Tag Archives: Government spending

The fight for Kansas jobs

The following is by Interim President and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Kent Beisner.

The Kansas Chamber is the leading business advocacy organization, representing small and large businesses alike employing more than 100,000 Kansans across our state. Our board of directors passed a data-driven, unified agenda in support of streamlining government and reducing the cost of doing business in Kansas.

When seeking to bring additional businesses to Kansas, no one champions higher taxes as an additional benefit. The Chamber will always defend Kansas entrepreneurs and taxpayers against policies which inhibit their ability to increase capital investment, grow private-sector jobs and reduce the burden on government services. Responsible government and a friendly business climate can and should co-exist.

We at the Chamber welcome the recent criticism by those who believe Washington-style tax-and-spend policies are acceptable here in the heartland. These individuals have supported the growth of our state budget by more than $200 million and the passage of the largest sales tax increase in our state’s history in the midst of a record-breaking recession.

Continue reading at Kansas Liberty.

Europeans fear crisis threatens liberal benefits

As the United States moves to a social welfare state emulating many European countries, this cautionary article from the New York Times ought to be read.

PARIS – Across Western Europe, the “lifestyle superpower,” the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Continue reading at the New York Times.

Kansas News Digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for May 21, 2010.

Light withdraws bid for re-election: Will others follow?

(Kansas Republican Assembly) “State Representative Bill Light withdrew his candidacy for re-election to the Kansas House May 12. Light was facing a strong conservative challenge in the August primary by Dan Widder of Ulysses.”

Historic sales tax increase and nanny-state laws mark the 2010 session in Kansas

(Kansas Liberty) “So far Gov. Mark Parkinson has signed into law a total of 149 bills, and Parkinson now has until May 28 to take action on any remaining bills that were passed by the Legislature during the veto session. Parkinson has not allowed any bill to become law without his signature at this time and has vetoed two bills. Conservative Republicans in both chambers were largely overpowered yet again in the 2010 legislative session by a coalition of left-wing Republicans and Democrats which has managed to retain the majority in both the House and Senate.”

Kansans exposed to tax hike starting July 1

(Kansas Liberty) “Starting July 1, Kansas residents can expect to start paying 19 percent more in sales tax so that the state government can continue to spend at the level deemed appropriate by Governor Mark Parkinson, left-wing Republicans and Democrats in the Kansas Legislature. Small-business advocates said the coalition of ‘tax and spend’ legislators ‘did not want to believe there was an alternative’ to a tax hike.'”

Kansas survey: 10,000 new ‘green’ jobs by 2012

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – The environmentally conscious ‘green’ movement has the potential to create 10,000 new jobs in Kansas by 2012, according to a new state survey released Tuesday.”

Tax package means go-head for giant Kansas freight hub

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Legislation approving Kansas’ recently voted 1-cent sales tax increase will trigger construction this year of a controversial Johnson County intermodal rail freight hub, the Kansas Department of Transportation said Tuesday. KDOT and developers of the long-planned 1,000 acre rail-truck shipping center and logistic park complex along Interstate 35 in Edgerton said they reached an agreement in which the state will provide a $35 million grant to BNSF Railway in exchange for a pledge to begin work on the project this year.”

Kansas lawmakers touch tax and budget records

(Kansas Reporter) “A new analysis by the Kansas Legislative Research Department of the final budget lawmakers sent to the governor calculates that state general fund spending will increase 3.8 percent, or about $204.5 million, to $5.6 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1. That total is the second largest in recent record, topped only by $6.06 billion of state general funds spent in fiscal 2009. All-funds spending, which includes federal and special revenue funds as well as state general fund money, is projected to decrease in 2011 to $13.7 billion, a more than 5 percent reduction from the recent record $14.4 billion reached this year.”

Planned Parenthood Urges Governor To Veto Huelskamp’s Ban of Federal Funding For Services

(State of the State KS) “Planed Parenthood supporters came to the capital Wednesday to deliver petitions to Governor Parkinson, urging him to veto part of the state budget that would make Planed Parenthood ineligible for federal funding.”

Governor Parkinson Says Budget Puts Kansas On The Right Path For Next Four Years

(State of the State KS) “Governor Mark Parkinson (D) held a press conference Wednesday where he reflected on the 2010 legislative session. In his State of the State address in January, Parkinson called on the legislature to protect education, social services and public safety, to pass a comprehensive transportation plan and to bring improvements to nursing homes across the state. Parkinson said legislators stepped up, protecting 150 years of progress in Kansas an bringing jobs to the state.”

Tiahrt and Moran Trade Shots on Earmarks and A New Poll Shows Increasing Support In Senate Race

(State of the State KS) “The Tiahrt and Moran campaign sparred over earmarks last week with both agreeing that the original intent of bringing federal dollars for local needs was good, but Washington now needs earmark and spending reform.”

Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane Speaks Out On Support for Mike Pompeo

(State of the State KS) “Former White House National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane came out swinging for Mike Pompeo (R) this weekend, responding to a story in the Wichita Eagle. McFarlane is a leader on national security issues, working in the Ford and Reagan administrations. The Eagle article highlighted a Pompeo fundraiser hosted by McFarlane, calling him a ‘D.C. big name’ and cited fellow Congressional campaigners saying McFarlane’s support made Pompeo a Washington insider.”

Kansas House passes ‘Lexie’s Law’

(Kansas Watchdog) “After passing the 1% increase in sales tax very early Tuesday, the Kansas House at 2:15 AM addressed HB 2356, otherwise known as Lexie’s Law. The purpose of the bill was to improve inspections of child care facilities in Kansas after preventable deaths had occurred.”

