Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

A Bad Week: Criticism of the Governor Should Not Abate

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

A Bad Week: Criticism of the Governor Should Not Abate

Article excerpt

It has been Brownback week on the Capital-Journal's opinion page, and it's easy to see why. The state's budget is in a perpetual state of turmoil, vital institutions and services are chronically underfunded and the governor has consistently abrogated his responsibility to address these problems. We won't always be so relentless in our criticism of Brownback, but this is a distinctly alarming time for Kansas.

First, we condemned the administration's pension delay. The decision to withhold a $99 million payment (the new figure is $6 million higher than the one we ran in the editorial) to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System is not a solution to the budget deficit -- it's a desperate attempt to avoid the problem.

Governments rarely do things that are manifestly bad for everyone involved, but this is one such case: KPERS has to wait for its funds, the people of Kansas get a hollow expedient in place of sound policy and the Brownback administration suffers the political consequences of tampering with the state's pension account.

Second, we asked the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 508, which would close the LLC loophole that keeps 330,000 Kansans from paying business income taxes. Unlike Brownback's pension procrastination, this measure would be a reasonable step toward deficit reduction and it would finally get Kansas moving in the direction of sustainable fiscal policy.

In Thursday's editorial, we noted the $250 million that the LLC loophole costs Kansas in annual tax revenue. According to the most recent revenue projections, our state is going to be $228 million poorer over the next 15 months. I'm no economist, but the two might be related.

In spite of these numbers, Brownback remains hopelessly intransigent: "I do not believe it would be useful to have a debate about raising taxes on small businesses or anyone else." Here are a few of his alternatives to a sensible tax increase: 1) delay the pensions, 2) slash another $17 million from universities and 3) sacrifice millions of future dollars from a 1998 tobacco settlement for a one-time payment of $158 million. …

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