Lame-duck Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback had some choice words for legislators Monday after the 2017 session officially came to a close. Actually, it was more of a scolding the state’s chief executive offered departing lawmakers after repudiating his signature tax policies.
“This legislative session made history but for all the wrong reasons,” Brownback stated in a press release. “This Legislature passed the biggest budget in state history — and they’ve already spent every dime.”
We get that he’s sore. The governor, who at one time had presidential aspirations, has been celebrated by the far right and rewarded with numerous speaking engagements for touting the economic miracle that was blessing Kansans.
Trouble was, the trickle-down economic plan never trickled. So what the Legislature finally managed to do was end an unwise experiment that had the state headed straight for bankruptcy. Brownback either never grasped the financial reality — or simply refused to acknowledge it.
Still, he begrudgingly signed the budget plan into law. And rather than meekly retreat to his Statehouse office, Brownback is hurling accusations that are rich in irony and deficient in economic and democratic soundness. His paid staff is doing the same, as readers can note on this very editorial page.
“The Legislature — despite borrowing and delaying payments — chose to spend over $200 million in new spending on top of increased funding for schools,” Brownback said. “This budget pays for a legislative wish list on the backs of working Kansans.”
The governor saved the best for last: “This session marks a drastic departure from fiscal restraint. I trust that future Legislatures will return to a pro-growth orientation that will once again set Kansas on the path toward becoming the best state in America to raise a family and grow a business.”
Of course, Brownback’s assertion presumes fiscal restraint and growth had been taking place in the Sunflower State for the past five years.
The facts speak otherwise. Delayed and skipped payments on state obligations, massive new debt, underfunding and cutting education, social services and health care, and the largest sales tax increase in history led to multiple credit downgrades, the most anemic job growth in the nation, and the flight of bright professionals and their families. The state did experience a record number of new business filings — prompted by the infamous LLC exemption — as well as a handful of company headquarters from the other side of the Kansas City metropolitan area lured by tax breaks. The two sides of the ledger don't even compare.
Brownback’s chastising legislators for sticking up for the good people of this state is unfortunate. It’s taken until 2017, but at last a vast majority of Kansans and elected lawmakers have caught on that the governor’s roadmap ended at the bottom of a cliff.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry