Monday, June 12, 2017

Kansas' austerity budget a big failure; Republican legislature overrides veto

Seven years ago, Sam Browback was elected as the Republican governor of Kansas, having run on, and then put in place, a budget that he called "a real life experiment."  He was intent on using his state to prove that an austerity budget -- low taxes, low expenditures -- was the best way to stimulate economic growth.  (See ShrinkRap  6/17/15 and 12/31/16 for background.)

He steered Kansas in a hard-right turn, getting fiscal conservative Republicans elected to fully control both legislative houses, and instituted the largest income tax cuts in Kansas history --  which Brownback said would be "like a shot of adrenaline in the heart of Kansas' economy."   Instead, state tax revenue dropped $700 million in 2014.

This obviously required offsetting cuts in spending.   Public education suffered to the extent that the 2016 school year had to be ended early for lack of funds.  In March of 2017, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that spending on public education was unconstitutionally low, a distinct blow to the Brownback experiment.

Other state services were hard hit as well.   Further, the austerity didn't bring the promised economic recovery -- not even as much as neighboring states Nebraska and Minnesota, whose economies fared much better using different approaches that included stimulus spending.

The people of Kansas said:  "enough is enough."   Last fall, they elected more moderate Republicans to the legislature.  This spring they passed a budget with tax increases of $1 billion over two years.  Brownback vetoed it.   The Republican controlled legislature over-rode the veto -- with four votes more than the required 2/3 in the State House.  Even the Speaker of the House, who is usually aligned with Brownback ideologically, voted to over-ride the governor's veto;  and the tax increase bill was enacted.

The question now is this:   We know that Republicans usually do not pay attention to empirical data or things we call facts.  But this was set up by one of their own. to prove that their economic ideology worked.  And it failed, miserably -- demonstrably.  Furthermore, the people demanded an end to the "experiment."

So the question is:   Will the national Republicans listen?   Or will they just continue their mantra of "low taxes, smaller government"?  So far, the answer is "no, they won't listen."  Just glance at the budget that the Trump administration submitted to Congress.  It was more of the same:   tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy, draconian cuts not only to social safety net programs, including food stamps, but to science and medical research as well.  Only the military budget went up.   Sad.  Stupid.  Insane = "Doing the same thing again and again . . . and expecting different results."


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