Trickle-Down Goes Belly-Up

The conservative activist Grover Norquist once famously said that government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub.  Almost equally thoughtless was his pledge, eventually signed by multitudes of legislators on the right, never to raise taxes.

That pledge, and with it possibly Mr. Norquist’s influence among conservatives, just went belly-up.  Here’s what seems to be behind the change of heart.

Kansas is among several Republican-dominated states  that must either raise taxes or drastically cut programs like education and the social safety net.  Other states faced with a similar Hobson’s choice include Louisiana, whose Republican governor Bobby Jindal is said to be considering a run for the Presidency, and Wisconsin, whose  Republican Gov. Scott Walker has already expressed interest in that job.

In Kansas, the state’s sales tax will become one of the highest in the country.  In addition to this move, cigarette taxes in Kansas will go up by 50 cents per pack.  Two things should be pointed out regarding these tax hikes.

First, they were sorely needed.  Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s promises of economic growth and a plentitude of new jobs, engendered by $3.8 billion in tax cuts, failed utterly.  Kansas was left with a budget shortfall of about 12%.  Also, although the state’s legislature voted for these and other new taxes almost unanimously, they’ve still not thrown in the towel regarding their preferred approach to funding government.  As the president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and a former Kansas House Speaker said recently, … the state remains committed to Gov. Brownback's promised march to zero income taxes.  That can be interpreted, not unreasonably, as: Let’s try to keep shifting fiscal burdens to those least able to shoulder them.

That last isn’t a good idea; many Kansas legislators will seek re-election in 2016.


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