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Morning Sun
  • OUR VIEW: Brownback’s cuts plan either proof or coincidence

  • Last week, we wrote about the reality of cuts to federal government spending. In effect, they are real, they are necessary, and they will be coming at some point in the future.



    Little did we know it would be in the works days later, but on the state level.

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  • Last week, we wrote about the reality of cuts to federal government spending. In effect, they are real, they are necessary, and they will be coming at some point in the future.
    Little did we know it would be in the works days later, but on the state level.
    Gov. Sam Brownback has told state agency leaders to make new budget proposals that include cuts of at least 10 percent. This is to prepare, he said, for potential economic problems that could affect the state. He says these are only contingency plans, but anyone who has worked in any business knows that the word “contingency” is often dropped sooner rather than later.
    Brownback’s spokeswoman said that “there are things agencies can do to reduce costs and streamline their offices without impacting services.”
    The reality is that a 10 percent cut will have an effect on services. If any state agency has enough cushion to absorb a 10 percent cut without affecting services, we take a Missouri approach: show me.
    Several newspapers report that Brownback has also made statements that he would protect education, Medicaid, transportation funding and public safety funding. Those are important areas, but Brownback has just committed himself to protecting most of the state budget.
    Taking those out of the equation is like saying you’ll cut down 10 percent of your fast food intake, so long as it isn’t a place that serves burgers, sandwiches, Chinese food or tacos.
    At any rate, the use of taxpayer dollars is always a significant issue. So we’re glad to see at least some real effort being put into place to reduce costs, but it also comes at a strange time for the governor.
    When Brownback and his Republicans in arms in the House helped wrangle through a massive income and sales tax cut program, they promised that the revenues would come in all the same, if not better than they did before.
    Democrats and moderate Republicans said the math didn’t add up, and that devastating cuts would be coming. The Legislature’s own research division estimated the state would face a revenue shortfall of $2.5 billion by 2018 under these tax cuts, yet Brownback and his fellow Republicans decried these projections as based on faulty assumptions.
    Democrats and moderate Republicans (many of whom were defeated in primary elections across the state) are now left saying “I told you so” after Brownback asked for the contingency plans for the massive cuts that they said would be coming.
    It sets up three distinct possibilities:
    1) Brownback’s tax cuts worked, and the budget cuts are in spite of the extra revenue coming in. This option seems unlikely, because a politician that wants to cut government spending when more money is available is as rare as Bigfoot.
    Page 2 of 2 - 2) Democrats and moderates are right, that the tax cuts didn’t work and government cuts will be necessary. We can’t tell about this possibility yet, because the full effect of the tax cuts have not yet taken place.
    3) The tax cuts and budget cuts have nothing to do with each other. Just the fact that the same leaders proposed both plans and only suggested cutting budgets after the tax cuts were already approved is merely coincidence.
    While Brownback’s goal of reducing spending without affecting services and without affecting most of the state’s budget is noble indeed, it has the effect of being tied, rightly or wrongly, to his other policies.
    Already some effects are taking place. Forty Kansas Department of Transportation officials in the central office were laid off recently. Whether services will be cut or affected at KDOT remains to be seen.
    Maybe the first option was right, in which case we need to make saints out of Brownback and House Republicans. Maybe the second option will be right and Brownback and his contingent deserves scorn rather than re-election. Or maybe the third is right and it merely looks bad.
    It’s too early to tell which particular option is the truth. Eventually, we’ll know who was right.
    But timing is everything, and at this point, time is not on our side.
    — for the Morning Sun
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