Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Re-Election Woes Created Budget Crisis, Panelist Says ; Trabert: Political Self-Interest Key in Preventing Balanced Cuts

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Re-Election Woes Created Budget Crisis, Panelist Says ; Trabert: Political Self-Interest Key in Preventing Balanced Cuts

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Persistent budget problems dogging Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature would have been solved with a one-time 8.5 percent reduction in state government expenditures.

No alarming budget deficits. No back-to-back increases in state sales tax. No delays in further trimming income taxes.

Dave Trabert, president of the conservative Kansas Policy Institute think tank, said the state's Republican lawmakers lacked necessary courage in 2013 to restrain expenditures to bring the budget in line with revenue declines triggered by a 2012 law slashing individual income tax rates and exempting owners of 330,000 businesses from income tax.

"Legislators did not want to reduce the cost of government," Trabert said during a forum on government cronyism at Anton's KC in the downtown area. "One said during the last session, 'If we did that, we would all lose our jobs.' "

He said the state of Kansas set a record for general fund spending last year. To emphasize disappointment at such a turn of events, Trabert made reference to 2014 campaign remarks by Brownback denouncing skeptics of his plan for job growth and a stable budget. The governor said the people who were trying to paint a Chicken Little sky-is-falling image of the state were just a bunch of liars.

"The sky isn't really falling," Trabert said. "We're poking a new ceiling."

Trabert was joined at the forum by Patrick Tuohey, field manager for a conservative Missouri think tank known as the Show-Me Institute, Steve Vockrodt, a reporter with the alternative newspaper The Pitch, and Genevieve Wood, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Tuohey said city and county governments were addicted to tax- increment financing, or TIFs, to drive investment within communities. Generous tax breaks are great for entrepreneurs looking for a handout, he said, but a lousy deal for taxpayers. …

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