Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, whose massive tax cuts became a cause célèbre for conservatives but threw his state’s budget into disarray, announced Friday that he would pursue tax increases.
In a stark turnaround, the Republican called for higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor as part of his annual budget while proposing to make future tax cuts contingent on revenue projections.
Brownback’s cuts to a number of state taxes in 2012 failed to boost the economy like he had hoped, triggering a backlash when the huge budget shortfall that resulted forced major decreases in government services. His state’s credit rating was lowered, and Brownback nearly lost his job in the November elections.
Critics of the tax cuts enjoyed a told-you-so moment Friday, calling Brownback’s reversal inevitable.
“We’ve seen this exploding budget gap, and this year, after three years of this experience, the recognition is they have to put a halt on these tax cuts,” said Meg Wiehe, state policy director at the liberal-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Brownback, a former senator whose name is sometimes bandied about for a possible presidential run, acknowledged the state’s fragile fiscal situation.
“My budget proposal recognizes that the current budget trajectory is unsustainable and that difficult solutions are required by state law as well as by fiscal prudence,” Brownback said in releasing his two-year budget.
But he said this week that he would stick with his plans to phase out the state’s income tax. “We will continue our march to zero income taxes,” the governor said Thursday in his State of the State address. “States with no income tax consistently grow faster than those with high income taxes.”