Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): February 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Where Are the Conservative Leaders?

There was once a rumor that the top leaders in the Kansas House and Senate were conservatives. I think it's safe to say most Kansans knew what we were getting with Senate President Susan Wagle: 

She appears quite content to sail the USS Kansas right into the side of an enormous tax increase --only Democratic special interests need apply for life jackets.

I expected more in the House, though. There, conservatives, with the help of some moderates, elected Ron Ryckman, Olathe, Speaker of the House. Ryckman has conservative creds, and he promised to be fair. Apparently, fair only applies to some weird brand of Democratic special interests, however. 

There's nothing fair about balancing the budget on the backs of poor and middle class Kansans, and he allowed that bill to get onto the House floor. 

Last week with nary a word of debate, a bipartisan coalition of so-called moderates and the liberal lefty Democrats rammed through the House (and a day later, the Senate) a tax increase that will be an anvil around the ankles of middle class and lower income families trying to keep their heads above water. So, thanks for that. They did this despite not even having passed a budget. This means they decided, well, no matter what, we've got to give taxpayers a pay cut. We aren't sure why. We don't know the numbers or what we need, but they definitely can't keep all that money they earned in January, February and into the future. 

The House Speaker should rarely be in the minority on a vote. Ryckman has the ability to shut down any bill in the House, and he chose not to use it. This may have been some politics behind it: Now, everyone is on record, and there's definitely some political hay to be made from that. Grassroots conservatives know for certain that we can't trust Reps. Abe Rafie, Shelee Brim, or Sean Tarwater on fiscal issues. (I think the term I'm looking for here is one-termers.) So, now we know what we're dealing with. 

Here's the enraging part about so-called House leadership: This bill is going to be vetoed, but the vote was incredibly close to a veto-proof majority. What the fiscally sane people and taxpayers need is a champion who will whip the no votes and ensure they stay that way on a veto override vote. Word on the street is that Ryckman is refusing to do that.  

If you're one of the few people who has Ryckman's ear, now might be the time to mention that conservatives will write him off for higher office --I know he's eyeballing Yoder's seat--if he can't use his leadership position to fight for fiscal sanity in Kansas. Why on Earth would anyone send him to Washington (or even back to the Speakership) if he can't lead on something as simple as sound fiscal policy in Kansas. Real leadership means you have people following you. What does it say when you're on the wrong end of a 76-48 vote and you have ultimate control over whether that vote occurs? Conservatives need someone they can follow into battle, and right now, Ryckman isn't that guy, unfortunately.

Leaders Needed

Because Ryckman refuses to go to bat for conservative values, someone else is going to need to. We can't have another moment in which the conservative selected to speak against a massive tax increase is in the bathroom when the time comes. Yes, that actually happened. When it was time to debate that tax increase monstrosity, a few conservatives in the House had a plan to offer amendments and you know, say a few words about NOT GROWING THE SIZE OF AN ALREADY BLOATED GOVERNMENT BY TAXING CITIZENS TO DEATH. When the time came, the guy who everyone agreed would say something was in the restroom.

Um, other guys and gals not in the bathroom--you, too, can step to the well and say something. Even if it's not the most polished, brilliant thing you've ever said, conservatives needed a voice in that vote. It's soul-sucking that no one stepped up to defend the taxpayers. I know you were taken by surprise at the speed everything happened, but we're going to need you to be quicker on your feet. If you need some flash cards with some generic things you can say, let me know. I'll write those up, and I'll only charge you three times what the state is going to take from my wallet come next April. Wait, does that seem awfully expensive for some note cards? Well, welcome to my world. Taxpayers send you buckets of money each year, and it sure seems like we're not getting our money's worth.)

There's a new, loose organization working on political strategy to accomplish a few things. I'm hopeful that they'll have some success, but the jury is still out. 

About That Bill

Hopefully, this loose coalition of the sane, the Truth Caucus, can help with a bit of the messaging. It's absolutely enraging that the media is running around saying this tax bill simply rolls back the LLC-exemption from 2012. 

Guys, that's a lie--a complete and total lie. It does roll back the small business tax incentive from 2012, but it also raises income taxes RETROACTIVELY on even the lowest wage earners in Kansas. In fact, the back breaking income taxes on the middle class bring in the majority of the new revenue in this bill. The small business tax incentive, or LLC-exemption, is only a small piece of the revenue. 

Congratulations, entire world. All of those people who campaigned on rolling back the LLC-exemption weren't tell the truth about their actual aims. If that were truly their imperative--to end that tax incentive--they could do it in a clean bill that simply did that. 