Watchdogs talk about Investigative Journalism

(Kansas Watchdog) “On Saturday at the American Majority Post-Party Summit held in Kansas City, Missouri two of the sessions were about investigative journalism. These sessions were to encourage citizen journalists to get more involved in keeping government at all levels — federal, state, county, local — more accountable.”

Senator Brownlee’s official protest of budget bill

(Kansas Watchdog) “The true energizing power in an economy is the productivity and ingenuity of its people when they are freed from excessive government taxation and regulation to provide for their families. We have lost sight of the fact that there is not a public or government sector without a healthy private sector. Too many times this session we have heard a legislator postulate that government spending in some manner helps save our economy. If this were actually true, our economy should be overheating with all of the overspending by states and the federal government.”

New report outlines Kansas consequences of health reform

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – The likely consequences of federal health reform for Kansas are detailed in a new report scheduled for public release Tuesday during a meeting of the Kansas Health Policy Authority board.”

Budget and taxes decided, Legislature leaves

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA — After four months of struggling with the issues of budgets and taxes, the Legislature finished its work today and concluded all but the ceremonial end of the 2010 session.”

Amtrak passenger service shown in Wichita

The possible expansion of Amtrak passenger rail service in Kansas was the topic of a meeting held last night in Wichita.

Expansion of rail service in Kansas is controversial, at least to some people, in that any form of rail service requires taxpayer involvement to pay for the service. First, taxpayer funding is required to pay for the start-up costs for the service. There are four alternatives being presented for rail service expansion in Kansas, and the start-up costs range from $156 million up to $479 million.

After this, taxpayer subsidies will be required every year to pay for the ongoing operational costs of providing passenger rail service. The four alternatives would require an annual operating subsidy ranging from $2.1 million up to $6.1 million. Taking the operating subsidy and dividing by the estimated number of passengers for each alternative, the per-passenger subsidy ranges from $35 up to $97 for every passenger who uses the service.

For three of the alternatives, the operating subsidy required is greater than the revenue the service is expected to generate. For the other alternative, the subsidy and revenue are equal.

It would be one thing if tickets sales and other revenue sources such as sale of food and beverage paid for most of the cost of providing passenger rail service, and taxpayers were being asked to provide a little boost to get the service started and keep it running until it can sustain itself. But that’s not the case. Taxpayers are being asked to fully fund the start-up costs. Then, they’re expected to pay the majority of ongoing expenses, apparently forever.

At the meeting, I calculated these per-passenger subsidy figures and presented them to officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation and Amtrak. They seemed to think that this was a novel way of looking at the cost of providing the service. I asked the Amtrak representative why can’t we just increase the price of a ticket by the amount of the per-passenger subsidy? The reply was that if the tickets are too expensive, people will not purchase them.

Much of the argument of rail supporters boils down to this: since other forms of transportation receive government subsidy, why shouldn’t rail transportation receive a subsidy too?

The proper response to this argument is first, let’s not expand government intervention in transportation by increasing or adding new forms of subsidy, even if it is to correct a perceived imbalance. Second, let’s get rid of the subsidy for all forms of transportation, so that each form may be evaluated on its total cost by consumers when they decide how to travel.

The Amtrak representative disputed subsidy figures that I referred to, saying that the study that I found them in has been discredited. These figures show that the federal subsidy for highway passenger travel is negative, meaning that highway drivers are paying their own costs plus more. The subsidy per passenger rail service is much higher than for either commercial or general aviation. The Amtrak representative promised to send me different figures, and I will report on those if I receive them. It may be that when state and local spending on highways is included, the subsidy landscape might look different.

These subsidy figures are based on the passenger-mile, not total dollars. Supporters of rail subsidies often use total dollars spent instead of spending per passenger-mile because rail receives much less subsidy than other forms of transportation. That’s because so few people travel on passenger rail.

This year legislation authorizing the Kansas Department of Transportation to establish and implement a passenger rail service program passed both houses nearly unanimously and was signed enthusiastically by the governor. That was an easy vote for legislators, however, as the legislation spends no money. The supplemental note for the bill states “… because the bill does not propose a revenue mechanism for financing any of the activities the bill would authorize, the Kansas Department of Transportation indicates it would not initiate any such activities nor incur any additional expenses.”

When legislators have to commit taxpayer funds for start-up costs and ongoing funds for passenger subsidies, I suspect the voting will be quite different.

Reporting on this meeting from KWCH is at Wichitans Give Input on Amtrak Passenger Train Proposals and from KAKE at State Gets Feedback On Passenger Rail Proposal. Related stories on this site are Amtrak, taxpayer burden, should not be expanded in Kansas and Kansas makes unwise bet on passenger rail.

Kansas Amtrak passenger rail costs

Kansas Governor, Wichita Eagle: why ‘pigs’ at the trough?

When the Kansas Chamber of Commerce recently referred to the need to control Kansas government spending and taxes, a few politicians and newspaper editorial writers embellished what the Chamber actually said in order to make their own political points.

Here’s what the Kansas Chamber said in its press release dated May 8:

“As of today, the legislature has failed to address the needs and wishes of the business community. It has instead catered to the needs of those at the government trough. The Kansas legislature has turned a deaf ear to the hard-working businessmen and women who have made the decision to invest in Kansas and provide jobs for our citizens. Instead of responsibly funding state government without raising taxes, a coalition of liberal House and Senate members have instead chosen to slash crucial services and push for a historic tax hike on Kansas families,” said Kansas Chamber President Kent Beisner.

Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson, an advocate for greater government spending and taxing, seized this opportunity for political gamesmanship. His press release on May 10 stated “It is heartbreaking to think that somebody would equate the disabled, the elderly, school children, veterans, law enforcement and the poor to pigs at a trough.”

