On Sunday evening, the Republican-controlled Kansas Senate passed a 471 million dollar tax increase. If the measure passes the Kansas House on Monday and is then signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback, it will become the largest tax increase in Kansas’ history.
Senate support for the tax increase is a clear sign that the Brownback tax cuts that were supposed to stimulate the economy, have failed so miserably, that even Tea Party Republicans have resigned themselves to supporting a massive tax increase. However, the Senate did not opt to restore higher income tax rates for the wealthy, but instead they decided to fill the state’s gaping budget hole by raising regressive taxes which pass the burden onto the poor.
The Senate bill, which passed on a close 21-17 vote, would raise the state sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.55 percent. The cigarette tax would jump from .79 cents a pack to a 1.29 a pack. The measure would also lower deductions for property taxes, charitable contributions and home mortgage interest.
The bill protects the zero income tax rate for many owners of limited-liability companies, corporate farms and large corporations. However, it eliminates sales tax rebates on food for poor families, the elderly and people with disabilities.
So while Senate Republicans have finally come to grips with the failure of the Brownback tax cuts, their solution is not to make billionaires like Charles Koch, who still claims residency in Wichita, pay a higher tax rate. Instead they have decided to tackle the state’s budget crisis by raising the price of food for the poor, disabled and elderly.
What voters in Kansas, and across the nation, need to recognize is that the Republican Party is not so much committed to cutting taxes, as they are to protecting the wealth and privilege for the people at the top of the income pyramid. Republican rhetoric about cutting taxes is often interpreted by voters as a signal that GOP politicians will cut their taxes. However, when tax cuts fail to stimulate the growth that was promised, Republicans will try to plug the gap by squeezing every last penny from the people without money, before they dare ask rich people to pay their fair share.
If the Senate bill becomes law, low and middle-income Republican voters in Kansas will become the proud owners of an “anti-tax Governor and anti-tax legislature” that passed the largest tax increase in the state’s history. To add insult to injury, they will also have the dubious honor of paying for that tax increase so that the state’s aristocracy can keep their precious tax cuts. If not for the fact that some of those people will endure real suffering, the whole charade would be almost comical.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.