidence that better days are ahead for our state.” (They threw a few jabs at Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook in for good measure, while begging citizens not to disparage lawmakers for their votes to increase taxes.)
The new budget spends every dime of the tax increase, uses the same old parlor tricks, and is busted in two years. The only thing taxpayers have to show for it are smaller paychecks. For Star and the Cap-J scribblers, that’s a reason to celebrate, even though, as the Star sarcastically notes, the S&P report “also suggests that–wait for it– more tax increases could be necessary in the years ahead.”