Monday, June 8, 2015

Brownback Obeys Court Order: Kansas Legislature Raises Taxes $471 Million

We saw this one coming. The Republicans in Kansas have no choice but to raise revenues because state law prohibits them from running a deficit in the state budget.

The main problem that Republican legislators face is not a federal court ruling. The problem is embedded in the Kansas state constitution, which says that "the Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance” of public education.

In earlier rulings, Kansas state courts consistently found that

"it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Kansas and U.S. Constitutions to make the education of a child a function of or dependent upon the wealth of the district in which the child resides."

Yet that is precisely what Brownback and his Republican pals decided to do, claiming that money did not make any difference to the quality of education received. But once again, the courts disagreed, citing studies that showed almost a one-to-one correlation between spending on education and student achievement. The courts not only told the state of Kansas how much to spend on each student, but also insisted that the amount of money spent in poor districts be equal to the amount spent in wealthy districts.

[Note to Paul Krugman: The Kansas state courts do in fact declare that inequality is a major cause of problems.]

Which brings us to the present day, when Kansas Republican legislatures have decided to raise taxes to bring educational spending up to the level ordered by the courts. That means they will need to raise $471 million, the largest tax raise in Kansas history. These are Tea Party Republicans, mind you, so they're not very happy about doing it. They are raising taxes directly on the poor, of course, by taxing alcohol and cigarettes heavily. Rich people will have to pay as well, but rich people are well able to afford extra spending on alcohol and cigarettes. Poor people are not.

True, poor people probably drink too much, and no one should smoke. But taking a fix from an addict is still reprehensible. These people did nothing to deserve such treatment, aside from being poor.

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