Floods and Whirlwind
By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network
Kansans are focused upon the floods as well as the results of the tornados that tore up this state in early May. The wrath of Mother Nature is upon us just as the Kansas legislature has left its own flood of spending and whirlwind of legislative changes on this state. The legislature’s fiscal wrath might be overlooked by Kansans focused upon their flooded basements or providing help and assistance to the devastated folks who survived in Greensburg. Kansans ignoring the legislature do so at their peril.
Kansans will soon have to pay another $1/2 billion more for state government. As one liberal Democrat legislative leader put it, “We spent it,” was the watchword from assistant minority leader State Representative Jim Ward, D-Wichita, to his home town newspaper April 22 when asked about the 2007 session at that point. A few days later the legislature returned to Topeka and spent even more.
That’s the budget that will soon become law as a result of the 2007 Kansas legislature. Governor Sebelius’ signature is needed to make this $6.089 billion General Fund budget official. This is a 10.4 percent spending hike over last year’s budget.
It is almost a billion more than the 2006 budget of $5.139 billion. That’s 18.5 percent in two years. Has your salary gone up 18.5 percent in the last two years?
Ironically, there have been newspaper articles targeting the less than $35 million in tax cuts as a fiscal problem for Kansas. The Wichita Eagle warned that cutting the business franchise tax and reducing the tax penalty on social security payments to seniors could place this state in fiscal jeopardy. Tax cuts are a problem while spending growth is ignored among the liberal Kansas newspapers.
Obviously, these are fiscally liberal journalists who never bothered to read the budget. Now there was pressure from the liberal spending lobbies starting with the Kansas Supreme Court as well as the governor demanding massive hikes in state school spending. That part of the court’s edict will expand almost $200 million in one year or $450 per pupil. In addition, the rest of the spending lobbies from the state regents universities and social service welfare spending advocates are among the most prominent who perpetually dominate the budget process in Topeka. That why a liberal spending advocate like state senator Tony Hensley, D-Topeka, praised the 2008 budget on the senate floor before voting for it.
Nebraska is looking at major reductions in a variety of anti-competitive state taxes and may use a sizable part of their budget surplus coming from the Bush tax cuts for some major, over $200 million in income and property tax cuts in a state with 60 percent of the Kansas population. Last year Oklahoma passed an even larger dollar amount of income tax cuts. In April the Tax Foundation (taxfoundation.org) reported that Kansas has the 15th highest total of state and local taxes as a percentage of income among the 50 states.
Kansas went into this budget cycle with over $734 million as a beginning cash balance. That will soon be spent. The real challenge that awaits us is state revenues are growing at only a fraction of state spending, and this spending growth cannot continue without raising Kansans’ taxes.