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Brownback's "Experiment" Drives Kansas Into Fiscal Crisis, Punishes Middle Class

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Upon taking office, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback promised a “real live experiment,” in which he’d make massive tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest individuals with no mechanism to pay for them. Three years later, the results are in, and they’re not pretty – the state has plunged into fiscal crisis and the middle class is suffering.
As the Wall Street Journal put it in a devastating story last week, “the results are serving as more of a warning than a beacon. Employment growth is below the national average, while Kansas faces plunging revenue, dwindling reserves and a rare debt downgrade.” To boot, there are few resources to spend on schools and public safety, and the cost of college, utility rates, and property taxes are all on the rise. That’s why even the most radical of Republican governors are brushing off the radical Brownback plan as a model for their states.
Kansas needs a governor who will govern in the spirit of fiscal responsibility and the highest standard of integrity. Instead, Sam Brownback has pursued a radical agenda that had decimated the state’s budget situation and made the lives of middle-class families worse. It should come as no surprise then that he’s being condemned by Republican leaders who understand the Brownback way is not fiscally conservative, and that he enters the campaign season deeply vulnerable to defeat.
Here’s a sample of the most recent coverage of the devastating results of Brownback’s “real live experiment”:
Associated Press: “Kansas Report Sparks New Questions About Explanation For Revenue Shortfalls.” “Kansas appears to have understated the effects of tax cuts championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in projecting revenues, the Legislature’s nonpartisan research staff said Tuesday in a report that reignited a sharp debate over how the governor’s aides have explained recent revenue shortfalls. State tax collections in April and May fell a total of $310 million short of the state’s most recent official revenue projections, which are used to set budgets.” [Associated Press, 6/10/14]
Wall Street Journal: Brownback’s Policies “More Of A Warning Than A Beacon.” “Two years ago, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback laid out an aggressive program of tax cuts to turn this slow-growing state into a Texas-like economic powerhouse—and serve as a model for Republican leaders in other states. So far, the results are serving as more of a warning than a beacon. Employment growth is below the national average, while Kansas faces plunging revenue, dwindling reserves and a rare debt downgrade.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/10/14]
Moody’s Downgraded Kansas’ Debt Rating In April; Tax Collections Down 12%. “Since Mr. Brownback took office in 2011, Kansas has dropped its top income-tax rate by 25% and plans further cuts. It also lowered sales taxes and eliminated a tax on small-business income, all to revive a sluggish economy and bolster weak population gains. For the first 11 months of its fiscal year, tax collections were down $685 million, or 12%, from a year earlier, at a time when U.S. states, according to the nonpartisan Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, are expected on average to see annual revenue growth. Moody’s Investors Service cut Kansas’ debt rating in April as the state draws down its reserves to make up for lost revenue.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/10/14]
Kansas “On Pace To Drain Much Of Its $700 Million In Reserves By The Middle Of Next Year.” “Mr. Brownback has steered away from deep government cuts to balance the state budget. Lawmakers, in fact, are increasing spending on general operations by 5% to $6.3 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1, restoring some cuts to state colleges and putting more money into K-12 education to comply with a court order. As a result, Kansas is on pace to drain much of its $700 million in reserves by the middle of next year, fueling criticisms here of the tax cuts. Early polling shows Mr. Brownback facing a competitive race for re-election this fall in one of the nation’s most Republican states. Some in the GOP watching from across state lines are skeptical of what Mr. Brownback calls a model for red states.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/10/14]
Oklahoma GOP Treasurer: Kansas Bond Rating Downgrade A “Wake-Up Call”. “State Treasurer Ken Miller said Monday a recent downgrade of the bond rating for Kansas should “serve as a wake-up call for us here.’ […]Miller said Kansas is enacting conservative ideology. ‘But they are not being fiscally conservative, because fiscally conservative is paying your bills,’ Miller said.” [The Oklahoman, 5/5/14]
Kansas City Star Editorial: “Kansas Budget Is Running On Fumes, And It Could Get Worse.” “Ignore the political spin from Kansas politicians trying to downplay the state’s budget concerns. Focus on the numbers, because they matter more… Kansas officials badly underestimated the negative effect of the individual income tax cuts that the Legislature passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed in 2012.” [Kansas City Star Editorial, 6/6/14]