Kansas GOP Governor Says He Needs To Slash School Funding After His Tax Cuts Bankrupts Treasury

Just a few years ago, Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback wanted to show the world how great trickle-down economics could be, and now that his experiment blew up in his face, he admits he may need to start slashing funding for education to make up for it. But don’t worry, education wasn’t his first choice, he already plundered pensions and infrastructure.

Someone really needs to get around to explaining to Republican politicians that trickle-down economics doesn’t work.

As if we needed further proof (and we really, really didn’t), tax slashing “superstar” Sam Brownback has boldly led his state’s economy into the gutter at a time when the American economy as a whole is starting to warm up. It has gotten so bad that Brownback almost lost his reelection bid, despite running in conservative Kansas in the midst of a Republican midterm landslide. Dodging that embarrassment, Brownback now faces the consequences of his tax cut experiment: A $1.1 billion budget deficit and no way to pay for it.

Good highways, pensions for public employees and children are the latest victims of Gov. Sam Brownback’s $1.1 billion tax-cut blunder.

There will be more victims as the governor and the Kansas Legislature are forced to slash the state budget by hundreds of millions more in coming months, just to make sure the state doesn’t run a deficit in 2015 or 2016.

The income tax cuts backed by the governor and the Republican-dominated Legislature are now hurting real Kansans. Revenues are likely to an astounding $1.1 billion short of predicted expenses in the next 18 months. [source]

This is all very awkward for the Republican Party, who for several years looked to Brownback as a sort of unchecked conservative idealist, leading Kansas to prosperity through the kinds of ideas they criticized liberals for mocking. Finally, they hoped, someone would show Americans that Republicans were right about the economy. Then everything fell apart and Brownback is scrambling to find a way to blame it on… anything but Brownback.

Beleaguered chief of staff Jon Hummel, in what may go down as the greatest understatement ever said with a straightface, acknowledged some financial hiccups in Brownback’s time as governor:

“Revenue didn’t come in quite as was projected.”

No. Surprisingly, slashing taxes and offering no other way to increase revenue didn’t make money appear in the state’s coffers through some sort of ethereal, spontaneous generation. However, Brownback wouldn’t be a tax-cutting superstar if he gave up easily. Instead of eyeing new tax revenue sources, he instead wants to see what he can squeeze out of cutting funding for education.

Hummel told the Wichita Eagle:

“School finance will be part of our budget conversation,” Hummel said. “The governor feels like the growth in spending that’s occurred the last several years in school finance is unsustainable. He’s going to encourage them (the Legislature) to look at ways to do that, to address that. There’s different ways to do it. You could reform the current system or you go to a completely new system.”

Nobody is quite sure what Brownback’s vision for a “completely new system” of school financing would look like, but as Think Progress points out, educators are understandably worried.

Kansas Association of School Boards Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman said that would be a high-risk strategy with many complex moving parts, and no guarantee of turning up savings. “The point of a formula is to allocate dollars. If you change the formula and allocate dollars in a different way, presumably some districts are gonna get less and some districts are gonna get more,” Tallman said Monday. Any Brownback proposal to rewrite the formula would presumably draw resistance from districts that would face school cuts from the measure.

Despite Hummel’s statements that make it seem as if Kansas has been downright generous with education spending, Kansas schools have been found to be dismally underfunded. Last year, a three-judge panel found that Kansas spends so little on schools that it is essentially violating the state constitution requiring the government to provide adequate education to all Kansan children.

All of this is sickly ironic given what Brownback was touting back in 2012, before he put the economy in a tailspin. Making his pitch, Brownback told reporters:

“It will leave more than a billion dollars in the hands of Kansans,” Brownback said. “They know far better how to spend their money than the state government. An expanding economy and growing population will directly benefit our schools and local governments.”

At the time, there was a $466 million surplus in the state treasury. Now that the expanding economy Brownback predicted hasn’t materialized, he’s using the schools and the pension plans of government employees to bail him out. Where exactly is the benefit he promised?

h/t Think Progress | Feature image via imgflip.com