After listening to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s State of the State Address Tuesday night, it seems pretty obvious that he might be gearing up for another presidential run in 2016 or at least is wanting to be part of a Republican president’s cabinet if the party is successful in four years.
Brownback ran for president in 2008 but didn’t have anything to campaign on other than his ultra-conservative views for government, family values and abortion. Now he will have Kansas on his presidential resume.
In outlining his agenda, not just for 2014 but for the next two years, Brownback said, “Look out Texas, here comes Kansas.”
It was an obvious nudge to his buddy Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who Brownback publicly supported in Perry’s failed attempt to grab the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2012.
Brownback, for some reason, likes what he sees Perry doing in Texas when it comes to slashing taxes and funding to education and other programs.
And what’s not to like?
The unemployment rate is basically the same at around 6.2 percent.
Texans pay no state income tax, which Brownback wants to implement in Kansas.
And the state sales tax in Texas is 6.25 percent. That is just a hair lower than Kansas’ 6.3 percent, which is set to scale back to 5.7 percent this year but Brownback wants to make it permanent as part of his zero state income tax dream.
So is it any wonder that Brownback would like to carbon copy Perry’s blueprints for Texas and implement these ideas, along with some of his own, in Kansas? He said Texas had lured away too many Kansans because it does not have state income tax and his goal is to not only keep those Kansans in the state but to lure others to Kansas.
During his speech, Brownback said he wants to cut most tax rates to 1.9 percent and the state’s top tax rate to 3.5 percent. Keeping the state sales tax at 6.3 percent is key to Brownback’s plan. That money would be used to make up for the lost revenue by the two reduced tax rates. In doing those three things, the governor said that would create the atmosphere to expand the state’s economy, expand its sales tax base, and entice young professionals to make Kansas their home.
Although Brownback said his plan would increase jobs, a non-partisan analysis of the governor’s overall plan has said it will cost the state as much as $2 billion of the $6 billion general fund budget within five years. Brownback and his supporters rebuke that claim.
And then there is the overhaul of the state’s judicial system in how judges are selected to the Kansas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Just last week, the three-panel Court of Appeals went against Brownback and ordered legislators to restore cuts to funding education totaling $440 million.
“Kansans deserve a government that is not beholden to any special interest group,” Brownback said.
Right now, a commission selected by the state’s Bar Association interview candidates and recommends a list of three to the governor who then chooses one to a vacant seat. Brownback’s proposing the Legislature create a plan in which he makes the candidate selection who then goes to the Senate for confirmation.
Basically, it’s a plan in which the governor can put his people into judgeships in order to get rulings that favor his issues. Kansans can expect this issue to be among the first to be discussed as legislators begin the 2013 session.
So what would happen if Kansas becomes another Texas?
If there is no state income tax, funding for education, cities and counties would have to rely heavily on property taxes, which is the case in Texas. Taxing entities, like school districts, cities, counties, municipal utility districts, community colleges, hospital districts, and others, independently set their tax rates. These rates are expressed as an amount per $100 of property value. So a tax rate of 23 cents on a $150,000 property would equal $345 in taxes (150,000/100 x .23).
Other notes of interest about Texas:
The Texas budget deficit ballooned to an astounding $27 billion in 2012. Standard & Poor’s blamed the Texas budget problems on its tax structure rather than the economy.
Texas cut $5.4 billion from public education in 2012 making the state rank 45th in per pupil spending and first in the United States for adults currently without a high school diploma.
Texas has the sixth highest poverty rate in America at 18.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census (Kansas’ was 13.6 percent).
And at 9.5 percent, Texas has the greatest percentage of workers who work for minimum wage and receive no medical benefits, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
And, as if speaking about his political future, Brownback said, “When our country seems adrift, Kansas leads to the stars through difficulty. Where other governments expand, we grow smaller. Where others choose to grow spending, Kansas grows jobs…It is within our reach to reduce taxes. It is within our reach to balance our budget and meet the needs of our people.
“In an era when many believe that America has lost it’s way, Kansas knows it’s way. Our place, Kansas, will show the path, the difficult path, for America to go in these troubled times.”
I don’t think I want Kansas to be a carbon copy of Texas. I have my doubts about Brownback’s vision for Kansas. My gut tells me, the fruits of his political labor won’t begin to bloom until after he’s left office and I’m afraid at best, that fruit is going to be rotten. I just don’t have a good feeling.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope Brownback’s Kansas will be fruitful and prosperous. If it is, I will be pleasantly surprised and will happily be the first to congratulate him and the legislators that helped him make it so.
But I have my doubts.