But that's not what this is. It's a dirty bill with all kinds of tax hikes on everyday Kansans, and liberals blanketed their lie by pretending this just rolls back the LLC-exemption. Shame on mainstream media for allowing that myth to pass as reality, and shame on any so-called conservative or Republican who tries to say that's really what this bill does. That's smoke and mirrors.

By the way, legislators have tried clean bills in the past and failed. I think it's failed four times so far in the last two years. You know who wouldn't vote for it? Dems and moderates who say it doesn't go far enough. This is politicking at its worst. If rolling back the LLC tax incentive were really the "right thing to do" and what "the people" want, they wouldn't be using it as a bargaining chip. They'd do the right thing.

LLC versus Carry Forward Loss

Here's the truly infuriating part: These (hopefully, now) one-termers campaigned on raising taxes on the rich so Kansas could pay its bills and on tax fairness. (Because being a slave to government spending is super fair to people like me.)

They argued that the LLC-tax incentive busted the budget, and that it was just giving the rich a tax break. That's not what the data suggests. Instead, much of the tax break went to individuals who earned less than $25,000 per year. These are people who were likely working side businesses--like window installation, accounting, or hair styling--and created a business on their own after 2012. That may not seem like massive hiring--which is what the libs claim--but creating your own job IS job creation.

Meanwhile, the people screaming the loudest about the LLC tax incentive never mention that the legislation would also reinstate a tax break for the actual wealthiest. It's called the carry-forward loss provision. This provision remains a part of federal tax code, and it's the tax provision that allowed President Donald Trump to avoid paying income taxes for decades.

Here's how it works: Say you have a business that lost money in 2014, you can carry forward the losses, so that your spouse's taxable income is no longer taxable, or you can carry forward the loss into future years, meaning the income you earn the following year or a few years down the road isn't taxable, because you lost money back in 2014. Typically these are wealthy people by the way. If you're a tiny business and you lost money in 2014, the business doesn't exist a few years later for you to carry forward the loss. 

When legislators crafted the LLC tax incentive in 2012, they eliminated the carry-forward loss provision. They exchanged rewarding failure--producing losses--for rewarding success--creating a business. It's too bad the media didn't accurately portray that 2012 tax bill, because in hindsight, it was Kansas ingenuity at its best, and it appears it's going to work when the economy truly gets rolling. (With a Republican in the White House, an actual recovery appears imminent, and then it's watch out, world.)

If tax fairness is truly the concern of the legislators who oppose the LLC-exemption, I sure hope they're planning to make KPERS pensioners to pay taxes on their retirement incomes at some point. As it stands now, they don't pay taxes on the income on the way in and they don't pay income taxes on the way out. The rest of us pay taxes on our retirements. That's but one example of dozens in the Kansas tax code that doesn't treat people "fairly."

The Solution

Grassroots friends, the pressure for conservative legislators to capitulate to liberal nonsense masquerading as fiscal sanity is going to be intense. This bill is going to be vetoed, and we're going to need to call our friends to ensure they hold the line. 

If moderates are hellbent on eliminating the LLC-tax incentive, fine. Conservative legislators, with the help of the Speaker who is supposedly an ally, make them vote on clean legislation that does only that. We can't allow the lowest income taxpayers to bear the burden of a government that will not cut the fat. 

Your legislators need to know what conservatives expect them to do. Don't let up on the phone calls, emails, and letters. Twitter and Facebook work, too. If your legislator is going to be at a forum or town hall, please stop in and thank those who voted correctly. Don't mince words for those who voted to balance the budget on the backs of hard working Kansans.

Conservatives got complacent a few years ago, and it's time to step up our game. Everyday Kansans are doing our best to stay afloat without any lifejackets, while the wealthy and Democratic special interests row away in the lifeboats.  We need the help of strong, principled conservative leaders in the House and Senate. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Conventioneering: Musical Chairs to Continue

Kansas GOP officials and grassroots people gathered in Manhattan (Mecca) this weekend for the state GOP's annual convention. A lot of people asked why I'm writing less here: You can find me almost daily over at the Sentinel, a fresh news source designed to help keep the mainstream media and legislators accountable. I will be dropping by here a few times per week to dole out the 4-1-1 that, for a variety of reasons, just doesn't fit there. Things like the following:

Musical Chairs Set to Continue

It looked for a moment there like the music had stopped in Kansas. Congressman Mike Pompeo was named intelligence director; Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes has a clear path to win Pompeo's Congressional Chair on April 11, and Derek Kriefels, current President of the State Financial Officers Foundation and a former Assistant State Treasurer, is likely to be tapped as interim Kansas Treasurer. (Update: I'm told the whispers about Kreifels are false.) Or, perhaps, Brownback will name a former office holder who lost his last election. Someone like former Sen. Terry Bruce?