His message used the “pigs at a trough” symbolism several additional times.

The Governor’s use of the word “pigs” — inflammatory imagry, to say the least — started making the rounds. It was picked up by editorialists and other writers, including the Wichita Eagle’s opinion editor Phillip Brownlee. In his editorial Kids, disabled aren’t pigs at a trough (Wichita Eagle, May 13) Brownlee wrote: “So schoolchildren and individuals with disabilities are akin to pigs at a trough?”

Brownlee’s editorial starts by complaining that the Kansas Chamber used some “over-the-top rhetoric during the state budget debate.”

Well, the Kansas Chamber didn’t use the word “pigs.” That was the governor’s language, then repeated by liberal editorial writers like Brownlee and the Winfield Daily Courier’s David Seaton when he editorialized: “Efforts by the president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to characterize educators, the elderly, the disabled and public safety employees as pigs at ‘the government trough’ did not succeed.”

Since Governor Parkinson brought it up, we ought to think about it for a moment. Schoolchildren, of course, aren’t pigs at the trough, no matter what the governor and Wichita Eagle say. For one, children don’t make the decision to attend public (government) schools, as their parents make that decision for them. It is the schools themselves, specifically school spending advocates in the form of Kansas National Education Association (or KNEA, the teachers union) and the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) that are the pigs.

If these school spending advocates were truly concerned about the education of Kansas schoolchildren, they would allow for government spending on education to be targeted at the child, to be spent wherever parents feel their children’s needs will best be met. But the school spending lobby in Kansas vigorously resists any challenge to their monopoly on public money for education, which reveals that they’re really more interested in spending on schools by any means, at any cost rather than on education.

If we need any more evidence of the never-ending appetite of schools for money, consider a story told by Kansas House Speaker Pro Tem Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) of a conversation he had with Mark Tallman, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards: “During our discussion I asked Mr. Tallman if we (the State) had the ability to give the schools everything he asked for would he still ask for even more money for schools. His answer was, ‘Of course, that’s my job.'”

The Eagle editorial mentions a number of local chambers of commerce that have split away from the state chamber. We should recognize that in many cases, local chambers have become boosters for big government taxes and spending. An article titled Tax Chambers by the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore explains the decline of local chambers of commerce: “The Chamber of Commerce, long a supporter of limited government and low taxes, was part of the coalition backing the Reagan revolution in the 1980s. On the national level, the organization still follows a pro-growth agenda — but thanks to an astonishing political transformation, many chambers of commerce on the state and local level have been abandoning these goals. They’re becoming, in effect, lobbyists for big government.”

This was certainly the case with the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce. Under its president Brian Derreberry, it had been in favor of increased government interventionism instead of free markets. An example was its support of proven fiscal conservative Karl Peterjohn’s opponent in the campaign for Sedgwick County Commissioner in 2008. In that campaign, the Wichita Chamber spent some $19,000 — 44% of all it spent on campaigns that year — on Peterjohn’s opponent, a small town mayor who had just increased taxes.

Last year the Wichita Chamber hired former Kansas House Member Jason Watkins to be its lobbyist. The hiring of Watkins, a fiscal conservative, seemed to signal a possible shift in the Wichita Chamber’s direction. The fact that the Wichita Chamber did not break away from the Kansas Chamber’s opposition to tax increases validates that perception.

We should also note that many of the goals of the Kansas Chamber, such as efficient government, reducing taxes, encouraging business investment and growth, and promoting economic growth in Kansas, are good for all Kansans, not just business. Even government employees — and the governor himself — must realize that government does not create wealth. Instead, it is business that creates wealth that provides for our standard of living. It is business that creates the economic activity that generates the tax revenue that makes government spending possible.

The Eagle’s repetition of the governor’s attack on the Kansas Chamber fits right in with its pro-government, anti-economic freedom agenda.

Kansas or New Jersey: Which state is on the better road to prosperity?

By Derrick Sontag.

What’s the difference between Kansas and New Jersey? One answer that comes to mind: unlike the comparison to our neighboring states, Kansas has a more limited, fiscally conservative government than the Garden State. Or so we thought.

Let’s look at the actions of the two states over the last few weeks. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in response to a budget deficit approaching $11 billion, has proposed a 5 percent reduction in state spending. This is a result of his campaign promise to force government to live within its means, a pledge that led him to defeat an incumbent governor. This and voters being fed up with an excessive tax burden.

There are some pressuring Gov. Christie to raise taxes but he has said that to accede to tax increases would “kill a job market already on life support.” He went on to say, “Mark my words today: if a tax increase is sent to my desk, I’ll veto it.”

How do Christie’s actions compare to what’s happened in Kansas? In response to a budget gap of more than $500 million, Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson threatened to veto any budget that hit his desk that didn’t rely on a tax increase. Two weeks later a coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans complied with his demands by passing the second largest tax increase in the history of our state, a sales tax increase designed to fund a spending increase of more than $200 million.

There have been claims the tax increase will create economic growth and job creation, despite a well-respected economist’s study indicating quite the contrary. It’s as if legislators are echoing the economic growth pledges heard in Washington D.C. when the stimulus plan passed. Instead, that D.C. plan has led to 10 percent unemployment and, according to initial projections, will result in our GDP being lower ten years from now than if Congress had done nothing at all.

Apparently Gov. Christie and a majority of the voters in New Jersey understand the economic truism of “the more you tax something the less of it you’re going to get.” They can point to years of fiscally liberal practices and an unbearable tax burden.

So what’s the difference between the two states? We’ll always have a beautiful landscape and friendly people. But let’s hope New Jersey doesn’t end up being the state with a better road to prosperity.

Derrick Sontag is the Kansas state director of Americans for Prosperity. He lives in Topeka.

