Sam Brownback's Kansas is a resort for "makers"

The governor has transformed the state into a laboratory for ultraconservative policies

By Jamelle Bouie
Published January 27, 2013 2:00PM (EST)

This article originally appeared on The American Prospect.

Much like Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, Governor Sam Brownback is busy turning Kansas into a right-wing paradise, with low wages, few public services, and reactionary social policy. Since 2010, when conservative Republicans—including Brownback—took full control of the state, Kansas has passed strict new anti-abortion laws as well as large cuts to education and mental healthcare services. And last year, Brownback signed a bill that cuts state income taxes by roughly $3.7 billion over five years, and collapses the state’s current three-bracket tax system into two brackets: 4.9 percent and 3 percent.

The American Prospect That tax cut took effect this month, and as the New York Times reports, it’s the largest reduction in Kansas history. It’s also only the beginning; this week, Kansas Republicans introduced a bill that would pare taxes further, and eventually eliminate the state’s individual income tax.

As with Jindal’s proposal in Louisiana, this would deprive the state of needed revenue; existing tax cuts are already expected cost nearly $850 million in the coming year. Additional cuts will balloon those costs, and force further reductions to state services. Indeed, the Times notes that, to pay for those tax cuts, Kansas Republicans have proposed higher sales taxes and repeal of working-class tax credits:

Mr. Brownback proposed to help cover the cost of those cuts by keeping in place a sales tax increase that was scheduled to expire this year and by eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. […]

The bill included the repeal of tax credits for food, rental housing and child care that benefited low-income residents. Because of those repeals, the poorest 20 percent of Kansans will spend an additional 1.3 percent of their incomes, an average of $148 per year, on taxes, according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

As for the top 1 percent of Kansans? Their tax burden will decrease by $21,087 a year, or a little less than the state poverty line for a two-person household.

In addition to all of this, Brownback is pushing Kansas Republicans to overhaul the state’s selection process for appeals court judges. Currently, the governor picks justices from a list of recommendations prepared by the state’s Bar Association. Brownback wants the legislature to adopt a plan that would allow him to nominate judges, and pack the state bench with conservative ideologues.

For all the talk of reform in the Republican Party, here is the reality: The push for welfare state retrenchment that cost Mitt Romney the election has been adopted by GOP governors across the country, as they eliminate taxes on the wealthy, and slash social spending to the bone. Likewise, Republicans in Congress have not been shy about their preference for deeper cuts to the social safety net, and lower taxes for the rich.

Rhetoric notwithstanding, Republicans remain committed to the same plutocratic agenda of the last four years. At most, they’ve learned to keep quiet about it.


Jamelle Bouie

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Ayn Rand Conservatism Governor Sam Brownback Kansas The American Prospect