The GOP wants to hold Kansas state workers hostage in budget debates, but Democrats may have a better solution
Disastrous. Inept. Downright sh*tty. Those are some words that would accurately describe Sam Brownback’s career as a Kansas state governor.
After Brownback and his GOP cronies passed hefty income tax breaks to Kansans in 2012, what has resulted is an abysmal hole in the Kansas state budget. As a result of this multi-million budget shortfall, schools have closed, more restrictions were placed on those in need of financial assistance, and infrastructure, education and healthcare funding have taken a major beating.
Now, Gov. Brownback is expecting to furlough “non-essential” government employees if a balanced budget is not passed by June 7; state workers will be on leave without pay until an agreement is reached. At this point, Brownback is playing whack-a-mole with all the problems his tax policy has caused his state.
The current proposed budget by the Kansas House still leaves the state in a $406 million deficit, which means there is still much work to do. Considerations are finally being made by both parties to freeze income tax breaks for the 2016 fiscal year in order to generate more revenue, but it’s too little, too late. And while tax breaks are being proposed for lower-income families, those families will be hurt more by proposed increases in sales taxes.
KSN Political Analyst Jeff Jarman says:
It shows a real failure on the part of the legislature to do their most important task. The tax policies enacted several years ago have not generated the promised revenues so there’s a fight now about how to correct that and the problem is it admits there has been a real mistake made with tax policy.
The tax breaks have been disastrous to say the least. In the 2014 Governor election, Democratic nominee, Paul Davis, proposed freezing income tax breaks in 2015 — a plan which Brownback openly ridiculed. After the election, when the giant hole in the budget was revealed, rather than freeze income tax breaks in his state, Brownback stayed the course and instead urged Kansas legislators to pass a higher sin tax on alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes, as well as increases to sales tax to replace lost revenue. Needless to say, it simply isn’t enough.
Kansas Democrats have proposed a short-term budget that would allocate funding to state workers in order work the budget disagreements and keep paid government workers at their posts. The short-term budget will be voted on by the House this week, but GOP Representatives want a government shutdown in order to throw their political weight around and pressure Democrats into agreeing to their budget proposals and tax policy.
Kansas Democrat House Minority leader, Tom Burroughs, says:
State employees should not be used as political pawns and held hostage during this budget debate. Democrats want to ensure hard working state employees get paid and that state government continues to operate uninterrupted.
A program coordinator for a Kansas university, who would be setback by the furlough, is worried how this stalemate will affect college students, saying:
We have no idea how the furlough will currently affect our college, but the summer semester starts on Monday and we have no answers to provide to students or faculty. I am worried this will affect students’ ability to graduate in a timely manner, or will affect their future semesters as college students.
Delaying state employees’ work will ultimately have a wide-ranging negative affect on the state’s already waning functionality.
The Democrats have the short-term fix, while their GOP counterparts remain blind to the bigger issue: The small-government experiment started by Gov. Brownback is a failure of astronomical proportions and whatever agreement is reached on the budget will ultimately be more loss for Kansans with or without the furlough.
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