As the people of Kansas head into the long weekend, they should take a moment to give thanks that their elected representatives are so dedicated to serving their needs. The state’s fiscal year is winding down and legislators are still looking for a way to make Sam Brownback’s mathematical delusions mesh with the real world, and taxpayers are shelling out over $40,000 a day for a special session because their representatives couldn’t fix the governor-inflicted budget damage by the deadline.
The state’s normal legislative session ended [May 15] without producing a bill to address the $765 million deficit for the fiscal year that begins this summer. Even assuming that legislators employ a handful of one-time fund transfers proposed by Brownback, there’s still over $400 million of ground to make up. Lawmakers are staying in Topeka to hammer out a deal, but there has been little progress so far in establishing a consensus on how to fill the gap. Even operating with a barebones staff, each extra day of the session is adding $43,000 to the wrong side of the cash-strapped state’s ledger.
Don’t worry, Kansans: legislators are being smart with your money. After spending four extra days failing to do their jobs, they’ve stopped the clock on their overtime while they’re out enjoying an extended holiday weekend. Republican leadership in the House and Senate adjourned about 3:00 Thursday afternoon, but they’ll be back, sunburned and bloated and costing you $43K a day, on Tuesday to keep not solving your state’s problems.
If House Bill 2435 is any indication, Kansas’s heavily Republican legislature hasn’t given up on scraping the last bit of pulp out of the melon rind of money that public schools have left. This proposal, which would supposedly reclaim $150 million in revenue, would end sales tax exemptions for contractors purchasing materials for public projects. With contractors bidding higher for jobs to account for the tax, public entities like school districts would have even less purchasing power with the meager funds the state will still throw them for new construction and repairs.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that “during a hearing Wednesday in the House Tax Committee, only Rodger Woods, with Americans for Prosperity, testified in favor of House Bill 2435.” That’s weird, since Americans for Prosperity never wants anyone to pay more tax for things. But Woods thinks making schools’ contractors chip in would create a “perpetual motion machine” in which the state could take in more sales tax revenue that would then recirculate through different parts of the government. Would Kansas maybe give some of that revenue to the schools so they could still fix things when contractors are all charging more? Going on recent experience with Kansas Republicans, we are guessing not.
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-Kansas City, pressed Woods on whether districts would have to cut back projects if they can’t pass along costs to taxpayers. Woods said it is likely they would have to do that.
“If you’re increasing the cost of the project by the sales tax, you have a finite budget, you’re going to have to cut back future projects. It seems like that has a negative effect on the economy, construction, jobs, all of that,” Wolfe Moore said.
Look, Kathy, everyone has to give up a little something to keep the state afloat. And before you go trying to repeal some of the ludicrously outsized income tax breaks that Gov. Brownback has handed to the state’s top earners, try to have a little faith in GOP budget magic, which says the less-taxed rich will just be cold creating all the jobs the second one of their dollars is liberated from taxation.
And if a couple of years go by and your state’s falling apart because that budget magic turns out to be a tattered trick top hat with a dead rabbit in its hidden compartment, just find some “efficiencies” to trim from your budget, like food for hungry kids and navigable roads. And while you’re fighting over the details of that, take a break to give your state’s chief voter suppressionist, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, some new powers to personally prosecute alleged voter fraud cases, since that’s a key priority.
And if it gets past lunchtime the day before the four day weekend, don’t get bogged down in some debate over taxes that holds the key to saving your state from financial ruin, since you might get stuck in traffic trying to get out of Topeka.
Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, Kansas Republicans! See you next Tuesday.