Kansas House starts debate on new budget; little progress made

This afternoon the Kansas House of Representatives is debating its replacement budget. The legislation being considered is known as the “Feuerborn amendment.” At 417 pages, it has been divided into 13 sections, with part “A” being the language that “guts” the existing bill. (Click here to view this amendment.)

On Tuesday the budget advanced by the House Appropriations Committee failed to pass the entire House. The Feuerborn amendment is being promoted by House Democrats as a “bipartisan” budget. This refers to the fact that a coalition of Democrats and Republicans — the Republicans being referred to by one publication as “left-wing Republicans” — will likely band together to pass a budget that increases spending and requires tax increases to pay for it.

In the debate over part A, Representative Bill Feuerborn, a Garnett Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Appropriation Committee insisted that Kansas agencies have “already cut to the bone” and are now “into the bone.” In about two hours of back and forth, Overland Park Republican and Appropriations Chair Kevin Yoder and Feuerborn discussed specific aspects of the amendment.

In closing his remarks, Yoder said that this 417 page amendment makes huge decisions about spending without the level of input and deliberation that the budget decision deserves.

Representative Kasha Kelly, an Arkansas City Republican, said that tax increases that will be necessary to fund the spending in the amendment will be harmful to the Kansas economy. Instead of looking at asset sales, she said we’ve adopted a “hoarding mentality,” with the state wanting to keep what it owns, but demanding that citizens send what’s theirs to the state.

She said that the state is not being creative in looking for alternatives to tax increases, and is too eager to impose a job-killing tax increase on Kansans.

Wichita Republican Phil Hermanson said he was disappointed at the cuts to veterans in the Feuerborn amendment.

House Education Budget Committee Chairman Joe McLeland, a Republican from Wichita, said that we need to consider the taxpayers of Kansas and not place an extra burden on them. He said that his committee found ways to help K-12 education come up with money to cover the federal stimulus dollars that will be ending.

He also said that the state has chosen to pay school districts late, and his committee had a provision that requires the state to pay schools on time.

At 5:13 pm the House adjourned until 9:00 am tomorrow so that members may attend a funeral of a member’s mother.

Kansas budget, taxes, still being worked on

At the Kansas statehouse yesterday, some progress was made on the budget, but much work remains. With the session about to end, large decisions about taxation and spending have yet to be made.

Talking to one lobbyist who has been observing statehouse politics for many years, I said “This is a heck of a way to make public policy.” He replied we’re way past considerations of public policy — we’re talking politics now. I remembered my political science professor in college, who said the definition of politics is “who gets what, when, and how.”

A matter that is still on the calendar is the transportation bill, HB 2650 (fiscal note). This bill was passed by the House earlier in the session and is on the Senate’s calendar. Yesterday many supporters of the bill were in the statehouse, some wearing blue buttons reading “Highway investment means jobs.” Another button read “Safe roads save lives.”

The halls were also packed with advocates for the disabled, including many people in wheelchairs or other mobility devices. Patrick Terick, Governmental Affairs director for Cerebral Palsy Research Center in Wichita, said that some programs such as one that creates custom wheelchair cushions have been cut by large amounts.

In the afternoon session of the Senate, an amendment offered to its budget bill provided evidence of the diversity of Kansas and the difference between wealthy and poor areas of the state. The amendment, offered by Senator Karin Brownlee, a Republican from Olathe, would route KPERS contributions in a way that lets these payments be used in calculating a district’s local option budget. (The LOB allows school districts to levy property taxes. There is a limit as to how much tax can be levied, that being a percentage of the district’s budget.) By routing KPERS contributions in a different way, those payments could be used to increase the LOB limit. This would not change the amount paid to KPERS, or change the amount that districts would report they spent.

During debate, some senators pointed out that poorer school districts would not have the ability to increase their LOB. Senator Anthony Hensley, a Republican from Topeka and Senate Minority Leader, said that many school districts cannot afford to raise local property taxes.

Senator Janis Lee, who represents a geographically large district in northwest Kansas, said this amendment is “disequalizing,” referring to the Kansas school equalization process, which sends money from wealthy districts to those with less assessed property value per student.

Senator John Vratil, a Republican from Leawood in Johnson County and Senate Vice President, said that Johnson County contributes 28 percent of the tax revenue the state collects, while receiving only 11 percent back in return. He also mentioned that Johnson County school districts are in the lowest ten percent of districts in operating costs per student. Given that, he asked “Is it too much that we have the authority to tax ourselves to provide a quality education?” Brownlee repeated this sentiment in her closing.

On a roll call vote, the amendment failed by 16 to 22 votes.

Later Senator Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, offered an amendment that would raise $300 million in revenue through a variety of methods, most importantly the sale of some Kansas state-owned assets. The amendment would set a timeline for the identification, evaluation, and sale of assets, with some sold in time to be used in fiscal year 2011, the budget year that starts on July 1, 2010.

Preliminary reports indicate that the state owns some $12 billion to $16 billion in assets. The Masterson amendment called for selling $175 million in fiscal year 2011. This figure is somewhere between one percent and two percent of the state-owned assets.

In debate, some senators opposed this plan as being unrealistic. In a roll call vote, the amendment failed with 12 yea votes and 28 nays.

A related amendment by Senator Mark Taddiken passed in a later session. It calls for the creation of an inventory of state assets and a prioritized list of assets that could be sold, but does not require the sale.

Senator Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Fowler, offered an amendment that would limit the growth of state government spending to the rate of population growth plus the rate of inflation. Some states have limitations like this, and they can be useful in restraining the growth of government.

