Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is defending recent moves to raise sales and cigarette taxes in order to balance a state budget hit hard by the governor’s income tax cuts. Brownback told KCUR's Steve Kraske that critics—including Democrats in the statehouse—do not see the big picture.
Kraske: Democrats are out today saying that the fact that you won't acknowledge this is a tax increase, what happened in the last session, is a sign that you’re living in a dream world. What do you say to that?
Brownback: Well, I wish they’d put forward proposals they supported. The Democrats didn’t put forward a single proposal in this legislative session that could be debated, the only thing they wanted to see happen was [that] everything fail, just come crashing down. So if they’re not willing to put forward proposals, I really don’t think they have much credibility to criticize.
Kraske: In the past they say they’ve come to your rescue, they’ve stood by tax increases and tried to help out during tough times, and then Republicans ran against them in the next election, so why should they have helped out this time?
Brownback: If they don’t think they have reasonable alternatives to put forward, I guess they don’t have a responsibility. But if they’re not going to put forward proposals then I don’t think they really should stand to criticize the [way] they are so loudly now. Put forward your proposals and stand by them.
Kraske: You continue to maintain that your business tax cuts were the right move and have benefited the state, but why are you standing by that when job growth is among the slowest in the country? And you had to raise sales taxes on every resident in the state to fill a budget hole created by the original cuts.
Brownback: The original cuts were primarily income tax cuts overall. Two-thirds of the cut went to income tax payers, not to small business, and I’ve got, in these numbers — I’m not sure what you’re citing, Steve — our economy grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in 2014 beating the region and almost every state in the area, and in the Kansas City market, which is so competitive for us, we’re outgrowing private sector jobs on the Kansas side 90 percent of the time faster than on the Missouri side on these month-by-month measurements taking place.
Private sector job growth — one of the key indicators I ran on — we’ve had 72,000 new private sector jobs since I’ve taken office. The other one that we pushed hard economically was personal income growth and we’ve seen that grow since I've taken office. So those are measures that are there, and the performance is moving up.
The thing that’s happening, Steve, I think it’s striking, is that, while Kansas’ rankings are improving, the overall economy is not improving in the nation compared to what it was prior to President Obama. The national economy has underperformed and, yeah, while we’re doing better within a poorer economy, it still doesn’t feel that good even though our numbers are improving.
Kraske: But some of the job growth numbers you’re citing are gross increases in numbers of jobs, the last numbers I’ve seen, and I’ll cite the numbers: the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics — sort of the Bible of the job growth industry here in terms of tracking these numbers — just ranked Kansas 42nd nationally, eight from the bottom, for job growth, using numbers from April 2014 to April 2015. Those numbers don’t suggest the tax cuts are working.
Brownback: And a month earlier we were tied for number one in the nation on this. If you try to take a pin point of one point from another one and try to take the worst situation you possibly can and you include public sector jobs, because our focus has been private sector jobs, private sector job growth, two months ago we were number one in the nation, tied for number one with Utah in private sector job growth.
I think you’ve got to look at the totality of the picture, and look also at the prior performance. Kansas had been an underperformer for a number of years and we’re improving our rankings overall when you look at the total picture.