Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Carpenter: Time for Governor to Take Charge

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Carpenter: Time for Governor to Take Charge

Article excerpt

Inertia at the Capitol regarding the ghastly budget deficit requires intervention by a Kansan in possession of the right brand of partisan muscle and unencumbered by an upcoming re-election campaign.

With the entire House and Senate standing before voters next year, the onus falls to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The Republican governor has watched GOP colleagues flounder for months while trying to craft a coherent strategy for resolving a budget shortfall tied to aggressive income tax cuts signed in 2012 by Brownback.

Democrats and liberal Republicans, targeted for ruin by Brownback based on their vote to temporarily raise the sales tax rate amid the national recession in 2010, have remained on the sideline as conservative GOP legislators gasped for oxygen amid a pool of red ink. Ironically, some Republicans think the remedy in 2015 is a higher sales tax.

"We have a serious lack of leadership," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

Brownback, who won re-election in November, began the session in January by suggesting $100 million in sin taxes on liquor and cigarettes. He promoted a $30 million amnesty program for tax cheaters -- no interest or penalty if they pay taxes owed.

He could have welcomed legislators back to Topeka in April with a complete fix, but for whatever reason chose inaction.

Top House and Senate leaders on the State Finance Council, chaired by the governor, registered their frustration by spiking Brownback's proposal to funnel cash to seven public school districts in financial distress. Both chambers voted to override the governor's veto of a bill regulating the Uber ride-share company.

The governor, with the 90th day of the session approaching, is still in position to be a Knight in Shining Armor.

Brownback could save legislators from gridlock this week with a formal, public plan that identifies a minimum of $420 million in spending decreases and revenue increases necessary to keep state government afloat after July 1.

He could more easily deflect political attacks from the right and left certain to follow recommendations for a hefty tax hike. …

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