Forcing austerity down their throats in Kansas

Forcing austerity down their throats in Kansas

You can’t make this up. Kansas Governor Brownback, whose failed Tea Party experiment (massive tax cuts to the rich and tax burden increase for the poor) turned Kansas into one of the most dysfunctional states in the country is now threatening to shut down the entire Kansas court system unless they uphold a 2014 law that is likely unconstitutional.

In 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court found that education funding was inadequate and it remanded the case back to a lower court to determine whether lawmakers violated a state constitutional requirement for adequacy in education. In retaliation, the governor signed a 2014 law giving district judges rather than the state supreme court the power to choose chief judges in the district courts. That law is being challenged on constitutional grounds, and if the state supreme court strikes it down, all funding for the courts will be eliminated and Kansas will face a constitutional crisis.

In 2012 and 2013, even though income taxes accounted for more than half of the state’s general fund, Brownback exempted 191,000 businesses from income tax and slashed tax for the rich. He promised that the rich and the businesses would use that money to grow the economy and create jobs. It didn’t happen, of course. Instead, his recklessness derailed the economy by generating a 400 million dollar shortfall, necessitating a marathon session of the legislature to come up with a budget approval of some sort, in order to keep the government from shutting down completely.

The legislature met on Sunday night. Something had to give. Some taxes had to come from somewhere, so the legislature, now legendary for its underhandedness, agreed on a plan to balance the budget on the backs of the working poor and the middle class:

The bill balances the budget on the backs of the middle class and working poor by raising sales taxes to 6.55%, eliminating nearly all itemized deductions and cutting the home mortgage interest and property taxes paid deductions to 50%, eliminating the food sales tax credit for the poor, and raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents/pack. It also contains the tuition tax credit that would give corporations up to $10 million if they will take children from public schools into private and unaccredited schools, expanding the eligibility rules for students.

The bill preserves the income tax exemptions for LLCs under which partners in businesses (think attorneys, physicians, etc.) pay no income tax while their employees do.

Governor Brownback continues to insist that his experiment is working just fine and any problems or glitches like the entire state being utterly screwed is the media’s fault.

Governor Brownback continues to insist that his reckless tax policy is fine and just needs more years to work. His Budget Director, Shawn Sullivan, went before the Republican Caucus to let them know that there would be massive cuts to K-12 education and public safety if they did not pass the tax bill. Sullivan said the cuts to education could be as high as $191 million. Read the AP report here.
The sticking point continues to be the Brownback policy under which more than 330,000 businesses in Kansas no longer pay any income tax. Many legislators believe that these businesses should be back on the tax rolls and that any increases in “consumption taxes” (sales, gas, tobacco, liquor, etc.) should be kept to a minimum. Others believe in the Brownback policy and want to keep those businesses off the tax rolls; these legislators would make our tax system even more regressive than it is now.
Brownback has vowed to veto any legislation that taxes those businesses.

Meanwhile, a district court dismissed the teachers’ union’s challenge to Kansas’s due process law. So, no tenure, no job security, and no hearing or due process for the public school teachers. Apparently, the governor’s goal in Kansas is to eliminate public education. Since that requires suspending the constitution, he is now threatening to shut down the courts in Kansas, if the Supreme Court dares to uphold it.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey on flickr.




  1. Beverly Lawson
    June 10, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Good Morning All and Thanks, Crane, for the dismal report. Fits in with how my morning started when I checked a thread on the McKinney story (must interest you as well). The very discouraging read was how many raciest remarks there are and lots of the support for the child abuser cop. I was certainly not expecting that.;(

  2. Rachel
    June 10, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I know, right.

    Thank you for reading and commenting- I have to go to work, but I hope everyone has a great day!

  3. Molly
    June 10, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Good morning, Firepups! I read about Kansas and Brownback’s idiocy yesterday and could hardly believe he can get away with it. Is there any way to stop these right-wing terrorists?

  4. Screwtape
    June 10, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Fisticuffs on the plains, where nothing ever “happens.” Who woulda thunk it?

    The question is, is this merely a stunt intended for show to agitate the Gov’s base, and without an expectation it will pan out? Or, has he actually strategized something where the court can’t act (at least not effectively) — that is, courts don’t actually appropriate money after all, and an order to the legislature to cough up the dough might be ignored.

