Archive for Saturday, January 14, 2017

Opinion: Say no to Brownback’s disastrous ideas

January 14, 2017


Gov. Sam Brownback has known for months that the state budget was shockingly out of balance. He also knew he had authority to order budget cuts and bring spending in line with revenues. His failure to act has allowed red ink to balloon to $350 million this year, plus another $580 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The governor’s latest financial ploys unveiled this week include an astounding mishmash of desperate maneuvers. Two of these stand out in pushing the state deeper into unprecedented debt.

First, the governor proposes to borrow $530 million from private investors and in return hand over to them for 30 years the proceeds from the tobacco settlement of 1999. This drastic maneuver would blow up the Children’s Initiatives Trust Fund and wipe out revenues dedicated to early childhood education.

Second, the governor proposes to borrow another $317 million from the pooled money investment fund and have Kansas taxpayers pay back this loan over seven years. When Kansas State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, newly appointed chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, saw this scheme, she aptly observed: “It looks to me like we’re taking a pay day loan. We are borrowing against ourselves … it’s just going to put us further away from where we need to get to.”

The governor wants to force state legislators into a corner with one-time fixes — layering more long-term borrowing on top of the mountain of debt he has already amassed. Adding new debt to the existing Brownback-era debt burden would be the height of financial mismanagement.

An unvarnished look at our state’s current debt load should give legislators pause:

Under Brownback tax-supported debt has already swollen to an all-time high of $4.7 billion, a 50 percent jump in just two years. Kansas led the nation in boosting its borrowing, according to Moody’s, a respected national credit rating agency, and has now joined the top third of state borrowers that include mostly debt-happy East Coast states. By comparison, states surrounding Kansas all fall into the bottom one-fifth in debt per capita and as a percent of personal income.

This dramatic growth is due to the ill-advised issuance of record levels of pension and highway debt. Under Brownback Kansas has issued $850 million in new highway debt, but none of those funds have gone to improve roads. That amount and more were swept from the highway fund to pay for a reckless tax experiment. In its first year proceeds from the new $1 billion pension debt have fallen short of paying interest on those bonds and have not diminished the state’s $9 billion pension liability.

This debt load coupled with unsustainable state finances has resulted in multiple credit downgrades for the state as a whole and for a number of state agencies engaged in borrowing.

Paying off these debts now takes priority over vital core services — public schools, state colleges and universities, public safety, and aid to vulnerable citizens — and will continue as the top priority every year to come into midcentury, if not longer.

My message to Republican legislators: Shed the toxic Brownback brand of unbalanced budgets, unfair taxes and historic debt. Slam the door on the governor’s one-time fixes. Repair state finances and balance the budget without more debt. Or face the music and start slashing away at state spending.

— H. Edward Flentje is professor emeritus at Wichita State University.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 4 months ago

Gov Brownback is offering nothing new. It is still warmed over ALEC premeditated bankruptcy.

The rhetoric may sound a bit different nonetheless it is setting Kansas up for Bankruptcy so we can be saved by a few billionaires who will swoop in and take over lucrative tax dollar funded state services. Tons of tax dollars will be funneled into private bank accounts.

The bills will still come to taxpayers. What a scam trillions in guaranteed profits while still kicking back a few million into political campaign cookie jars.

Is Kansas being set up by way of loans that sooner or later Kansas cannot repay on time then knock knock knock. Who's there? The leveraged buyout monster dropping by to steal your tax dollar funded services. The debt we incurred through loans has now been moved to the state of Kansas who cannot pay back this loan = leveraged buyout scheme.

KPERS is in larger trouble than ever.

Bob Summers 1 year, 4 months ago

Until the Liberal Brownback cuts expenses, deficits will go on ad infinitum.

Emeritus Liberal Flentje walks in Brownback shoes, proclaiming Or face the music and start slashing away at state spending.

There should never have to be "slashing" if you were not feeding at the trough of other peoples back breaking sweat.

You see, the Liberal HAS to live off the productivity of the working stiff. Flentje and Brownback are classic congenital Liberals. Parasites living off those that work.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 4 months ago

This is getting onerous, Bob. Your exclaiming that Brownkoch is a "liberal" is a lie, is stupid, and is a poor attempt at foisting blame off of the Regressive Party and onto those who have no power to stop the slide.

You have no apparent understanding of economics, Bob, or you'd know that it is not possible to cut enough from the budget to make up for the billions of dollars of debt that this party has created. Even you, Bob, have to drive on publicly supported streets and roads. Even you have to rely on publicly supported fire, medical and police agencies. Even you have to rely on publicly supported education for the training of those who will take over when you can not (assuming you are doing anything productive now).

The facts are that our state is in a quagmire that is sucking us down relentlessly. The way to fix that, short term, is to rely on tax revenue. From everyone. Even you, Bob. If you have a better idea, then put it out there. Be proactive. If not, other than cut, cut, cut, then shut off the rhetoric and relax in your self-supporting, I don't-rely-on-anyone-for-anything pretend world.

This state needs real solutions, Bob. The solutions are going to hurt everyone, especially the "working stiffs" you so blithely reference. But I think that the "working stiffs" will support real solutions because, unlike you, they are thinking of the good of the entire state and their children. It does not need you and your kind blabbering empty-headed nothings that lead only to nothing.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 4 months ago

You REALLY like that label,......."Liberal!!!!!!!).... don't you Bob....trips lightly off the tongue, don't it!!

Everything and everyone that does not agree with your opinion is a LIBERAL!! Even the notoriously alt-right Governor of the State of Kansas is a LIBERAL!!!!! Wow....What foresight and intellect!!

Rush Limbaugh is proud of you!! You are in accord with all his crap, although I do not know if you even listen to this failed sports caster. I check out his web site occasionally for a good laugh.

P.S. Although I, like many folks I know, I have ideas that people like you can categorize both as "liberal" or "conservative" Most folks are like this.

But I would be proud to be one of your "liberal" targets, is warms the strings of my heart!!

Bob Summers 1 year, 4 months ago

Regardless Fred and Greg.

The Liberal human sucks the life out of the productive folk of any society.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 4 months ago

Where do you get those blinders, Bob? I feel pretty productive, myself, so does that make me not a "liberal"? And, I'm fairly OK with paying taxes that support your lifestyle, so does that make me not a "liberal"? Your twisted, inside out "logic" makes no sense. At all.

Now, why don't you make a comment that addresses reality rather than your misunderstanding of how a republic actually works?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 4 months ago

Wow......."liberal human" ..A new target!........ What is THAT?? bigger fish to fry today.............I am gone. (Whew!)

Greg Cooper 1 year, 4 months ago

And Bob's thought is: "Yeah, those congenital Liberals are blocking the highway!"

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