The mail has brought us another slick one from the Kochs’
printing factory, a full-color complaint that State Sen. Randall
Hardy had voted for “a $1.2 BILLION retroactive tax
Americans for Prosperity, a club fueled by the billionaire
Koch brothers, continues to flood the mails with colorful slurs
on legislators and falsehoods about what actually happened
in Topeka late last spring. They are the thinnest cardboard, an
aggravation, the relentless incarnation of dogs barking idiotically
endlessly, into the night.
But Randall Hardy, a Republican, is not our senator. He
represents Saline and northern Dickinson Counties, including
Abilene. Our senator, Rick Wilborn, also a Republican,
is from McPherson and has been remarkably quiet about his
part, or lack of it, in the legislature’s valiant work to pull
the state from its pool of red ink. Unlike Wilborn, Hardy
is vigilant, engaged with his constituents and was the first
Republican to vote with senate Democrats during round one
of the state’s rescue from a disastrous financial course.
The no-tax, no-government crowd is determined to condemn
certain legislators for their valor. In September and again in
early November we’ve received full-color slurs aimed at Rep.
Steve Johnson of Assaria for his leadership in steering Kansas
from bankruptcy. Johnson represents our district in the House
and is chairman of the Tax Committee. He is an architect of
the Legislature’s recent financial resuscitation. This has upset
the Laffer crowd, the supply-siders who believe that the best
government is no government and the best tax is no tax, or
one that the wealthy don’t have to pay.
Americans for Prosperity may attack Johnson, Hardy and
other vigilant and honorable legislators in the next primary
election. In recent years, they have been known to trot out
some wet sponge from the fringe right, one who soaks on
about the evils of spending even a penny for roads or schools
or paying any tax at all to support them. They have papered us
with flyers and cards, hanging out their tattered wash on the
line, the faded old no-tax, no-spend laundry, as if youngsters
could learn without schools and the roads, somehow, would
pave themselves, and the public would be fine without police
or fire departments.
“Steven Johnson’s Tax Hike Cost Us All,” it said on one
card. On the flip side, “Steven Johnson made your paycheck
smaller so government could Get Bigger.”
The flyer claimed “a $1 billion tax hike … Johnson failed to
control government spending … you’re paying for it with the
largest tax hike in state history.”
This is Americans for Preposterous, not Prosperity. Their
first mistake is to assume that Kansans have no regard for
taxes and no love of government. The cards swoon yet for
Gov. Sam Brownback’s disastrous “Glide Path to Zero”
income taxes for the rich and certain businesses. The discredited
supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, Americans for
Prosperity, their many legislators and other trickle-downers
were at the governor’s side in 2012 when the bill to phase out
income taxes became law. (We know how that worked out.)
The legislation that spared the state from ruin and that
Johnson and Hardy helped write, is less a tax increase than
a tax recovery. It reinstates a three-bracket income tax and
re-starts a flow of reasonable funding for local schools. It is
an historic accomplishment. It has pulled Kansas from a fall|
into fiscal ruin, the shuttering of its educational system and
the starvation of social services.
Johnson and other legislators spared us, in the nick of time,
from that ruinous Glide Path, the one that brought the state
three credit downgrades, a billion dollar operating deficit, a
state hospital that for years was losing a million dollars in
federal aid every month because it was not funded adequately.
Abolishing the income tax led to frequent budget raids that
emaciated the highway department, left local schools wretchedly
underfinanced, starved colleges and universities, leaving
students with horrid increases in tuition and fees; teachers,
administrators and professors were fleeing the state for ones
that welcomed educators, not demeaned them. Local hospitals
and clinics were shuttered or left on life support for lack of
The list goes on, all due to those tax cuts. Not even the
diversion of a massive sales tax increase (2015) could stem
the red ink.
This was not a billion-dollar “retroactive tax increase.” Nor
was it the “Largest tax hike in state history.” It is old taxes
re-started, with spending to revive our state, pre-Glide Path.
And it seems large only because it follows the largest tax cuts
in history, the ones that brought us to the abyss. We’re only
returning to five years ago, and we have already lost a decade
of competitive edge across the public and private sector.
Steve Johnson and Randall Hardy worked carefully, patiently
to help this state leave that Glide Path to Ruin by helping to
restore sanity to state finance. These prudent legislators seek a
government that helps their communities to be better places,
not starved ones. People have learned the hard way that it is
one thing to prattle on about a place without taxes, without
government – and quite another to live in one.
Those glossy mailers bleed with falsehoods and misdirection.
Steve Johnson and Randall Hardy worked to save the
government from financial collapse, and our communities
from further fallout. They have helped restore a sense of
promise for ourselves and for the next generations. They and
their allies deserve our thanks. Those flyers deserve the bottom
of the nearest trash can.