A recent editorial prepared by the Kansas Republican Party concluded with: “Kansas Republicans are presenting a united front with sound plans to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy. Our philosophy centers on liberating the promise of the individual and family as the answer, not more government growth, on a path to prosperity.”
That’s a fiscally conservative message. The practice of many Kansas Republicans, however, is far removed from this message advocating limited government. Kansas Republicans, especially the Senate leadership, are working to increase taxes in Kansas in a way that leads to more government growth at the expense of many thousands of private sector jobs in favor of government jobs.
It starts with Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson. Although he is a Democrat, it was not long ago he was a Republican, even holding the chairmanship of the Kansas Republican Party. In his State of the State address in January, Parkinson proposed a temporary once cent on the dollar increase in the sales tax and an increase in cigarette taxes. Although the majority of the sales tax is pitched to Kansans as a temporary measure, these temporary taxes have a nasty habit of becoming permanent.
In the Senate, the leadership trio of President Stephen Morris, Vice President John Vratil, and Majority Leader Derek Schmidt agree with the governor that increasing taxes is the way to balance the Kansas budget. In particular, Vratil imported a California law that taxes the sugar content of soda pop. The California law had the benefit that the tax revenue would go towards promoting childhood health. In Kansas, the revenue would go to the general fund.
In both the Senate and the House of Representatives, Republicans hold a majority of seats. But many Republicans do not vote a conservative position on taxes and spending. At a recent legislative forum, Representative Ray Merrick, who is House Majority Leader, explained the political reality in the House. There are 76 Republican members of the House, but Merrick said that on the “very best day” there are 55 who will vote with him, meaning they are conservative Republicans. 63 votes are required to pass legislation in the House.
Who are these legislators that belong to the Republican party but don’t vote with conservatives on issues of taxation and spending? According to rankings prepared by Americans For Prosperity-Kansas, for the 2009 session of the Kansas Legislature, the Democrat with the highest (most fiscally conservative) ranking is Jerry Williams, with a ranking of 55%. There are 11 Republicans who rank equivalent or lower than this. Their names are:
Jill Quigley of Lenexa,
Sheryl Spalding of Overland Park,
Kay Wolf of Prairie Village,
Ron Worley of Lenexa,
Terrie Huntington (now in the Kansas Senate) of Fairway,
Jo Ann Pottorf of Wichita,
Tom Sloan of Lawrence,
Don Hill of Emporia,
Bob Brookens of Marion,
Barbara Craft of Junction City, and
Charles Roth of Salina.
For the Senate, a similar analysis is clouded by the presence of Democrat Chris Steineger, who is an outlier among Democrats for his consistent votes in favor of fiscal restraint and taxpayers. But some of the worst-ranking Republicans are these:
Jean Schodorf of Wichita,
Pete Brungardt of Salina,
Stephen Morris of Hugoton, who is President of the Senate,
Tim Owens of Overland Park,
Roger Reitz of Manhattan,
Derek Schmidt of Independence, who is Senate Majority Leader,
Vicki Schmidt of Topeka, and
John Vratil of Leawood, who is Vice President of the Senate.
The Kansas Economic Freedom Index, a new project of mine, will also let us learn who votes in favor of economic freedom and against big government, no matter what their party affiliation indicates.