Five years ago tomorrow, Governor Sam Brownback signed into law one of the most damaging pieces of state fiscal policy America has ever seen.
"Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback took a grand gamble Tuesday with a monumental tax plan that he hopes will spur an economic revival and not an unparalleled budget crisis that leaves state services in ruins," wrote The Kansas City Star on May 23, 2012.
Despite the governor's misguided enthusiasm, the 2012 tax cuts inflicted more damage on state finances in the first year alone than the entire Great Recession. While other states began to rebuild post-recession - reinvesting in education, health care, and public safety - the tax cuts forced Kansas to make deep reductions in funding for these core services. While the wealthiest residents thrived, communities across the state struggled to get by.
Not only is Governor Brownback's so-called "pro-growth tax policy" an economic failure, but it has jeopardized the health and well-being of families and individuals statewide. Cuts to Kansas' early childhood system limited the reach of child development programs. Elimination of the Child and Dependent Care Credit made it more difficult for parents to afford child care and get to work. Cuts to the Senior Care Act forced elderly Kansans out of their homes and into nursing homes. Dollars aside, Kansans have sacrificed a lot in opportunity and future prosperity - all to continue an experiment that has wrecked state finances and made life harder for so many people.
The 2012 tax plan broke the Kansas budget, but it did not break the spirit and resiliency of Kansans. Last November, voters rejected Brownback's radical agenda and elected 56 freshman lawmakers to join veteran policymakers in 2017 and fix the state's fiscal problems. A comprehensive tax reform package passed early this year, and though the governor vetoed it, legislators should not give up.
As lawmakers approach the 100th day of the legislative session, the time to take the courageous step of repairing our state's broken economy, communities, schools, and middle class is now. Effective policy change will require bold leadership, cooperation, and - most importantly - forward-thinking.
It's time to create an anniversary Kansans will be proud of.