Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s attempt to make his state a model for Tea Party governance has ended in abject failure. Brownback’ massive tax cuts for the wealthy were supposed to create a Grover Norquist inspired utopia where the government could be drowned in an irrigation ditch, and the Sunflower State would morph into the land of milk and honey. Instead, the ruinous, ideologically-driven, tax cuts have starved the state of revenue, lowered its credit rating, and left gaping budget shortfalls.
Now Governor Brownback, once the undisputed champion of tea party economics, has waved the surrender flag. While he hasn’t specified all the details in his new budget proposal, he is calling for some “revenue enhancements” to help close the burgeoning state budget deficit. Revenue enhancements are Republican-speak for tax increases.
In the understatement of the decade, Brownback’s chief of staff, John Hummel lamented that, “Revenue didn’t come in quite as was projected”. Imagine that. Huge tax cuts don’t increase revenue to the state’s coffers. Faith-based economic policies may play well before a crowd of die-hard market fundamentalists, but in the real world, it takes more than an abiding faith in the market to raise revenues. Sometimes it takes taxes.
Brownback apparently is slowly coming to the realization that the state will not be able to simply grow its way out of the current budget mess. Unfortunately, even with his admission that tax hikes are required, he still plans to focus more on spending cuts than tax increases, to try to cut into the over 600 million dollar projected budget shortfall. Education cuts are expected to be a major part of his new plan.
By acknowledging that tax increases are necessary, Brownback is tacitly admitting that the tea party experiment is over in Kansas. It has ended in failure. The Governor still seems to be minimizing the extent of the problem. He continues to assure voters that future budgets will be “revenue positive”. However, he at least now realizes that taxes need to be a part of the budget equation.