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Tax Cuts Fallout Put Kansas Governor On Defense


Two years ago the Republican governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, announced a set of sweeping tax cuts for small businesses and people with the highest incomes. Last year Brownback spoke to this show and said the cuts would bring jobs and prosperity to Kansas and set an example for other states to follow.


GOVERNOR SAM BROWNBACK: Let's show what lower taxes, more efficient use of government, more targeted government. Let's show a reformed pension system, let's show these things to the country and when they work, my belief is, they will migrate nationally.

MCEVERS: Now Kansas has a big budget deficit and projections for the coming years are even worse. Moody's has downgraded the state's bond rating and this week more than a hundred former Republican officeholders in the state endorsed Brownback's Democratic challenger in the fall election. Brownback was elected in a landslide back in 2010 but polls now show that the Kansas governor's race is a tossup. Steve Kraske is a political columnist for the Kansas City Star.

STEVE KRASKE: Well, the bottom line Kelly, is that the state of Kansas is $338 million, it has that much money less than it thought it was going to have, then what was projected going into the year. That's a lot of money. Governor Brownback has tried to put a positive spin on all of this, saying the state can weather this, the state will be just fine. But a lot of folks out here are very concerned that the state is off track and what this might mean for programs such as, you know, public education, people are very worried about that.

MCEVERS: And what about the jobs picture? I mean the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that only five states in the country lost jobs in real numbers over the last six months and Kansas was one of them, right?

KRASKE: That's right. Our surrounding states in Kansas did better with this one exception. So, this notion that cutting taxes out here was going to result in this explosion of jobs, it hasn't happened, at least not yet.

MCEVERS: I mean, is it fair to Brownback just one year into, you know, do this big assessment of his economic plan and say it hasn't been working?

KRASKE: Well - and that's a great question. And the economic advisers to the Governor will say, no, it's not. These things take time to take effect and go into place and over the long run the state will be much better off having cut these taxes. Other states that have done this across the country have seen dramatic results as a consequence of cutting taxes to this extent. So, you don't know but having said that, you know, the governor did bill these tax cuts as a way to begin to change the dynamics in Kansas fairly rapidly. And we haven't seen that out here.

MCEVERS: I mean, Brownback and his conservative wing of the Republican Party have dominated the elections in 2010 and 2012. And that means a lot of Kansans liked his policies at the time. Do you think Kansans are really ready to so drastically swing the other way?

KRASKE: Well, the polls suggests the answer to that is yes, Kelly, and if you look at Kansas's history, the state does go back and forth, at least in terms of governors, between Democrats and Republicans. We haven't elected a Democratic U.S. Senator out here since 1932. That's the longest streak in the nation, but when it comes to governors, the state has shown a propensity to go back and forth. We'll have to see how the campaign plays out now following the primary on August fifth and going forward to election day in November. Campaigns do matter but as of this moment, certainly the governor's fighting uphill.

MCEVERS: That's Steve Kraske. He's a columnist for the Kansas City Star and host's the local Kansas City show, Up-To-Date, on member station KCUR. Thanks so much Steve.

KRASKE: Nice to be with you Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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