Remarks during debate included the concern that with an aging population and the state’s entitlement structure, state spending may need to increase rapidly to meet the needs of the elderly. Senator Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, said that we are not funding the state’s need for services adequately now, and we should try to be in a position to fund more agencies and programs.

This amendment failed by a vote of 15 to 25.

In the House, it was a waiting game all day as the alternative budget bill — “Feuerborn Amendment” — was being prepared. The new budget amendment was to be available at 8:00 am this morning, but it was not, and the house recessed with plans to resume at 11:00 am. But those plans were revised, with the House now planning to meet at 1:30 pm.

Kansas is a Republican, not conservative, state

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.

Kansas House leadership plans to balance budget without tax increases

A legislative panel at yesterday’s AFP Kansas Defending the American Dream Summit 2010 featured members of the Kansas House of Representatives Leadership presenting the case that the budget can be balanced without increasing taxes on Kansans.

Speaking first, Representative Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican who is chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the legislature is trying to balance the Kansas state budget without a tax increase.

Yoder spoke of the momentum behind increasing government spending, noting that it used to be that if you didn’t get a five percent increase, it was called a budget cut. Arguments were over whether an agency would receive a seven, eight, or nine percent increase in funding. “There are some who always want to spend more, and there are some for who it’s never enough.”

Yoder said that despite what Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson wants for his legacy, we must pass a budget without raising taxes.

Yoder said that when times get tough, government has to cut back spending just like businesses and families have had to do. Despite the talk of “bone-cutting,” he said that spending continues.

He said that in the last year, Kansas lost about 50,000 private sector jobs. But at the same time, public sector jobs grew. “That doesn’t sound like cutting to the bone to me,” he told the audience. There is more waste to be eliminated and greater efficiencies to be found.

Yoder said that SB 572 is the budget bill that passed out of the House Appropriations committee last week. He said it adds funding for public safety and the physically and mentally disabled. It does not devastate services, he added.

Speaking next, Olathe Republican Arlen Siegfreid, who is Speaker Pro Tem of the House, told the audience that Kansas has a “fundamentally flawed” budget system. He noted that it has been said from the beginning that the budget can’t be balance without raising taxes can’t be done. But Yoder and House Majority Leader Ray Merrick have shown that this can be done.

Siegfreid said that it is apparent that the administration’s position is to raise taxes, and it is their only position. Sales taxes, cigarette and tobacco taxes, alcohol taxes, elimination of sales tax exemptions, raising taxes on utilities, and now an income tax increase have been in the mix.

He reminded the audience that these taxes would be on top of a large increase in unemployment insurance taxes caused by a mistake made by the Kansas Department of Labor.

The Kansas House Leadership has attempted to help the people of Kansas, Siegfreid said. He listed a number of proposed measures that have not passed, including health care savings accounts, a simplified tax structure, requiring the Department of Revenue to pay a penalty if they delay tax refunds, a property tax bill that did not allow for automatic increases, and the PEAK bill, an economic development bill for very small companies, which was vetoed by the governor.

The House has led the way over the last several years in creating a good environment for capital in the state of Kansas, Siegfreid told the audience, adding that “We have to have capital investment if we are to create jobs, and what Kansas needs is jobs. … In any real sense, government increases revenue only when business and individuals prosper. We should not depend on tax increases. We should depend on prosperity to increase revenue.”

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.

He recited the large annual increases in the budget in recent years as evidence that our problem in Kansas is spending, not lack of revenue. Noting that no members of the Senate Leadership are present at the AFP event, he said they are not “of like mind.” (Americans for Prosperity advocates for limited government and free markets.) Their game plan from the beginning, he said, was to not look for savings in the budget, but to increase taxes. Their interest is in growing government.

While the governor has said he will veto a budget that doesn’t include tax increases, Merrick said we should let him do just that. He added that perhaps the session could be finished by Friday May 7.

In answering a question, Merrick said that Missouri has a billion dollar budget deficit. Its Democratic governor said that Missouri will balance its budget without raising taxes. Missouri is also considering eliminating the corporate income tax, followed by elimination of the personal income tax.

Warning of the danger of temporary tax increase such as the Kansas Governor is proposing, Merrick reminded the audience that in 2002 Kansas passed what was to be a temporary increase in the sales tax, but that increase has not gone away.

Wichita-area legislative meeting report, commentary

Wendy Aylworth provides reporting and analysis from Saturday’s meeting of the South-central Kansas Legislative Delegation with citizens.

Protesters adamantly in favor of a one cent per dollar sales tax increase crowded the sidewalk outside the South-Central Kansas Legislative Forum Saturday morning. Some wore purple shirts and some held signs reading “A Penny for Education” and “Support Our Schools.” There was no one with a sign opposing a tax increase.

Inside the meeting room the crowd appeared overwhelmingly in favor of the tax increase. Sen. Jean Schodorf, who arrived late, pointed out this is what she wanted to hear, “what we should be doing.”

The audience was not polled regarding their wishes, but if there were any opposed to the tax increase they went unseen. People carrying signs promoting the tax continued to do so inside the building, during the forum, and the voices from the audience during the meeting were clearly in favor of the sales tax increase.

Continue reading Wichita-area legislative meeting report, commentary

Wichita-area legislative meeting reveals differences in approach to government

Yesterday’s meeting of the South-central Kansas legislative delegation with citizens featured, in the words of one senator, a level of intensity not seen in previous meetings of this body. Senator Dick Kelsey made this observation, remarking that this is the first such meeting where the two parties have been mentioned. Following are a few notes and observations from this meeting.

Conservative groups and advocates often display a chart showing that Kansas spending increased very rapidly during much of the last decade. Representative Melody McCray-Miller reminded the audience that it is Republicans who have been in the majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate during this time.

