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Kansas Schools Close Early As Brownback Tax Cuts Squeeze Revenue

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Kansas Schools Close Early As Brownback Tax Cuts Squeeze Revenue


By Tim Jones, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Income tax cuts in Kansas championed by Gov. Sam Brownback have led to credit downgrades, political turmoil, and deepening budget deficits. This week, they’ll start forcing schools to close early.

As lawmakers work to erase a projected $800 million budget gap for the fiscal year starting July 1, at least eight school districts that saw their funding cut this year because of a greater-than-projected slide in state tax collections will begin shutting down before the scheduled end of classes. Dozens of others have eliminated or cut programs.

“We felt we didn’t have a choice,” said Janet Neufeld, superintendent of Twin Valley schools, which will end the academic year on Friday, 12 days early.

“It’s not good for kids, it’s not good for families,” said Neufeld, whose district serves 590 students in eastern Kansas. “But we’re trying to keep the ship from sinking.”

Early school closings and program reductions are signs of a budget sinkhole in Kansas, where Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature approved large income tax reductions in 2012 and 2013. They said reduced levies would spur economic activity that would compensate for lost state revenue. The governor called his move to gradually end the income tax “an experiment.”

It hasn’t delivered the promised benefits, producing instead bigger revenue losses and, at least in the short-term, a cautionary tale of the effectiveness of using large tax cuts to spark economic growth.

Brownback and lawmakers have embraced or considered stop-gap measures to balance the budget, including a $1 billion pension-bond sale and draining the state’s highway fund by $130 million.

They also junked the school funding formula, replacing it with temporary block grants that had the effect of cutting budgets in the current year and forcing districts to adjust to unexpected reductions.

“There have been times when things were tight, but this is the absolute worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Mike Sanders, superintendent of Skyline Public Schools, which will end the school year two days early on May 12.

Skyline, about 75 miles west of Wichita, has petitioned the state for emergency cash so it can meet its June payroll.

“It’s crazy times,” Sanders said. “The ideology in this tax experiment has gone too far. It’s almost as if they’re hell- bent on proving their point, no matter the damage it causes.”

Brownback and tax-cut supporters have insisted the reductions need more time to deliver the economic boost. And the governor’s office said it’s not responsible for the early school closings because overall education funding increased, topping $4 billion for the first time.

“Blaming the education block grants may be convenient, but it is not accurate,” Brownback’s press secretary, Eileen Hawley, said in an email.

Mark Tallman, associate executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said the problem for many districts is that state aid hasn’t been keeping up with costs. Part of the increased state dollars has gone toward beefing up underfunded pension systems, he said.

“There’s no doubt the income tax cuts have significantly reduced income to the state and produced a much steeper decline in revenue than had been expected,” Tallman said.

Public schools have been adjusting to declining revenue for the past two years by closing classrooms, firing teachers and raising local property taxes.

While declining oil prices have slashed tax revenue in energy-producing states such as Alaska, Oklahoma and Louisiana, the Kansas budget crisis is self-inflicted. In 2012, the Legislature cut the top income tax rate by 26 percent, increased standard deductions for married and single head-of-household filers and eliminated levies on about 191,000 small business owners.

The number of filers that identified themselves as small businesses exceeded 300,000, causing larger-than-forecast revenue losses.

Lawmakers returned to Topeka, the state capital, last week for a final push to fill the revenue gap that continues to spread because of reduced tax collections.

Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s cut Kansas’s credit rating. Moody’s downgraded the rating to Aa2, third highest, from Aa1 on April 30, saying revenue reductions “have not been fully offset by recurring spending cuts.”

In response to larger-than-projected revenue losses, Brownback proposed slowing the rate of future tax reductions in January as well as boosting levies on cigarette and liquor. Those suggestions have been resisted by lawmakers, and the path to a budget resolution remains unclear.

The tax cuts and their effect were the dominant issue in last November’s governor race, in which Brownback won re-election by four percentage points, or 33,000 votes, over Democrat Paul Davis.

