Kansas GOP Governor Sam Brownback Retreats on Tax Cuts to Close $600 Million Budget Deficit
Surviving a tough reelection race, as Sam Brownback did in Kansas last year, can often be a cleansing experience for a governor. It should certainly bring relief. After all, Brownback managed to earn a fresh nod of support from voters despite a messy first term marked by a fiscal embarrassment of his own making.
Yet three months later, the humbling in the heartland goes on, much to the frustration of a Republican governor and one-time presidential contender who hoped to make Kansas the national emblem of conservative governance. Brownback’s hard-fought victory on election day won him another four years, but it did nothing to fix the problem that nearly cost him his job: the state’s finances. Kansas’s budget has for months resembled a wallet with a hole in it—every time the state’s bookkeepers peek inside, they find less money than the government thought would be there. Just a few days after the November election, the Kansas budget office revealed that revenue projections were off by more than $200 million, bringing the budget gap facing Brownback to $600 million in all.
The yawning deficit is widely blamed on the deep income tax cuts that Brownback, along with a Republican legislature, enacted during his first two years in office. They not only slashed rates, but more importantly, they created a huge exemption for business owners who file their taxes as individuals. By Brownback’s own description, the tax plan was a “real live experiment” in supply-side economics, with the idea being that lower taxes would spur investment, create jobs, and refill Kansas’s coffers through faster growth. Yet even under the most charitable analysis, revenue has plummeted much faster than the economy has expanded.