www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Adapting to change -12/17/2014, 10:30 AM

Brownback's 'vision' -12/17/2014, 10:30 AM

Young at heart -12/17/2014, 10:29 AM

Newman provides western Kansas education -12/17/2014, 10:29 AM

Big banks win again -12/16/2014, 9:37 AM

Securing the future of aerospace in Kansas -12/16/2014, 9:36 AM

The future with Brownback -12/16/2014, 9:36 AM

White Christmas, red Christmas -12/15/2014, 9:20 AM

A reason to celebrate -12/15/2014, 9:20 AM

Building a competitive opposition party -12/14/2014, 4:33 PM

Without religious freedom, there won't be peace -12/14/2014, 4:33 PM

Flying Hays later -12/14/2014, 4:33 PM

Allowing torture -12/12/2014, 10:11 AM

Racing to Lake Wobegone -12/12/2014, 10:10 AM

What's rule of law? -12/12/2014, 10:10 AM

Media bias -12/11/2014, 10:13 AM

It's not about race -12/11/2014, 10:12 AM

A new civil war -12/11/2014, 10:12 AM

Climate catastrophe -12/11/2014, 10:12 AM

The case of Scott Panetti -12/10/2014, 10:14 AM

Word origins -12/10/2014, 10:14 AM

Kansas will bleed -12/10/2014, 10:13 AM

Minions' mess -12/10/2014, 10:13 AM

Prescription farmers -12/10/2014, 10:12 AM

Vaccines make sense -12/9/2014, 11:02 AM

Net neutrality -12/9/2014, 8:45 AM

Tell me it isn't so? -12/9/2014, 2:53 PM

Willing to do without -12/9/2014, 8:45 AM

KDOT funding -12/9/2014, 8:45 AM

The man elected -12/8/2014, 10:00 AM

Understanding white privilege -12/8/2014, 10:00 AM

Making sure crime doesn't pay -12/8/2014, 10:00 AM

Do Kansans really care? -12/7/2014, 3:17 PM

Core freedoms under fire -12/7/2014, 3:17 PM

Nation needs new approach -12/6/2014, 3:17 PM

Tons of fun on tap -12/5/2014, 9:48 AM

A Christmas plea -12/5/2014, 9:48 AM

School privatization via convenient debt -12/5/2014, 9:48 AM

Race in America -12/4/2014, 10:20 AM

The gift of petroleum -12/4/2014, 10:20 AM

A Charlie Brown Christmas miracle -12/4/2014, 10:19 AM

Care and feeding of farm animals -12/3/2014, 10:19 AM

Let's talk about 'black on black' crime -12/3/2014, 10:19 AM

Sports complex -12/3/2014, 4:14 PM

-12/3/2014, 10:00 AM

Kudos to school for bilingual efforts -12/2/2014, 11:42 AM

Wages prompting county workers to seek better jobs -12/2/2014, 11:42 AM

County employees urge public's support -12/2/2014, 11:42 AM

'Horrible Bosses 2' disappoints;  new 'Star Wars' trailer thrills -12/2/2014, 10:19 AM

Power rests with House speaker -12/2/2014, 10:01 AM

Climate change -12/2/2014, 10:38 AM

Ferguson's pain -12/1/2014, 10:21 AM

Out of sight, or out of luck? -12/1/2014, 10:20 AM

Blacks, whites need to wake up to injustice -12/1/2014, 10:20 AM

Kansas turns South -11/30/2014, 5:33 PM

When should holy days become holidays? -11/30/2014, 5:33 PM

Future of health care -11/30/2014, 5:33 PM

Giving thanks -11/27/2014, 3:08 PM

Give a child hope and a home -11/26/2014, 9:12 AM

Holiday shopping -11/26/2014, 9:12 AM

Today's faults -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Meatless Mondays -- forget about it -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Cosby, serial rapist? That's a lot to forgive -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Letting it fly -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

KanCare oversight -11/26/2014, 7:45 AM

Giving thanks for blessings as Kansans -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Local fixes to local problems? -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Energy security -11/25/2014, 10:11 AM

Elite contempt for ordinary Americans -11/24/2014, 9:12 AM

Pipeline politics -11/24/2014, 10:04 AM

They killed Peter Kassig -11/24/2014, 10:04 AM

Going from bad to good on election night -11/23/2014, 6:38 PM

Free Speech can be shield or a sword -11/23/2014, 6:38 PM

Dodge City merger -11/22/2014, 6:38 PM

House mis-speaker -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Obama vs. Us -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Really smart conservatives love public debt -11/21/2014, 9:50 AM