(c)2015 Bloomberg News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr



  1. Alvin Harrison May 5, 2015

    THANK YOU REPUBLICAN ELECTED OFFICIALS….when your tax cuts start closing schools and eliminating services a majority of “regular” Americans need….your days will be numbered. Sure your cuts, to reduce taxes on the rich, that hurt the poor, the mentally ill, minorities etc where stupid and heartless…they did not effect the majority of Americans.

    Well you are down close to the bone now here. Additional tax benefits for the rich will start to hurt more than the poverty stricken. It will now start to hurt a larger and larger portion of the middle class in a way they can feel it….that will be the end of you and your elitist policies.

    1. Wayneo May 5, 2015

      “Tax cuts pay for themselves” is a bad economic theory and is closely related to gush up economics (where the benefits accrue to the rich).

  2. @HawaiianTater May 5, 2015

    Hey, Kansas may be screwed but this is good news for the rest of us. The sooner people see the disaster that GOP policies create, the sooner they stop voting for them.

    1. Wayneo May 5, 2015

      Most of the GOP voters are already voting against their self interest, so screwing up the economic will only have a small effect on those voters.

    2. Independent1 May 6, 2015

      If any posters here need a picture of the disasters that GOP governance creates – here are some links to just a few of the disasters they could find:

      10 Most Dangerous States – 9 were governed by Republicans


      10 States with the Worst Quality of Life – all 10 are run by Republicans


      10 Most Corrupt States – All 10 are governed by Republicans


      10 Most Miserable states to live in – All 10 are governed by


      And GOP governed states BY FAR lead the nation in motor vehicle fatalities – not to mention all forms of violence and every other way that Americans can die prematurely


  3. Daniel Jones May 5, 2015

    Just how much of that money Brownback was bleating about went to *public* schools? Because I have the nasty feeling it went to private institutions..

  4. Sand_Cat May 5, 2015

    In a Kansas that elected Brownback and the other clowns, who cares about education?

  5. Insinnergy May 5, 2015

    Keep going Sam.
    It’s tough to explain to Republicans why trickle down economics is complete crap even with statistical evidence from the last 100 years.
    What we need is a very clear, contemporary example.
    Shine on you crazy diamond.

    1. Independent1 May 6, 2015

      Republicans need badly to study their own history a little to learn that depending on the private sector to energize the economy is a forerunner to disaster.

      All they have to do is look back about 85 years to the time of Herbert Hoover who was so convinced that America’s private sector could pull the country out of a recession that was taking place in 1928, he refused to apply a stimulus – although Herbert was so convinced that the private sector was some kind of magic economic elixir that he actually raised taxes assuming the government could collect more tax dollars as the private sector reved up the economy.

      And like Brownbeck, even as the economy clearly started to suffer badly, and even included a stock market crash in ’29 that destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans, like a good Republican, Herbert kept refusing to apply a stimulus. And again like Brownbeck and clueless Kansas GOP legislators, Herbert assumed that in time the economy would turn around. Well we all know how that experiment went – not only did America plunge into a depression, it carried the world down with it and took at least 13 years and a world war stimulus on top of monies FDR poured into the WPA to eventually bring America back to semblances of normalcy.

  6. TZToronto May 5, 2015

    Apparently, Kansans like I-70. It’s a quick way to get out of the state. Well, if things keep going in the same direction, it won’t be so fast because drivers will have to slow down to avoid the unrepaired potholes.

    1. dtgraham May 6, 2015

      Hey Toronto. Speaking of highways, after tonight I imagine the highway signs coming into Alberta in a few weeks will read…”Welcome to the socialist workers’ paradise of Alberta.”

      Unbelievable eh.

      1. Independent1 May 6, 2015

        Ahh! socialism! that terrible way to work things – maybe Americans should start eliminating all the socialist programs that are inherent already in

        Americans everyday lives.

        Here’s a list of 75 of them – I’ll post just the 1st ten:

        1. The Military/Defense – The United States military is the largest and most funded socialist program in the world. It operates thanks to our taxpayer dollars and protects the country as a whole. From the richest citizens to the homeless who sleep under the bridge. We are all protected by our military whether we pay taxes or not. This is complete socialism.

