Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday told approximately 1,200 people at the Lied Center that population and job growth were his primary goals in signing into law massive tax cuts.
“I want to win our league,” Brownback said at the Kansas University School of Business Anderson Chandler Lecture Series.
“We are trying to create a pro-growth environment,” said Brownback, a Republican who took office in January 2011.
Outside, a group of about 15 people from the Douglas County Democratic Party held signs that said, “Who Would Jesus Tax?” and “I’d Like a Koch To Buy the World,” a reference to the Koch brothers, leaders of the Wichita-based Koch Industries and financial backers of groups that espouse tax cuts.
Margie Wakefield, vice chair of the Douglas County Democrats, said Brownback’s tax cut “takes from the poor and gives to the rich.”
“The middle class shouldn’t have to pay for tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires,” protester Patricia Brooks said.
Earlier this year, Brownback signed into law sweeping tax cuts that will reduce state individual income tax rates and exempt the owners of nearly 200,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes.
Brownback says the tax cuts will stimulate the economy and create jobs, but critics say the cuts are reckless and unfair, and will result in cuts to schools and other government functions. Legislative researchers say the cuts will produce a cumulative budget shortfall of $2.5 billion over the next six years.
On Monday, Brownback defended the cuts, using charts and graphs.
He said Kansas has been falling behind the region and the rest of the country in population and private sector jobs.
He said more government spending was not the answer.
“I think we have tried that, and it hasn’t worked,” Brownback said.
Brownback said when he took office, the state was facing a projected $500 million shortfall, and now state coffers have rebounded to create a $500 million ending balance. “We did it without raising taxes,” he said. Brownback did not mention the one-cent temporary state sales tax increase that his predecessor Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, pushed through that helped the rebound.
During a question and answer session, an audience member asked Brownback what cuts would have to be made to make up for the lost tax revenue.
Brownback promised to protect “core services,” which he said were public schools, Medicaid and prisons.
He said the tax cuts will produce 23,000 new jobs, give Kansans $2 billion more in disposable income and add 35,000 in population. If a downturn in the economy occurs, Brownback said he and the Legislature will deal with it, just as has been done in the past.
“We will take it as it comes, as we already have,” he said.
Michael Johnson, 54, prefaced his question with a long list of criticisms of actions by Brownback. Brownback said he understood that some don’t agree with his policies but said the best thing to do for people in need is give them an opportunity to get a job.