Lots of Legislative time wasted over Senate Bill 22
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 22 this week, saying she was not interested in endorsing another tax experiment like the one that former governor Sam Brownback and his misguided supporters promoted.
Kansans would do well to tell their Republican senators and representatives who backed Brownback all the way to the state’s financial ruins that the shenanigans are over.
“Just two short years ago, the State of Kansas found itself on the brink of financial disaster,’’ Gov. Kelly wrote in a news release about the veto. “Even after depleting state savings and enduring multiple rounds of devastating budget cuts, unsustainable tax policy continued to perpetuate fiscal crisis. We saw schools close and class sizes grow. We saw an overwhelmed child welfare system let children fall through the cracks. And despite promises of immediate prosperity, Kansas routinely ranked among the nation’s worst in multiple economic indicators.’’
As the budget hole continued to grow, Gov. Kelly said “the Legislature passed two sales tax increases, swept more than $2 billion from the state highway fund, delayed numerous payments to the state pension system, accumulated historic levels of debt and raided every critical investment from early childhood education to public safety.’’
But in the end, she said, “none of these short-term band aids could stem the bleeding caused by reckless tax policy. In November of 2016, Kansans called for change.’’
The very next year, she said, the state hit “reset’’ in a historic act of bipartisanship with the passage of comprehensive tax reform.
“Our credit score improved within a week. The number of Kansans participating in the labor force increased for the first time since 2014 and we’ve finally begun to heal from the unprecedented devastation found in state agencies and state programs,’’ Kelly said. “However, we have only just started the rebuilding process. Our recovery is tenuous; our budget is fragile. The State of Kansas cannot afford to make a U-turn.’’
Unfortunately, the governor said, Senate Bill 22 would absolutely dismantle all the progress that the state has made.
“It would throw our state once again into a self-inflicted budget crisis, diminishing all the investments we’ve worked so hard to rebuild and restore. It would put our future at risk once again in order to give significant tax breaks to entities who need them the least, while continuing to leave working families behind,’’ she said.
Additionally, as noted by the Senate President during the floor debate, Senate Bill 22 would put Kansas out of compliance with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement. This would potentially cost Kansas up to $18 million in lost revenue - on top of the bill’s already unaffordable $200 million price tag in the next fiscal year, the governor said.
“I look forward to working with the Kansas Legislature in the future to achieve our common goal of a reduced food sales tax. However, as I explained repeatedly - both as a candidate for governor and after I took office - we cannot responsibly enact a food sales tax cut until our state’s fiscal health stabilizes. This is not the time,’’ she said. “I share Kansas lawmakers’ desire to keep the state tax burden as low as possible and that will continue to be my priority. In January, I presented a structurally balanced budget to the Kansas Legislature that funded our schools and roads, reduced state debt, left Kansas with the largest ending balance in 20 years, and did so all without a tax increase.’’
Kansans elected Kelly to rebuild the state. Voters elected her to bring fiscally conservative and responsible principles back to our state government, and that is what she is trying to do.
Republican state senators knew full well that the governor would veto their ridiculous spending bill. They promoted it, anyway, to try to look good to the voters back in their districts.
It’s time for the Legislature to quit wasting time and negotiate in good faith on an acceptable compromise.