Despite his state facing bankruptcy, experiencing several credit downgrades, and a billion dollar deficit due to monumental tax cuts for the rich and corporations, Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback will not stop decimating Kansas schools. In fact, in his state of the state address last week, Brownback promised the Republican-dominated legislature that after conferring with business and corporate donors, “we will continue our march toward zero income taxes.” This is in spite of a projected $5 billion revenue loss over the next few years due to tax cuts for the rich and their corporations. As an aside, it is noteworthy that the Koch brothers’ corporate headquarters are located in Kansas.
Brownback’s latest trickle down approach to make up for gross revenue shortfalls “crippling the state’s finances” include cutting classroom funding for schools by another $127 million, cutting state payments to pension funds by $446 million, and stealing about $350 million from the state’s transportation department funding. None of the cuts will save Kansas economy now or in the future, and in fact will cost the state much, much more in the long term. However, it is obvious that the state’s fiscal health, like schools, retirees’ pensions and transportation infrastructure are of no consequence to Brownback. He is Hell-bent and duty-bound to give the Kochs and Grover Norquist exactly what they want; abolishment of taxation and eventually a bankrupt state and he is thankful to god for the opportunity to further damage any remaining semblance of the state’s fiscal health.
Brownback has already been ordered by two separate courts to increase funding for Kansas schools according to “bare-minimum” requirement levels in Kansas’ Constitution. As of last June, Brownback was required to increase education funding by hundreds-of-millions of dollars to meet the minimum requirements, but he adheres to a higher trickle down power than court orders that prevent him from rescinding even one penny of tax cuts for the rich to adequately fund educating Kansas children. The education funding cuts are courtesy of Republicans’ love-fest with block grants that are just conservative-speak for massive cuts.
According to research, the long-term costs for under-funding education are greatly increased in several areas, but higher costs later will give Brownback and Republicans more reasons to slash spending in those “several areas.” The problem with cutting school funding is that less education funding creates higher levels of poverty and higher public assistance spending. In fact, as poverty rises among uneducated Kansans, healthcare costs increase for a sicker “adult population” and jailing a “more delinquent future adult population. However, for Brownback and Republicans, rising social costs work to austerity advocates who will have a reason to “slash spending” to prevent bankrupting the state’s economy.
Cutting state-mandated contributions to pension funds is another means of not only paying for the rich and wealthy’s tax cuts, but it is a proven tactic to slash retirement payments later. It is bad enough that state workers are effectively paying for tax cuts for the rich, but according to the director of Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, cutting payments by $446 million now will cost the state over $3.7 billion in the long term. In fact, it is a typical, and diabolical Republican scam to create retirement system shortfalls in the future that Chris Christy employed in New Jersey as cover to slash workers’ retirement benefits to fund more tax cuts for corporations and the rich in the future. Republicans have used a similar tactic to eventually starve Social Security by refusing to raise the income cap that would keep the Trust flush for generations.
Although one understands the twisted thinking in cutting education and pensions to make further social program cuts in the future, slashing transportation funding now to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy is just beyond comprehension. Brownback is stripping an additional $350 million from the state’s transportation department that will create greater costs in the future as roads deteriorate more and material costs naturally increase. According to a ‘heavy construction’ trade group, not repairing a crumbling transportation infrastructure now will “create bigger problems” later on. Despite a decade-old sales tax increase to pre-fund transportation repairs, Brownback has already stolen $1.2 billion from the transportation fund to keep the state finances afloat due to gross revenue shortfalls. Revenue shortfalls that are in spite of a budget surplus Brownback inherited, and promptly squandered on tax cuts as well as an addition billion-plus dollars to increase corporate and rich people’s wealth. It is precisely the same actions Bush-Republicans used to create a stunning revenue shortfall at the federal level that Brownback is repeating and the Koch Congress pants to repeat.
It is bad enough Brownback is cutting more from education, taking more from retirees, and transferring more from transportation to fund his wealthy donor’s trickle down cuts, but the ‘short term cuts will not produce long-term solvency for the state” according to the Kansas City Star editorial board. The newspaper’s editors were just as dumbfounded over Brownback’s promise to “continue our march to zero income taxes” as any half-witted Kansan, and rightly noted that no matter how much he starves the state, schools, roads, social programs, and retirees’ pension accounts, none of them has produced any job growth.
The editors remarked that Brownback’s spending cuts “leave the state barely able to meet its statutory obligations, much less invest in its citizens and the future,” but what the editors fail to understand is that starving the state government, and Kansas citizens, to death is exactly what Brownback’s masters at Koch Industries and anti-government fanatic Grover Norquist have tasked him to do. It is also what the Kochs are likely conniving with Senate Republicans to achieve while they meet this weekend instead of debating the doomed Keystone pipeline.