Topeka Labor groups on Wednesday accused Gov. Sam Brownback of an all-out attack on working Kansans through his tax plan and other legislation.
“When this governor’s signature policy this session is a tax ‘cut’ package that will actually increase taxes on working families, it is safe to say that he has lost touch with Kansas values,” said Terry Forsyth, president of Working Kansas Alliance.
But Brownback, in an event with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, defended his proposal.
“We need to do something,” Brownback said. He described his tax plan as a “flat tax with a business accelerator.” He said it would create jobs, grow the economy growth and reduce poverty.
Brownback’s plan, which started getting aired in the House Taxation Committee, would reduce the state income tax rate, give thousands of businesses a tax break, eliminate numerous deductions and keep in place the 6.3 percent state sales tax that under current law is scheduled to decrease to 5.7 percent next year.
Kent Eckles, with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said tax reform in Kansas was long overdue.
“The status quo is not working,” he said.
But critics of the Brownback plan say the removal of deductions such as interest on home mortgages, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food sales tax rebate would hurt middle and low-income families. They also say making permanent the temporary state sales tax increase would represent a broken promise.
House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said he doubts Brownback’s tax plan could get majorities in the House or Senate because it increases taxes on low-income Kansans to pay for a tax cut for businesses.
And Forsyth and Democratic legislative leaders talked about a host of bills pushed by Republicans that they said would lead to lower wages, silence political speech, and make it more difficult to collect unemployment and workers compensation benefits.
Forsyth noted that last year Brownback issued a proclamation for a week of reconciliation in which he asked Kansans to settle their differences. But with the abundance of anti-worker bills, Forsyth said Brownback was practicing “hug and mug.”
One of the biggest issues is Brownback’s support of legislation to move the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. But that proposal will cost the state $10 billion more overall than the current system and will do nothing to solve financial problems with KPERS, said Forsyth, Davis and Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.