        2. Highways/Roads – Those roads and highways you drive on every single day are completely taxpayer funded. Your tax dollars are used to maintain, expand, and preserve our highways and roads for every one’s use. President Eisenhower was inspired by Germany’s autobahn and implemented the idea right here in America. That’s right, a republican president created our taxpayer funded, national highway system. This was a different time, before the republican party came down with a vicious case of rabies that never went away.

        3. Public Libraries – Yes. That place where you go to check out books from conservative authors telling you how horrible socialism is, is in fact socialism. Libraries are taxpayer funded. You pay a few bucks to get a library card and you can read books for free for the rest of your life.

        4. Police – Ever had a situation where you had to call the police?
        Then you have used a taxpayer funded socialist program. Anyone can call the police whether they pay taxes or not. They are there to protect and serve the community, not individuals. This is complete socialism on a state level, but still socialism all the same. Would you rather have to swipe your credit card before the police will help you?

        5. Fire Dept. – Hopefully you have never had a fire in your home. But
        if you have, you probably called your local taxpayer-funded fire department to put the fire out. Like police, this is state socialism. You tax dollars are used to rescue your entire community in case of a fire. It use to be set up
        where you would pay a fee every month to the fire dept. for their service. If you didn’t pay, they let your house burn down. Sadly, a man from Tennessee had this exact situation happen to him in 2011 because he didn’t pay his $75.00 fee. I guess that small town in Tennessee would rather let people’s houses burn down that resort to evil socialism. So don’t take for granted the fact that you have a 24/7 fire dept. to put out your burning home thanks to socialism.

        6. Postal Service – Like having mail delivered directly to your front door and paying next to nothing to send mail anywhere you want? Well it’s all made possible by socialism.

        7. Student Loans and Grants – Did you go to College?
        If you did, you family might not have been rich enough to pay your way through.So you got your education anyway through student loans and grants from the federal government at taxpayer expense. Of course you have to pay back the loans, but if not the government, did you know anyone else who was going to lend you tens of thousands of dollars? Probably not. So the taxpayers lent you the money and you paid it back with slight interest. The government grants you
        accepted were gifts from the taxpayer and the federal government that you did not have to pay back. Socialism got you through school.

        8. Bridges – Along with our highways, our government used your
        taxpayer dollars to build bridges. This allows the public to travel across rivers without having to sail or swim.

        9. Garbage Collection – Like having your garbage collected once a week instead of having to drive it to the landfill yourself? Thank socialism.

        10. Public Landfills – Taxpayer dollars are used to have places to dump all of our garbage that is collected by taxpayer funded garbage men.

        1. dtgraham May 6, 2015

          Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, foodstamps…there’s so much that could be added to that list Independent.

          You know, there are so many quotes from Franklin Roosevelt that reference socialism without actually naming it, culminating with his second bill of rights in 1944. A politician that I’ve always admired so much in Canada was the first NDP socialist Premier of the province of Manitoba in the 1960’s. Ed Schreyer was just a brilliant man and a big fan of FDR. He used to reference FDR quotes fairly often when delivering a speech in the legislature in the earlier days of his government. In his very first budget, he rose in the legislature and said that he wanted to quote Franklin Roosevelt. He then went on to say that the measure of the success of our society was not in how much we could provide for those who already have much, but in how much we could provide for those who have little. I was a youngun’ and it was my first exposure to FDR. I wondered who he was. In his book, “Ed Schreyer: a social democrat in power”, I think there were at least as many FDR quotes as Tommy Douglas quotes.

          You wouldn’t want to live in a world without socialism Independent. There are places without it. I hear Somalia and Afghanistan are lovely this time of year.

          1. Independent1 May 7, 2015

            Exactly – which is why I’m always taken aback by the right-wing nut cases on the NM who constantly come out and rant about how terrible socialism is when they’re surrounded by socialistic examples in virtually everything they do every single day. Why are they trying to single out only one of the plethora of examples – obviously for political gain or just to have something negative to say about Obama or Democrats or ‘liberals’ in general.

            Your comment about the socialist workers paradise in Alberta
            gave me an opportunity to point out to other posters on the NM – including the RWNJs here – a list of some very common things we take for granted that are examples of socialism which I’m not sure everyone realized were socialistic. And I believe the ones you mentioned are included in the 65 I didn’t cut and paste from the Daily Kos article.