A suggestion by Representative Kasha Kelley that the state could sell some assets to help with the budget was met with disapproval from some members of the audience.

The audience, which was composed largely of advocates for school spending, union leaders and members representing Kansas state government employees, and people needing social services, cheered several times at mentions of raising the state’s sales tax. Suggestions involving cutting spending or other solutions were not met with approval.

Representative Marc Rhoades of Newton, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and vice chair of the Social Services Budget Committee, gave several examples of how some funding for social services has been restored. He said that the committee takes “a lot of pride in working together across party lines.” He added that there is an effort to increase the state’s investigation of fraud. He said that the former Inspector General of the Kansas Health Policy Authority quit. At the time the Wichita Eagle reported that Robin Kempf “said she resigned from the post because agency managers pressured her and interfered with her ability to do her job.”

Representative Jim Ward, however, disagreed with Rhoades’ characterization of bipartisanship, noting that not one Democrat voted for the budget passed out of the committee, and mentioning large across-the-board cuts.

Ward said there is “Fundamental disagreement on values on the state budget.” Some groups — he pointed to material provided by the Kansas Policy Institute — want to cut taxes and let the economy grow. But Ward said that at some point spending cuts will prevent state agencies from fulfilling their mission, mentioning Meals on Wheels and schools specifically.

Ward mentioned another type of spending the state does: “We spent over $12 billion in tax cuts the in the last ten years.”

Senator Les Donovan, who is chair of the Kansas Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee spoke about the tax increase proposals that were heard in that committee. His committee heard several days of testimony on raising various taxes such as the sales tax, alcohol tax, tobacco tax, and creating a new tax on sugar in soft drinks. Donovan “moderated” each of these taxes, proposing to implement them at a lower rate than what was introduced in the bill. But each tax bill failed to make it out of that committee. (See Kansas sugar tax testimony heard, bill doesn’t advance, Tax on beer, liquor subject of Kansas Senate committee hearing, and Kansas tax increases promoted, even by Republicans.)

In his remarks yesterday Donovan listed — from memory — tax cuts that have been made: A cut in income tax rates for single individuals, an increase in the personal tax exemption, elimination of the marriage penalty, removal of the sales tax on residential remodeling, a cut of 15 mills from property tax (both commercial and residential, with close to 80% of the property being residential), removal of income tax on military retirement pay, a reduction in the taxes on automobile registration, creation of an exemption of $20,000 of valuation on residential property taxes, an increase in the earned income tax credit (a program at both the federal and state levels that issues grants to low income families), an increase in the food sales tax rebate program, exemption of social security payments from Kansas taxation for many families, exemption of residential utilities from sales tax, and elimination of the Kansas inheritance tax.

Donovan said that these tax cuts are larger, by far, than the business tax cuts that spending advocates, including Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson, blame in part for the current budget deficit.

AFP ads spotlight Kansas budget

One of the things that government spending advocates don’t like to talk about is the fact that spending in Kansas has risen rapidly in recent years. This is particularly the case for schools, partly due to the Kansas Supreme Court ordering more spending in the Montoy decision of 2005. But other Kansas government spending has risen sharply too.

As long as revenue flowing to the state kept pace, Kansas was able to afford this spending — whether the spending was wise or not. But starting two years ago revenues failed to keep pace with spending, resulting in great stress on the Kansas budget. This year the governor and many legislators are calling for one or more taxes to be increased, or a new tax to be formed, so that spending can continue to rise.

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas has prepared two advertisements that highlight how spending in Kansas has increased rapidly.

The first ad spotlights the rapid rise in spending on schools, both by the state and by all sources of funding. School spending is important to the state, as slightly more than half of the state’s general fund is consumed by K through 12 schools.

The second ad makes the case that Kansas has a spending problem, not a taxing problem. Tax receipts have risen, but spending rose, too.

Kansas budget can be balanced without tax increases

As the Kansas Legislature prepares to get to work next week producing a budget plan for the next year, Kansans are being told that tax increases are inevitable. Several sources, however, have ideas and detailed plans as to how the state can avoid tax increases.

Kansas Senator Chris Steineger, a Democrat from Kansas City, has a list of cost-cutting measures that could be implemented quickly. See Kansas can have fast, achievable savings for his list.

Steineger also has what he calls the billion dollar list, which contains items that could save even more money. Some of these proposals such as downsizing the legislature, consolidation of Kansas counties, and consolidation of state agencies, might take more time to implement. But these proposals, if implemented, would place Kansas government on a permanent low-cost track.

The Kansas Policy Institute has developed some proposals for savings that it delivered in the form of a letter to Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson. The proposal contains some revenue enhancements that are not in the form of tax increases, which is usually what proponents of revenue enhancements mean. It also contains many cost-cutting measures.

In the letter, KPI President Dave Trabert raises a point that I’ve not heard from any other source. The large budget gap that is routinely mentioned is composed in part of federal stimulus (ARRA) dollars that Kansas received, just like other states. But these funds will not be available in the next budget year, fiscal year 2011. According to KPI, ARRA funds accounted for $205 million of spending in fiscal year 2010.

Should these “missing” funds — which everyone knew were temporary — now be used to create a large “budget gap” in order to justify the need for tax increases? Trabert explains: “KPI uses a taxpayer-focused approach that defines 2010 spending as that which was funded by state taxes. Your proposed 2011 budget would allow government to continue spending at levels funded by both state and federal tax dollars. It was well known that the stimulus money was temporary and that the state should plan accordingly, so state taxpayers should not be required to pay more to make up the difference.”

The need to avoid further tax increases is vital to the Kansas economy, as Trabert notes in his letter to the governor: “The Kansas economy is already absorbing a $163 million unemployment tax increase that is negatively impacting jobs and we must do everything we can to avoid further damage.”

