Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Can we just make cuts? Pretty Please!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Can we just make cuts? Pretty Please!

Good news, guys. Steve Rose, with the help of Sen. Jim Denning, has found the way to solve Kansas’ budget problems.


I am baffled by almost every single suggestion in this column. 

First, this columnist and conservative legislator theorize that we just need to raise revenue, and bam! Problem solved. When someone from the government wants to “raise revenue” it always, ALWAYS, means by taking money out of your wallet. It’s legal pick pocketing and nothing more.

Denning says a proposal to add cigarette and alcohol sales taxes will be dead on arrival, and then he advocates for increasing sales taxes on e-cigarettes. Seriously, what's the difference? (I hate both proposals, btw.)

Second, it should be noted that Kansas revenues are up, despite what Rose calls “damaging tax cuts.” Kansas is consistently bringing in more money month over month than it did the year before. Kansas is not however bringing in the amounts of revenue that the “experts” predicted. I am not sure who makes these revenue projections, but since that person or group has been wrong repeatedly, maybe it’s time to find a new brain trust.

So please understand that when you see those news stories saying that revenues are too low, know that means revenues aren’t meeting projections. They are NOT lower than they were the year before. Also, note that spending isn’t in the tank.

Next, let’s talk about the other side of the economic equation. Yes, we can make further spending cuts. Cutting taxes is relatively politically easy. Who is going to object to government allowing citizens to keep more of their own money (I mean, who other than socialists?). Approximately 60 percent of Kansas’ budget goes to the sacred cow of education, and I am continually amazed that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – evidence that clearly shows spending more doesn’t equate to better educational outcomes – politicians and the media and their dupes in the general public believe that if we just pour even more money into public schools, we’ll suddenly begin graduating a bevy of Kansas Einsteins from our public indoctrination camps. Historically, this idea is a big fat failure, but we keep going to that well and drinking until we can’t button our pants.

To hear Steve Rose tell it, you’d think this was Kansas during the days of the Dust Bowl. But guess what? General fund spending is about even or trending slightly upwards. These painful budget hacks apparently shaved off about zero cents from the state budget.

I could deal with the whining and caterwauling from liberals a lot easier if it wasn’t so darn sanctimonious. Just be honest, liberals. Be honest and say yeah, we’re spending the same as we’ve been spending, but it’s not enough, because we don’t want anyone to have more money than we deem they should have. (This is essentially the cry of the liberals. It’s politics based on envy, and I’ll tell you what, it’s immoral.)

So let’s jump into Denning’s proposed “budget adjustments” ahem – mostly tax increases.

First, he’d like to “fix” the LLC loophole. I won’t go too much into it. I have really mixed feelings about it. He says the “fix” would add about $110 million to Kansas’ bottom line. (Steve Rose calls it “saving” money in the Kansas budget, which completely enrages me. When I “save” money in my own budget, I do not take dollars out of the pockets of other people.)

Second, Denning proposes raising the sales tax rate. So help me if that plan passes either legislative body, I will cut someone. Sales taxes are the most regressive tax policy, because the poor bear the greatest burden when sales taxes are raised.

Third.. and again, I’m sharpening my knife – Denning proposes raising the gasoline tax. Again, gasoline taxes are a dagger in the backs of hard working, middle class Kansans. It’s as bad or worse than adding a tax to an effective cancer treatment.I’m talking pitch forks and stake burnings. I’m not kidding.

I don’t understand Denning’s fourth suggestion, modifying a passive income tax law, well enough to offer comment.

Denning then, according to Rose who can’t always be trusted so grain of salt and all that, suggests making changes to Medicaid. I can get on board with tightening the Medicaid eligibility error rate. The other Medicaid policy changes mentioned in the column don’t give enough details for me to comment. However, I will warn that changes to Medicaid that “add” money to Kansas revenues are likely to be fraught with federal strings. Blech.

He suggests taxing the healthcare companies that administer KanCare. Meh. In general, I hate taxes, so I probably hate this suggestion, too, but again, not enough detail.

Denning also suggests cutting some itemized deductions. I’m fine with this, even though I believe it will likely cost me more. I hate government choosing winners and losers – even in the very few instances in which I am a winner. His final suggestion involves realizing more in returns on KPERS. I mean, it has a nice sound to it, but can we really guarantee any amount of earnings from investments? Good luck with that.

I’m sickened that it’s come to this – that conservatives are spiking their obligation to make spending cuts – real, actual cuts. I could even live with proposed solutions that make cuts and add revenues. I can’t live with proposals that do nothing but pad the pockets of Kansas government.

So, how does one find $600 million in the Kansas budget? I'm just spit-balling here -- but do the work necessary to cut spending. (This likely means somehow crushing the Kansas public school monopoly, which I realize is easier said than done, but can we try? Please.)

I don’t want to say I told you so.  Wait, yes I do. A few years ago, I begged – via virtual blogging means – legislators to make spending cuts at the same time they made tax cuts. They did not. And this is what they’ve sown. 

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