    I think the former is more likely, since the latter if “successful” would create beaucoup problems for the Gov, and he would be aware. Whatever the court could not effectively enforce would end up in the Gov’s lap.

  5. Molly
    June 10, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Well, that cop has resigned but the other officials promise there will be a thorough investigation. Not holding my breath. I’ve watched that video a couple of times and the way the cop behaved was indefensible. Don’t know if it was racist or whether he was hopped up on adrenalin or something, but it was really scary.

  6. Marion in Savannah
    June 10, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Good morning, pups. Today we have Friedman, just Friedman. Mr. Bruni is off today, so TMOW has the place to himself. In “How to Beat the Bots” he states that we have the workers and we have the jobs, and that now we just need an employment dating service. This from the man who rhapsodized about reselling your clothes…

    HERE he is, and

    HERE’s Krugman’s blog.

    The coffee and tea are ready, and I’ve got apple and apricot muffins this morning. I’m frightfully behind in work for the client I’m about to fire, so I’ve got to get going on the backlog. Have a great day.

  7. Marion in Savannah
    June 10, 2015 at 8:18 am

    OOOOH — looky — links are now in color, courtesy of the magicians behind the scenes here. Cool!

  8. tjbs
    June 10, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Good morning all, far and wide,

    “Governor Brownback continues to insist that his experiment is working” and it is by gutting the government, the problem identified by Lord raygun, is the answer. It’s the christian taliban running wild.He will be blessed forever by the kock brothers for doing their bidding considering they are based in kanass.

  9. oldhippiejan
    June 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Good morning all and thanks CS. If Btownback’s economic plan is working so well, how does he explain the 400 Million$ shortfall. If funding for courts is eliminated, does that include judges pay? Of course to those that think like Brownback, it’s always the fault of “the poors”. Their lifestyle is far to good apparently. (Beginning to sound a lot like Indiana. A sales tax of 6.55% is still less than IN’s 7%, and if I’m not mistaken IN leads the nation in school privatization. Also our superintendent of schools, a Dem, and the only one elected to a state position, has been stripped of most of her duties.) This scheme to have right wingers take over state government’s was brilliant, although sickening.

  10. Alice X
    June 10, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Morning all. Borrowing the Civil War phase: we are going to hell in a hand basket.

    The TSA (fast track) hits the House probably tomorrow.

    There was a group described by some as the black helicopter bunch. They insisted the UN was creating a World Government that would supersede national sovereignty. Its minions would be coming around in black helicopters.

    Now there IS a singular World Government in the works, but it has nothing to do with the UN or any structure of democratic accountability. It will be a World Corporate Government. Its headquarters will be in major corporate boardrooms, its judiciary will be ad hoc corporate tribunals.

    If the TSA passes the TPP and its kindred not trade trade deals will be a forgone conclusion.

    Nader’s 10 Reasons That the TPP Is Not a ‘Progressive’ Trade Agreement

    What the TiSA Leaked Documents Reveal About Negotiations

  11. oldhippiejan
    June 10, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I hope this doesn’t pass, but I’m fairly sure it will, resulting in the loss of millions of more jobs and the importation of cheap poorly made, disposable trash. Gee thanks Obama. Apparently they have learned nothing from the other stellar free trade agreements. Left me re-phrase that. They don’t give two shits.

  12. Frederick Leatherman
    June 10, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Behold the politics of fear and hate. We are witnessing a war by white racist hypocrites who call themselves Christians against democracy, public schools and the Constitution, the working class, the poor, the mentally ill, the marginalized, immigrants, women, and people of color.

  13. karenjj2
    June 10, 2015 at 9:26 am

    If only the people in Kansas had a Sherwood Forest they could move to….

  14. oldhippiejan
    June 10, 2015 at 9:27 am

    They are indeed. I’ve yet to hear how their position squares with the teachings of Jesus. I fear these people more than any fear I can possibly conjure against ISIS. In a way, they’re sort of the Christian version of ISIS.