The KPI letter and analysis may be read by clicking on Letter to Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson.

Another plan comes from Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, which has prepared its commonsense budget proposal for fiscal year 2011. AFP’s plan contains both long-term and short-term measures for restoring our state’s fiscal health. It contains many specific measures that could be taken immediately to balance the budget without raising taxes.

The AFP document is a comprehensive look at Kansas government spending, as noted in the introduction: “Following the approach of a concise but broad-ranging examination of every function Kansas state government attempts to perform, AFP has produced a budget that makes real tax cuts possible for Kansas taxpayers. AFP has gone beyond the traditional cursory examinations of state spending where the stock solutions are merely eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and/or rooting out duplication.”

As an example, for the Revisor of Statutes office the proposal suggests this: “This department received an increase of over 23 percent for FY 2008 which only partially reflects the cost of two FTEs for committee staffing. With the updated computer systems and additional staffing the Revisor’s office should be able to suffice with the reduction of 15 percent of appropriations funding.”

The AFP budget proposal was developed by Steven J. Anderson, a certified public accountant with extensive experience in government accounting and budgets.

The AFP budget proposal may be read at AFP-Kansas releases FY 2011 “Commonsense Budget Proposal.”

Kansas taxes and spending debated

Should Kansas increase taxes or control spending in order to balance its budget? On the editorial page of the Wichita Eagle yesterday, three editorials discussed the Kansas budget, taxes, and spending.

Rhonda Holman’s editorial featured Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson and his claims that the temporary one-cent sales tax used to fund the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita wasn’t noticed, and therefore didn’t harm the economy. The governor’s reasoning is incorrect, as taxes do indeed harm the economy.

When it was proposed in Wichita in 2002 to have a sales tax increase of one-half cent per dollar to build an arena, Wichita car dealers claimed that it would place them at a competitive disadvantage. So people and business do notice the effect of sales taxes.

While the geography is different — the proposed Wichita sales tax was to be only for one city, while the governor’s sales tax is for the entire state — the principle is the same: Higher taxes in Kansas will place our state at a competitive disadvantage.

This editorial also mentions “painful cuts to education” that have been made. More about that in a moment.

A second editorial was written by Bernie Koch, who is Executive Director of the Kansas Economic Progress Council. He takes the position that we can’t make additional cuts, concluding that “To simply rely on cuts will damage the institutions and systems needed to survive the Great Recession and pursue economic recovery.”

Referring to a SurveyUSA poll from last month, Koch wrote: “86 percent [of Kansans] said they were somewhat or very concerned about cuts to education.”

The problem with this poll is that the people of Kansas are very uninformed about school spending and cuts. First, there are plenty of cuts to be made, cuts that don’t affect the classroom. Recently the Wichita school district was able to find $2.5 million annual savings by adjusting transportation schedules at a small number of schools. Now that district is looking at savings that can be had in administration.

So when the Eagle editorial board and the governor claim that “painful cuts” have been made to schools, were those painful cuts made before transportation schedules were adjusted? Kansans should ask where these priorities are set.

Second, Kansans are simply uninformed — perhaps deliberately misinformed — about the level of school spending, as a poll conducted by the Kansas Policy Institute found. This poll, released last week, found that “fewer than one Kansan in 10 has a clear idea how much money schools actually receive — or spend — to educate elementary, middle and high school students across the state.”

Further, when informed about the true level of spending and the increase over the past five years, 81 percent of Kansans oppose tax increases for school spending. Only 11 percent were willing to pay increased taxes.

The third editorial was written by Kent Beisner, who is interim president and CEO of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

Beisner accurately diagnoses the cause of the problem: “The governor and his allies in the Legislature actually have the audacity to claim that recent tax cuts are to blame for the state’s budget deficit. But when the Legislature cut taxes earlier this decade, revenues to the state skyrocketed. The problem occurred when the state showed zero fiscal restraint and committed to spending more than it was taking in, erasing more than a $950 million budget surplus in just two years. Kansas most definitely does not have a tax-cutting or revenue problem.”

The way to get out of this problem is to control spending so that taxes don’t have to be raised. A low-tax environment is the best tool Kansas can use to attract and keep business, Beisner added: “If the Legislature adopts what will amount to the largest tax increase in the state’s history, states more competitive than Kansas will no doubt take advantage of our resulting anti-growth climate and lure our employers and workers out of the state.”

Obama not first with trillion dollar deficit

A Wall Street Journal column from last year highlights the lack of honesty in government accounting. The column speaks of fiscal year 2008. That period of time ended on September 30, 2008.

It has been widely noted that 2009 will have the first “trillion-dollar deficit” in American history. Actually it’s the second. In fiscal 2008, the national debt increased from $9 trillion to slightly over $10 trillion. Yet the budget deficit in the last fiscal year was officially reported as being $455 billion. How could the national debt have increased by considerably more than twice the “deficit”? Simple. Just call the money borrowed from the Social Security trust fund an “intragovernmental transfer” and exclude it from the calculation of the deficit.

Corporate managers have gone to jail for less book cooking than that.

More about the fictional Social Security trust fund is at Social security trust fund needed now.

Kansas Economic Freedom Index

The purpose of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index is to identify Kansas legislators who vote in favor of economic freedom — and those who don’t.

The current version of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index is located at KansasEconomicFreedom.com.

Why is economic freedom important? Here’s what Milton Friedman had to say in the opening chapter of his monumental work Capitalism and Freedom:

The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom

It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements. The chief contemporary manifestation of this idea is the advocacy of “democratic socialism” by many who condemn out of hand the restrictions on individual freedom imposed by “totalitarian socialism” in Russia, and who are persuaded that it is possible for a country to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements. The thesis of this chapter is that such a view is a delusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain arrangements are possible and that, in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.

Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.

For an archive of similar projects from years past, see Kansas legislative scorecards, rankings.


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Kansas Economic Freedom Index launched

The purpose of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index is to identify Kansas legislators who vote in favor of economic freedom — and those who don’t. Financial issues like taxes and spending will be important, but I will include issues like smoking bans and seat belt laws.

This is the first version of the index. As I become aware of votes that should be included, and as new votes are taken, I’ll update the index.

In the index, each bill has a weight. This is a number from 1 to 10, with 10 meaning the bill is of greatest importance. When I calculate the index value for a legislator, I add up the weights for the bills being considered, and add up the weights the legislator “earned” based on their votes, and that’s the basis of the calculation.

As this is a new project that I just started, I welcome feedback. Please write to [email protected] or call me at 316-708-1837, day or evening.

The permanent page for the index is Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

Links to current versions of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index:

Kansas Economic Freedom Index, Senate
Kansas Economic Freedom Index, House of Representatives

The bamboozled public

The intellectual arguments used by the State throughout history to “engineer consent” by the public can be classified into two parts: (1) that rule by the existing government is inevitable, absolutely necessary, and far better than the indescribable evils that would ensue upon its downfall; and (2) that the State rulers are especially great, wise, and altruistic men — far greater, wiser, and better than their simple subjects. In former times, the latter argument took the form of rule by “divine right’ or by the “divine ruler” himself, or by an “aristocracy” of men. In modern times, as we indicated earlier, this argument stresses not so much divine approval as rule by a wise guild of “scientific experts” especially endowed in knowledge of statesmanship and the arcane facts of the world. The increasing use of scientific jargon, especially in the social sciences, has permitted intellectuals to weave apologia for State rule which rival the ancient priestcraft in obscurantism. For example, a thief who presumed to justify his theft by saying that he was really helping his victims by his spending, thus giving retail trade a needed boost, would be hooted down without delay. But when this same theory is clothed in Keynesian mathematical equations and impressive references to the “multiplier effect,” it carries far more conviction with a bamboozled public.

From Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, pages 59 – 60

Kansas tax increases promoted, even by Republicans

Last week Kansas Senator John Vratil, a Leawood Republican who is Vice-President of the Senate, sent a letter to constituents asking for feedback on how to generate more revenue for Kansas state government.

The letter states “The Senate Ways and Means Committee has worked hard to cut ‘the fat’ out of state government while striving to hold education harmless.” The letter notes that the Kansas general fund budget is now $5.4 billion, and that education and required social services amount to $4.6 billion of that.

Vratil promotes the tax on drinks sweetened with sugar, which would add about ten cents to the cost of a 12 ounce can of pop. Vratil says the tax would raise an estimated $90 million in revenue per year.

The Senate leadership — Vratil being part of that — has already announced plans to push for a tax increase.

Other Republican senators may be jumping on the tax bandwagon, too. Last week Senator Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican and chairman of the Assessment and Taxation Committee, said during a committee hearing: “We have to do something on the revenue side. … We don’t know if we can cut enough spending.” He said that if we can’t cut spending, “we’re going to do something to raise some revenue, some way.”

(Today Donovan proposed increasing the state sales tax rate by 0.7 percentage points, removing the sales tax from food in three years. He will also propose increases on taxes for cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks sweetened with sugar. The increase in the sales tax is a 13.2% increase in the rate.)

On a Kansas conservative message board, one poster expressed support for a soda tax, saying that people could avoid the tax by not purchasing soda. Another poster disagreed, calling the soda tax “another area of government encroachment on our decisions,” concluding that “Unfortunately, the senators are not looking out for the health of Kansans as much as looking to get more of the wealth of Kansans.”

Another poster contended that Vratil’s assertion of Kansas already “cutting the agencies to the bone” is an overstatement of the cuts, and that there’s plenty of slack in state employment and management practices. Specifically,

The false premise being presented by Sen. Vratil is that all the agencies and departments that are recipients of government money are cut to the “bone.” Really? What these folks consider a “bone” many of us would still see as filet mignon.

We have to start here. There is no doubt that on any budget your employees are your greatest cost, but the real question is is there a necessity for all those employees? We have layers of bureaucracy that are costing us a fortune. We have managers managing managers and departments created as political payback for years of campaign support. Public service unions are dictating the state budget rather than “best business” practices. Now before I have all the folks who are state employees cursing me, let me stress that my comments are not directed at those who are working hard every day and giving their best to their employers. I am making my assertions on personal information and experience that I have observed for years. The public service unions handcuff managers from releasing poor performers on a daily basis. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that departments could run with 80% less staff and not a single tax payer would know the difference. I am sympathetic to folks losing their jobs, but when did it become the taxpayers responsibility to ensure employment for our neighbors? I would rather ensure that they have job opportunities from the private sector. Those opportunities will continue to diminish with the type of tax-and-spend practices that are currently directing the state budget.

Another poster wondered how a tax on soda would decrease consumption of what’s deemed an “undesirable” product, while a general sales tax would not produce the same effect on all goods:

Has anyone ever asked Mr. Morris or Vratil or any other tax hike supporter how they can claim a tax on soda will make us all healthier because we’ll stop buying as much, but then claim an across the board 1% sales tax isn’t supposed to hurt the economy at all? If a tax on soda or cigarettes or alcohol is enough to decrease consumption, doesn’t it stand to reason that an across the board sales tax increase would have the same effect? Have these legislators ever been challenged about this blatant contradiction?

With moderate and even some conservative Republicans proposing tax increases, it’s going to be a tough battle for senate Republicans to hold the line on taxes.