Editorial: Revenue insult

A proposal to essentially keep state revenue reports private is nonsensical, political and beneath the dignity of the office of governor.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s insistence on maintaining a set of fiscal policies that consistently puts the Kansas budget in peril has infuriated many.

But Brownback’s critics would sound more credible if they occasionally would recognize that the governor won re-election, and essentially has been enacting the policies that he campaigned upon. His opponents had every opportunity to defeat him, and they did not. On this point, the governor has the ultimate comeback: He won.

But now, Brownback has moved beyond infuriating and into the realm of insulting. The panel of experts he appointed to study ways to make the state’s revenue forecasting process better came up with many ideas. Some of them are sound. One of them is beyond the pale: Stop making the reports available to the public.

The reports compare how much the state actually collects each month with official estimates of how much the state was expected to collect. Most months since Brownback’s tax cuts, the monthly reports have shown state revenues falling short of the estimates. It is a dose of bad news each month and a reminder to voters that the governor’s tax policies are making Kansas’ problems worse, not better.

Apparently, the governor has decided he’s had all the bad news he can handle. One of the recommendations from the task force was to issue monthly reports that compare only actual collections each month with actual collections from the same month the prior year.

There are many points that could be raised here, but one key question ought to suffice: Does this mean members of the Kansas Legislature won’t be able to see the revenue estimates? If not, how can this be justified? The Kansas Legislature is responsible for passing spending bills. If anyone should have access to all reports about the state’s fiscal condition, it should be the Legislature.

If legislators are allowed access to the revenue reports and Brownback believes they won’t become public, then the governor must have damaged his mental faculties by standing too long in his much-talked-about Kansas sunshine. Or perhaps it was the fumes from the laboratory where he conducts his experiments on the Kansas economy. If lawmakers are allowed access to the reports, it is a given that those reports will be leaked to the press and the public. Why wouldn’t members of the opposition party do so? It gives them a monthly opportunity to make the governor look doubly bad: His tax policies don’t work, and he’s trying to hide that fact.

Simply put, this idea is an insult to the intelligence of Kansas voters. The appropriate officials should reject this proposal, and the governor should use it as an opportunity for reflection. He is within his rights to maintain his hidebound support for his fiscal policies. But he also must maintain the dignity of the office he holds. Such clearly political and nonsensical proposals as this one fail to meet that requirement.