  15. Marion in Savannah
    June 10, 2015 at 9:47 am

    That’s why I call them the Talibangelicals…

  16. karenjj2
    June 10, 2015 at 10:08 am

    good morning, Crane and firepups

    as mentioned below, Koch bros sheriff Brownback is successfully creating Nottingham in the 21st century by robbing the poor to give to the rich.

    Re the courts funding being cut, perhaps they should revise their dockets to hearing only cases between humans without intermediaries. I.e. Shoplifting only mediated if the store owner and employee witness appear in court vs the accused; arresting police officer vs suspect; neighbor vs neighbor. think “Judge Judy.” LOL

    It would be a wonderful change to the court system if the Kansas courts would experiment with having jury trials conducted with “juries of their peers”. I.e. bringing in people from the neighborhoods ..

  17. Frederick Leatherman
    June 10, 2015 at 10:09 am

    The law recently passed by the legislature not only eliminated the supreme court’s authority to decide who will be the chief judges of the district courts, it also eliminated the supreme court’s power to determine its own budget. The emergency law passed by the legislature last Thursday to fund the courts for the rest of the fiscal year contained the offensive provision to eliminate all funding for the judiciary, if any state court declares that statute unconstitutional.

    The statute appears to violate a provision of the state constitution that says, the supreme court “shall have administrative authority over all courts in this state.” I think it also violates the separation of powers clause. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statute has been filed by Larry T. Solomon, Chief Judge of the Kingman County District Court.

    If the statute is declared unconstitutional, as I believe it will be, the courts will have to shut down and Kansas will have a constitutional crisis.

  18. karenjj2
    June 10, 2015 at 10:10 am

    anyone interested: bernie sanders on NPR diane rehm show right now 10am edt 10 jn 15

  19. oldhippiejan
    June 10, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I’ll have to remember that, Marion. Quite appropriate.

  20. bsbafflesbrains
    June 10, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Kansas is now the answer to the question …What would you get if you combined the corrupt government of Florida with the preternaturally stupid government of Texas?

  21. starrynight
    June 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    no, thank you

  22. Ruth
    June 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    thanks, Crane Station, another instance of ratwing disservice of the public. It’s sad that anyone is so delusional as to vote these creeps into office.

  23. karenjj2
    June 10, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Why do we continue to believe that these cretins were elected to office?

    The grand kabuki of “voter fraud” created by kkkarl was to distract from us from the ongoing ELECTION FRAUD that began in earnest in 2000.

    the privatized, proprietary computer program that processes votes and is recorded on a USB, transported to local elections office, transferred to another computer, transmitted to State Elections office which transmits “official results” where the surprise winner narrowly defeats the popular candidate.

    no one remembers the democratic primary where unknown “Joe Greene” paid $10,000 cash entry fee, did no campaigning and “won” against an extremely popular candidate. there was no challenge to that fraud by the democratic party; thus insuring that the repug coasted to reelection. I think it was McCain’s girlfriend Lindsey graham?

    and how ’bout the 15,000 votes that the election supervisor miraculously found on her computer that flipped the results in the judges election in Wisconsin 2 days after the polls closed?

    local supervisors of elections in Florida have complained about flipped votes in their counties to no avail.

    No one has successfully gotten an independent examination of the privatized election software programming. The paper “ballots” are NEVER counted by hand; “recounts” are simply run thru the machines again.

  24. mulp
    June 11, 2015 at 2:46 am

    Why don’t progressives in Kansas pick up and leave Kansas and move to Vermont or California or even Illinois? Not only are the politics better, but so is the weather.

  25. Screwtape
    June 12, 2015 at 9:34 am

    We’ll see, and you may be correct.

    Still, I’ve noticed for years that there’s an element of fungibility over constitutional issues, and they’re not so cut and dried all the time. Otherwise there would be no cases as such to pursue.

    Regarding separation of powers, an alternative viewpoint could be that while the KS Supremes can indeed set their own budget, and oversee KS courts, the legislature isn’t necessarily constrained to fund it. And it might not even matter what the Court says in that regard, in response, if it can’t be explicitly enforced (that is, by whom or what?).

    I still think there’s more politics going on here than legal determinism. So, my main point was about Brownback’s motives and expectations in this matter. Yes, he’s up to no good, legislature as well, but I’m still inclined to think it’s all a trope to agitate his base.