      2. Eleanore Whitaker May 6, 2015

        dtgraham…Not sure I understand that subtle Canadiana humour (yes..I know. I spelled “humor” in Canadian.lol).

        I have friends in Calgary and Namaka. They are rabid ultra conservatives. Has something changed in Alberta they haven’t mentioned?

        1. dtgraham May 6, 2015

          I know you’re familiar with the province, but things have been changing in Alberta for a while Eleanore. This has been building. The voters are younger and more progressive now. The mayor of Calgary for example is a younger Muslim minority with very liberal views. The capital city of Edmonton has been nicknamed Redmonton for some years now. That refers to the Liberal party colour and is also a vague reference to communism. It’s now 100% orange (NDP colour).

          In 2012, the Progressive Conservative government nominated a real progressive conservative, in the true Canadian sense of the term, to be leader and Premier (think Governor). That was Alison Redford, and it was widely speculated in the media that this was an attempt to reach out to increasingly progressive Albertans, to say that it was ok to continue voting PC. That did work, but the coalition could only last for so long.

          I might add that what happened in Alberta last night has been part of a recent trend in Canada now to elect center/left or left progressive parties as provincial governments, with a large female contingent and female premiers. Three women premiers elected in the last two years. The NDP’s elected members last night were half women and premier-elect Rachel Notley will surely bring a lot of those professional women into her cabinet, as has been the case elsewhere. There is only one Progressive Conservative provincial government left now and that’s in tiny Newfoundland…and they’re not popular The writing is on the wall for the federal Conservatives.

          Much of the same dynamic is playing out in two of the southern states. With the changing demographics, I do believe that it’s only a matter of time before Texas starts to turn purple before turning blue. Georgia is already there now if only they could overcome the amazing voter suppression. There are so many unregistered voters there and the Georgia GOP wants to keep it that way. I’ve read a few articles suggesting that if those voters were to become registered, and only a relatively small percentage were able to get the special ID needed to vote (and did vote), that would turf out the Republicans. If a large percentage of them were to vote, it would be a Democratic landslide. The Georgia GOP are apparently aware of this.

          1. Eleanore Whitaker May 7, 2015

            Wow…Alberta sure has changed. I visited for 10 days in August 2000 when Ralph Klein was premier. Most of the people of Alberta are quite endearing. Since I consider myself a Progressive Populist if ideology there must be, I was a fish out of water then with the ultra conservatives outnumbering the liberals. As I recall, Albertans then loathed Ottawa’s ideas of using Alberta as the basis of the country’s revenue. Oddly, I also worked with a businessman who owned businesses in the US and Toronto. As a result, I saw there was a huge difference between Atlantic Canadian provinces and those out west.

            I agree about the southern and midwestern states. Some will go purple. People in the US are getting wise to the real back room agenda behind all those tax cuts, massive pushes to creates major pools of revenue that always ends up in businesses while out infrastructure goes down the drain.

            One thing I did admire about Alberta and British Columbia was their ability to maintain roads and bridges and most infrastructure (the ones I saw first hand) for longer periods of time. I also liked the tight rein the Canadian government had over contractors who worked for the government.

            These government contractors in the US are a major source of wasteful spending. In Calgary, then a population of near 1 million, the roads were maintained once every decade. In the US? Any city, large or small, are repaved two times a year…by contractors who use substandard materials so they can make huge profits from “redo” work on the same roads over and over and over.

            I saw this on a barely traveled road in Princeton. In July 2007, it was repaved. The following July, the entire road was ripped up to realign it at a cost of millions. That simple realignment took nearly 1 1/2 years to complete at cost to all state taxpayers. In NJ, bilking taxpayers is an art form.

