Topeka Four former Kansas governors lashed out at the state’s current top administrator on Friday over tax policies they believe have thrown the state into a fiscal nosedive and threaten its future.
Republicans Bill Graves and Mike Hayden joined Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin in declaring the upcoming elections the most important in state history. The four also have formed a political organization, the Save Kansas Coalition, to educate residents about how Gov. Sam Brownback’s policies have hurt the state, the governors said in a letter to residents seeking financial support.
Several former statewide office holders, including Democrats, moderate Republicans and Independents, also are part of the coalition.
“It’s time to acknowledge the experiment has failed,” said Hayden, who was governor from 1987 to 1991. “Being a Kansas conservative used to mean paying off debt, balancing the budget and not running up bills our grandchildren would be expected to pay.”
Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes at Brownback’s urging in 2012 and 2013 in an effort to stimulate the economy. While even some GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that the tax cuts didn’t work as anticipated, Brownback and his top aides blame the state’s ongoing fiscal problems on regional slumps in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing.
The state’s tax collections have fallen short of expectations 10 of the past 12 months.
When asked for a reaction to the coalition’s letter, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley responded that “the governor is focused on working with the Legislature to ensure Kansas schools remain open.”
Lawmakers were mired in a special session Friday, trying to come up with a school funding plan that will pass muster with the Kansas Supreme Court — which declared earlier GOP-backed finance proposals unconstitutional — and keep schools open past June 30.
“I’m not pleased with the direction we’re going and believe we must change the faces in the Legislature,” said Carlin, governor from 1979 to 1987.
It’s the first time so many former Kansas governors representing both parties have taken a united stand against a sitting governor.
Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker sent out a statement calling the move a “political stunt” from governors who had “presided over massive and needless growth in the size of state government.”