Grover Norquist’s Grip On GOP Slips As 47 Kansas Lawmakers Break “No Tax” Pledge

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47 of the 53 Kansas lawmakers who signed pledges not to raise taxes, abandoned their pledges by voting for a package of regressive tax increases that will place a heavy burden on low and middle-income Kansas residents. The 53 lawmakers had either signed Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform no taxes pledge, a similar pledge offered by the Koch Brother’s Americans for Prosperity or both. By Monday, June 15th, only 6 of the 53 lawmakers had not broken those pledges.

Facing a gaping budget hole created by Governor Sam Brownback’s fiscally irresponsible income tax cuts, the legislature discovered that it could not cut its way to solvency. Consequently, the lawmakers relented and agreed to over 380 million dollars in tax increases, with most of the tax burden falling on poor and middle-class Kansans.

The lawmakers eliminated certain income tax deductions, and they raised the cigarette tax from 79 cents to 1.29 a pack. However, the most controversial increase was boosting the state sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. The legislature also added a 47 million dollar tax on managed care organizations in Kansas.

Democratic leaders criticized the package because it shifts the tax burden further away from the rich onto the less affluent. The GOP’s decision to raise taxes illustrates the failure of Governor Brownback’s income tax cuts to stimulate economic growth as promised. However, the Republican “fix” is not likely to improve the state’s economy since most of the tax cuts for the rich remain intact while new taxes are assessed on the poor.

Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Meeker blasted the GOP tax increases, stating:

The Republican Party’s irresponsible policymaking is now common practice. Republican legislators know that the only honest way to fix the state budget crisis is to reverse Governor Brownback’s failed experiment.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) argued:

The Republican legislators who support this bill are foisting on the people of Kansas the highest, most regressive sales tax on food in the nation.

The bad news for the people of Kansas is that the Republican tax increases will do nothing to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Kansans. The silver lining, if there is one, is that Sam Brownback’s financial emergency has become so severe that Republican lawmakers have betrayed Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers. The tax bill they supported is nothing short of terrible. Nevertheless, by cutting the puppet strings that held them hostage, the lawmakers have an opportunity to start making better decisions in the future. Foolish anti-tax pledges put Kansas on the path to financial ruin. Now that the pledges are no longer being honored, maybe common sense can slowly find its way back into Kansas politics.

 


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