The exciting game of musical chairs is far from over.

As Lee Corso would say: Not so fast, my friend. 

If I were a betting woman, I'd put money on Gov. Brownback announcing his departure before month's end. Word on the street is that he'll be working with refugees from a base in Rome, Italy. (I am so jealous.)

Meanwhile, there's still a chance that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has one foot out the door for a Donald Trump appointment. Some sort of advisory gig? Kobach's people are the most tight-lipped folks in all of Topeka. It's maddening. However, I did hear Kobach's departure to D.C. may be imminent if he can get his wife on board. 

Obviously, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer replaces Gov. Brownback and names his next-in-command. Who Colyer names as his own replacement will be telling. If Colyer names someone like former state Sen. Garrett Love--someone young, upwardly mobile and able to fundraise-- as his Lt. Gov, I think it's safe to say Colyer intends to run for Governor in 2018. However, if he picks a place holder--say some person no one has heard of--I think it's safe to assume Colyer plans to run for the Congressional Third District seat, currently held by Congressman Kevin Yoder.

I don't think Colyer would primary Yoder, but Yoder may be gearing up for a run at the Governorship. For what it's worth, every politician in Kansas, and every human with any kind of name ID is quasi-considering a run at that top gig.) For Yoder, he's likely thinking about being closer to home now that he has two small children. He's also got to be considering the challenging race he'd have in the Third. He'll win of course, if he decides to run for re-election, but the Dems are gearing up to throw everything at him.

So, who will Colyer face in a Third District primary? My guesses include Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer for certain.

Over in the Governor's race, Yoder will face challenges from Wink Hartman, a Wichita businessman; that O'Malley guy (Right. I can't remember his first name either.); Sen. Susan Wagle; possibly Derek Schmidt.

And I haven't even addressed what is causing this second wave of upheaval--we'll call the first wave the Trump Tsunami: The second wave was Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins' announcement that she won't be running for Governor.

So, who will replace her in Congress? That's going to be a very crowded field. Potential candidates include Sen. Jake LaTurner, Sen. Caryn Tyson, Leavenworth DA Todd Thompson, Sen. Vicki Schmidt, and there's always a chance that Alan Cobb, the Trump transition team member who narrowly lost the Fourth Congressional Republican nomination to Ron Estes, may jump into the Second District race. (He lives in Topeka but is from Wichita.) For what it's worth, I think Derek Schmidt chooses to run for Second instead of Governor, which means Thompson will not run. 

That music you hear is another round of musical chairs about to pick up. So keep your ears to the ground and send your 4-1-1 my way!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Meanwhile at the Sentinel

A lie told often enough becomes the truth, or so Vladimir Lenin once said. At the very least, misleading information skews reality, and that’s where Kansans find themselves today–asked to believe that Kansas’ current budget problems are the result of a 2012 tax cut, and not the result of outrageous and continued growth in government spending.

....Hold the phone while the truth tellers put on some pants. 

Read it here.

Friday, February 3, 2017

This Bodes Well for Republicans

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced this week that it will target Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder. So says the Kansas City Star, revealing that Democrats are so desperate they've decided to spend buckets of money in off-season to campaign against candidates who won handily in a state and a place where Republicans didn't fare all that well.

Despite facing pretty strong head winds last fall, Yoder handily defeated DCCC-funded candidate Jay Sidie by 10 points. If a double-digit deficit is the best place for the Dems to spend their money, I'd say election 2016 was worse for the liberals than I thought.

The DCCC issued a press release saying they'll hire a community organizer and run some ads against Yoder on Twitter. (Um. That will be preaching to the choir. Have you BEEN on Twitter lately? It's filled with Kansas libs liberaling and very little else, so that's an awesome use of funds.)

And then there's the very real possibility that Yoder won't seek re-election to his current role. The Governorship will be open, and rumors suggest he may be eye balling that slot.

Regardless of where Yoder decides to run, the risk of a Democrat winning the Third District is about as high as the possibility that I'll win the lottery tonight. (Full disclosure: I haven't even purchased a ticket.)

Republicans control the Presidency, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate by greater numbers than they have in 70 years. Republicans control more Governorships and statehouses. The Red bench is deep.

Meanwhile, the Dems are setting things on fire and dressing up as genitals in public. Who could they possibly find to challenge for Yoder's seat in 2018? Paul Davis couldn't defeat Sam Brownback, and surely they've almost exhausted their supply of former union organizers who live in Mission Hills. That's the show they're planning to spend money on in Kansas. If Kansas, arguably the reddest state in the nation, is the best hope for Dems, it's game over. Write the obituary already. 

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article130362064.html#storylink=cpy