The same conservative “principles” of cutting taxes to foster growth have led Governor Sam Brownback’s Kansas to the same place it led Bobby Jindals, Louisiana during his reign.
Republicans in Kansas broke ranks with the state’s conservative governor Tuesday night, voting to raise tax rates and put an end to a series of cuts.
The GOP revolt is a defeat for Gov. Sam Brownback, who overhauled the state’s tax system beginning in 2012, bringing down rates and causing repeated, severe budgetary shortfalls.
Kansas’s legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, but moderate GOP lawmakers joined with Democrats, overriding Brownback’s veto of a bill they’d already passed once that would raise taxes again by $600 million a year. Eighteen of the state’s 31 GOP senators and 49 of the 85 Republican members of the House voted against the governor.
The victory for Brownback’s opponents resulted in part from their gains in last year’s election. Voters — frustrated that public schools were closing early and the state’s highways were in visible disrepair — rejected Brownback’s allies in favor of more moderate Republicans or Democrats.
“It was a hard vote for a lot of people to make last night,” said Rep. Melissa Rooker, a moderate Republican who represents a suburb of Kansas City. “Kansas has had a turn to the far right, and we seem to be centering ourselves.”
The legislation undoes the essential components of Brownback’s reforms, which he famously described as part of a “real-live experiment” in conservative governance.
Brownback had reduced the number of brackets for the state’s marginal rates on income from three to two. The legislature will restore the third bracket, increasing taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent this year and 5.7 percent next year.
Marginal rates on less affluent Kansan households will increase as well, from 4.6 percent to 5.25 percent by next year for married taxpayers making between $30,000 and $60,000 a year and from 2.7 percent to 3.1 percent for those earning less than that.
The legislation also scraps a plan to bring those rates down even further in future years, one of Brownback’s promises to conservative supporters.
Finally, the legislature eliminated a cut Brownback had put in place to help small businesses. Analysts said that the provision had become a loophole, as many Kansans were able to avoid paying taxes entirely by pretending to be small businesses.
Economic Performance (Gains or losses) Kansas versus other states. Notice Wisconsin under Republican Walker also significantly under performs.
Initially, the state forecast that about 200,000 small businesses would take advantage of the break. As it turned out, about 330,000 entities would use Kansas’s new rule. That discrepancy suggests that tens of thousands of workers claimed that their incomes were from businesses they owned rather than from salaries.
“What we were able to do in the last 24 hours can allow us to start down that road, to begin repairing all the damage done after living with Gov. Brownback’s failed tax experiment for five years,” said Annie McKay, who is the president of Kansas Action for Children, an advocacy group in Topeka.
Tuesday’s vote was a rebuke not only for Brownback, but also for Republicans in Washington who have advocated similar cuts in taxes at the national level — including President Trump.