The GOP’s crusade to cut taxes for the rich has come back to haunt them- but once again, it’s the middle class who will suffer the consequences. Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas and a deeply conservative state legislature slashed income taxes and corporate taxes in 2012, even though their accountants told them it would ruin the economy: Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly says that “our finance folks ran the numbers and made it very clear that we’d be $1.2 billion under water by now. And that’s exactly what’s happened.” In addition, the jobs that were supposed to be created by the tax breaks have “largely failed to materialize”, repeating a story that has played out again and again in Republican states promising economic growth through trickle-down tax cuts.
The state is still $400 million short, having found $800 million from raiding funding from highway maintenance, general infrastructure and other “budgetary tricks”. The Kansas legislature, their backs against a wall, reluctantly agreed to raise the sales tax, ensuring that the burden will fall on the already hurt middle class and working poor. Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, is very upset with the bill, saying that “There’s only so much you can squeeze from the lowest end of the scale…this looks to pick the pockets of lower- and middle-income Kansans.”
The sales tax increase will take food out of the mouths of Kansan children in families earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, according to some Democratic lawmakers, and drive business away from Kansas as shoppers head to Missouri to save some much-needed cash. The budget bill also the “reduces state deductibility of local property taxes and mortgage interest, driving up most Kansans’ income tax payments.” On top of all of that, the state’s budget fixes are largely temporary, leaving Kansas in the exact same position during the next fiscal year.
Despite all of this, Brownback and Kansas Republicans are unrepentant for this gross mismanagement of state funding. The rest of the Republican Party clearly hasn’t learned anything from this experiment either, as legislators in Maine, Texas, Ohio, and Wisconsin are all pushing for their own versions of Brownback’s cuts. The trickle-down Reaganomics that are embedded in the Republican DNA have been proven to be a failure time and time again, but the conservative political machine refuses to stop funneling money to wealthy Americans while leaving everyday working families with empty pockets.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.