Archive for Saturday, January 28, 2017

Opinion: Voters, please pay close attention

January 28, 2017


Dear Kansans, it’s going to take continued effort and attention from you to complete the changes in school finance, taxation and state budgeting you demanded last November. A great place to begin the work is to read your newspaper. It might help to ignore the adjectives and adverbs in the headlines, but by all means do read the paper — regularly. And try to read some of the internet newsletters and blogs that the various interest groups put out during the legislative session. Clear and complete information is always key to knowing what’s underway in Topeka.

At the start of any legislative session there’s lots of outrage, anger, shock, condemnation and claims of surprise, but this year underneath the WAR DECLARED-sized headlines there are tales of diligence, attention and commitment that should encourage believers in the will of the people. By March or April we’ll know much more as editors and reporters give serious attention to unglamorous but necessary changes in programs, spending and taxation. Voters have an obligation to pay attention.

On school finance, reality is dawning. The “suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state” is going to cost more than has been appropriated for the last several years. All sides of the debate anticipate the state Supreme Court finding that a funding deficiency continues. The participants to the “what comes next?” discussion know that the voters denied the governor’s desire to have a free hand in selecting judicial puppets to help him carry out “starve the beast” educational austerity. With no retention questions for the next four years the Supreme Court is beyond pressure from this governor.

Kansans need to see the Legislature demonstrate objectivity and willingness to consider the requirements created by the varied economic and demographic differences that exist among the state’s school districts. That can happen if voters continue to stay informed, and then remind legislators that they care about the outcome.

Editors, reporters and analysts have demonstrated that the overall budget of the state and its revenue requirements are the other enormous elephants in the room. The 2016 election results show the voters’ altered awareness. First, voters realized cutting out the top income tax bracket and giving Kansas enterprises a tax holiday provided little economic expansion and insignificant growth in new jobs and payroll. Second, voters clearly accept that there is a gaping hole in the available resources to support the myriad services that the state provides. This new legislature appears ready to repair the tax system and end the governor’s “experiment.” A clear majority of the state’s populace and many of the 330,000 exemption beneficiaries express the opinion that the income and business tax cuts are bad policy. But, the pressure has to be maintained.

The current fiscal year’s budget has to be fixed. This is the one spot in the process that can derail the effort to do the big job of re-establishing long-term solvency. If the search for cash, cuts or curtailments to address the immediate shortages becomes the central and loudest issue, opponents of the much needed “structural” repair can prevail through delay and distraction. This must not happen.

So Kansans, stay focused on the real objectives and keep doing what so many did this electoral season. Keep reminding the politicians that we voted for them to do a set of important and specific tasks. Tell them that they are expected to find the necessary fixes, make the necessary compromises, cut the ideological rhetoric and get about the business of putting our state back on the road to solvency and far away from the Laffer Curve.

— Mark Peterson teaches political science at the college level in Topeka.


Richard Heckler 11 months, 3 weeks ago

"cut the ideological rhetoric and get about the business of putting our state back on the road to solvency and far away from the Laffer Curve."

excellent advice .....

Arthur Laffer being laughed off the economic stage

Richard Heckler 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Where republicans went wrong in Kansas

The governor simultaneously signed a pair of bills that raised $384 million in revenue by hiking the state’s sales tax and a host of other levies, including on cigarettes.

“I don’t know that anybody’s happy about it,” Brownback said.

Talk about an understatement. According to various reports from the state capital, several lawmakers cast their votes in tears, one Republican accused the governor’s administration of blackmail, and exactly no one thought the plan actually solved the state’s longterm budget woes. “Next year will be my 40th year in the Legislature, and I have never seen a session like this one,” Anthony Hensley, who leads the Senate’s small contingent of Democrats, told me by phone on Friday. “It was completely chaotic and dysfunctional.”

Kansas's Failed Experiment

All that new revenue, along with about $50 million in spending cuts, was needed to close a deep deficit that had embarrassed its conservative governor and thrown its legislature into a months-long gridlock that resembled, well, Congress.

As we wrote in April, the deficit resulted in large part from Brownback’s own “real live experiment” in supply-side economics—sharp cuts in income tax rates and a huge exemption for owners of small businesses.

Ask any fiscal expert, and Kansas’s budget crisis demanded a reckoning—either with its tax code or its longterm spending structure.

Aligned with conservatives in the Senate, Brownback steadfastly refused to consider a direct reversal of the original tax plan, insisting that the state continue on its path toward replacing the income tax entirely with consumption taxes. The most he would do was freeze the rates, and the result was a plan that will place an even heavier tax burden on the poor, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Hensley said that when state and local sales taxes are combined, Kansas will have the highest tax on food in the nation in some areas of the state. Brownback, who had hired the economist Arthur Laffer to help craft his original tax plan, had been touting the state’s economic recovery to argue that his fiscal vision was starting to work.

A report found that Kansas had lost nearly 4,000 jobs trailing both the national trend and neighboring Missouri, which added 6,600 jobs.

Nothing has changed ..... yet.

Bob Summers 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The short version of Mark Peterson's Liberal rant.

Liberals want more of other people's money.

Their spending of money is not a problem.

They have money confiscation problems.

Richard Heckler 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Mark Peterson comes off as a smart fiscal conservative = fiscally responsible who in fact may be an old school republican.

Gov Brownback Conservatives on the other hand are reckless spenders and mismanagers which do NOT reflect the economic giants of our time.

Gov Brownback Conservatives want more of taxpayers money which is why they are trying to steal more government services with tax dollars still intact.

Privatization is a Ponzi Scheme cooked up by fundamentalists and libertarians with Gov Brownback leading the charge in Kansas.

That's right the ones who say they despise taxes want to steal tax dollar supported programs then divert those taxes into their private bank accounts. Who are these people who despise taxes yet never get off the tax dollar payrolls? that will fund sweet retirement plans for themselves at taxpayer expense?

This is but one example of high crimes by conservatives. Some people have gone to jail for screwing people by way of ponzi shemes.

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