      3. TZToronto May 6, 2015

        Most people would have thought that the outcome of yesterday’s election in Alberta was impossible. The NDP (a socialist party, for our American friends) actually won a majority after 40+ years of conservative, oil drenched right-wingism. When even the daughter of the ultra-right leader of the conservatives, Ralph Klein, comes out in favor of the NDP, you know that the people of Albetta have been paying attention. The fact that the conservatives have been a one-trick (oil) pony for so long, with no viable plan about what to do when the oil boom dried up, probably had something to do with the outcome. Now, as long as the NDP can do a better job in Alberta than they did under Bob Ray in Ontario (sorry for the Canadian references), things could get interesting in The Great White North. There’s a federal election coming soon in Canada, and the wannabe Republicans of the Conservative Party may feel some of the disappointment that the Alberta conservatives are feeling today. So much for arrogance.


        1. dtgraham May 6, 2015

          I hear Rachel has already been talking with Roy Romanow. She just has to replicate the many successes of NDP premiers like that. The right loves to cherry pick Ontario and now Nova Scotia.

          All 3 federal opposition parties are clamouring for electoral voting change and that’s what we need badly. Too much progressive vote splitting. The NDP aren’t going anywhere federally and even the Green party have been at 9% in a few polls recently. The Greens took a seat in PEI on Monday night for the first time (from the Liberals) and are growing in popularity. The Liberals want a ranked ballot. The Greens and NDP want proportional representation. I’ll take any of them but under a ranked ballot, the Cons may never see Sussex Drive again. Works for me.

          In the mean time, federal coalitions have to become a plausible possibility and I’m sure you’ve heard the news from Robert Fife and Craig Oliver of CTV that this is precisely what will happen this October if Harper squeaks out a tiny minority through progressive vote splitting. It’ll be mutiny on the bounty from the opposition parties.

          1. TZToronto May 7, 2015

            A coalition would be preferable to a minority government that would fall on the first money vote. The Governor General will actually have to do something to earn his keep. Of course, the Liberals have said that they won’t work with the NDP, but that might change if the NDP ends up with significantly more seats than the Liberals. (Don’t you love talking about stuff that most of the people here know nothing about and have no interest in? Well, if the Conservatives are out after the next election, then the Keystone XL pipeline could go with them. Then there’d be some interest in Canadian politics.)

          2. dtgraham May 7, 2015

            Actually, Rachel Notley has already said that she will stop all attempts to pressure the White House about Keystone. She’s not a big Keystone gal and she technically controls the oil now. She’s also going to pressure Harper on climate change legislation. I don’t think it has to wait for Harper to go. Rachel Maddow had a big segment on this last night.

            I hear you on the “no interest” thing. I love and follow American politics too but usually try to keep things separate except where appropriate. This is starting to get inappropriate. One little comment about the Alberta election led to all this.

            There is an excellent website called “ipolitics”. It’s the National Memo for Canadian politics, with the identical commenting system. A lot of great stories there with Michael Harris featured often. I read it and post comments there sometimes. You might want to check it out. It’s mostly about Harper hatred but be prepared for a certain amount of progressive in-fighting between Liberals and New Democrats. Liberals have never forgiven Jack Layton for bringing down the Paul Martin government and setting the stage for Harper. They still talk about it…a lot. Hell, I’m a Mulcair man and I even got called an “old-line” party supporter by a Greenie one time if you can believe it.

          3. TZToronto May 8, 2015

            I’ve voted Green on occasion, solely based on policies in specific elections. I don’t think I’ve ever voted NDP, but I’ve usually appreciated what they stand for. I’ll check out ipolitics and may see you there. As for American politics, I’m a dual citizen, and I do not like the direction the US is going. It seems that any progressive ideas that see the light of day in the US get branded as socialist, fascist, or communist and almost inevitably get slaughtered by the right-wing machine.

          4. dtgraham May 8, 2015

            Don’t get me wrong. Harper has given me a real appreciation of the Liberal party. I do like Trudeau and would easily vote Liberal strategically if it were the best way to beat the Con in that riding.

  7. Eleanore Whitaker May 6, 2015

    The problem in the south and midwest is that for the past 5 decades, they grew all too comfortable with plantation mentalities of the Waltons and Koch breed. Now, they’ve bled their biggest sources of revenue dry and blue states are not in any position to hand over more of our federal tax dollars to them. So, KS, MO, MS, AL, TX and AZ, are finding it harder and harder to beg for more more more for their relic and increasingly obsolete industries.


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