Official welcome -11/20/2014, 9:52 AM

Control freaks in the U.S. -11/20/2014, 1:24 PM

How did we get here? -11/20/2014, 9:52 AM

An open letter to the GOP -11/19/2014, 10:03 AM

Successful farming -11/19/2014, 10:03 AM

Getting personal -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

Teachers, not facilities -11/18/2014, 9:15 AM

Schoolteachers and the Legislature -11/18/2014, 9:06 AM

Water vision -11/18/2014, 9:06 AM

I see wonderful things -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Politics prevail over truth in Kansas elections -11/17/2014, 9:26 AM

Progress at mall -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Opinions on the general election -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Why are schools afraid of freedom? -11/16/2014, 5:22 PM

Educational fraud -11/14/2014, 9:42 AM

The American public gets smart -11/14/2014, 9:41 AM

State revenue -11/13/2014, 4:48 PM

Staying positive -11/13/2014, 2:14 PM

Democracy delusions -11/13/2014, 2:14 PM

An awesome tribute -11/13/2014, 2:14 PM

Military underpaid -11/12/2014, 2:15 PM

Success for Moran -11/12/2014, 11:54 AM

Shop wisely when you go -11/12/2014, 11:53 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Deeper in debt Kansas goes

Published on -7/14/2013, 12:59 PM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

"I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt."

Thomas Jefferson

The radical Republicans who now rule Kansas often hail Jefferson as an icon of their small government dogma but have not heeded his warning.

In their struggle to clean up the financial mess they created one year ago, Gov. Sam Brownback and his political allies focused on taxes and spending and gave little attention to the effect of their actions on state borrowing. Their inattention could damage the state's credit ratings for the long-term.

Kansans might not be aware that during the past 25 years, their state government aggressively has issued debt to address its obligations. As of July 2012, the state had $3.2 billion in tax-supported debt on its balance sheets, an amount more than twice that of our surrounding states, both in terms of per capita debt and debt as a percentage of state personal income.

Brownback has continued along this path. During his governorship, he has signed off on $660 million in new tax-supported debt and plans to issue another $360 million this year and next. In addition, he has supported $580 million in new borrowing financed by other state revenues.

Kansas historically has managed its debt professionally and maintained rock-solid credit ratings. However, Brownback's perilous tax experiment has placed state finance on an unsustainable course, with state government now projected to spend more than it takes in this year and each of the next four years until it goes underwater in a sea of red ink. And shaky finances assuredly will weaken the state's borrowing capacity -- eroding credit ratings and raising the cost of borrowing.

Moody's, one of the nation's most reputable credit rating agencies, issued state lawmakers a shot across the bow last week with an unprecedented three-step downgrade of $200 million in economic development bonds that are secured by state income taxes. The value of those Kansas securities plummeted immediately, and any investor holding the bonds will face huge losses in trying to sell them.

Another canary-in-the-mine alert came a few weeks earlier when Moody's gave investors a "negative outlook" on $14 million in state bonds issued in 2010 to finance student union improvements at Emporia State University. Moody's cited "flat state funding" as one of the factors in its warning, likely unaware just days earlier state lawmakers had cut the university's tax support by $1.5 million, or nearly 5 percent in the current year.

The budget cuts required to finance Brownback's income tax cuts will increasingly draw the scrutiny of credit rating agencies and inevitably diminish the state's credit. Investors will become more wary of Kansas state debt, and borrowing costs will edge upward.

State lawmakers also have embarked on a slippery slope by applying bond proceeds from long-term debt to pay for current-year obligations. This egregious practice was begun in 2009 to deal with the economic downturn but has been continued by Brownback for his purposes. For example, in December, the state issued $200 million in highway bonds. One month later, Brownback applied those and prior bond proceeds to pay for an array of operational expenses in his two-year budget, including $248 million for school finance and $10 million for mental health. Republican legislators gave their approval.

In essence, the state highway fund has become a finance play pen for lawmakers. They could apply excess highway funds to improve roads or pay off existing debt. Instead, Kansans will be paying sales taxes, gas taxes and vehicle registration fees into the highway fund for the next 20 years in order to pay for income tax cuts in the current fiscal year and next. Even with this perversion of state finance, Brownback's risky tax experiment continues on an unsustainable course.

Jefferson would be appalled.

H. Edward Flentje is a professor

at Wichita State University.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News