Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas is at it again. If you’ve followed our blog over the last couple of years, as well as the news, you know that Kansas is in fiscal disarray. In 2011, when he first took office, Brownback promised a conservative utopia – low taxes for corporations and individuals, slashing of public services, and a boom in business investment. Taxes were slashed, revenue dropped, but the boom in investment never came. Now the state has a massive revenue shortfall. Without any concession that his plan has failed, Brownback has been pulling some tricks to fill budget holes.
Last year, Brownback skipped the state’s contribution to the public pension fund. Kansas’ public workers didn’t skip their bill – they paid 6 percent of their paycheck toward their retirement. That’s like buying a pepperoni and a sausage pizza at full price, and the pizza shop only giving you pepperoni, with the “promise” of getting you back next time; it just doesn’t make any sense.
This year, again failing to address his failed tax policy, Brownback is doubling down on his effort. He put the tax revenue shortfall on the backs of hard-working teachers, police officers, and firefighters. In the budget proposal the Governor’s office just released he is increasing the retirement system’s long-term costs by $6.5 billion over the next three decades. Essentially, instead of paying the state’s bills now, Brownback is again kicking the can down the road and not owning up to the pension payments he owes to Public workers.
Not paying the full amount into the pension system can cause an economic downfall that puts the state at risk and put public workers’ retirement security in jeopardy. Other states have failed to adequately fund their pensions and are now facing fiscal crisis. Kansas must learn from other states’ mistakes and make the responsible choice for Kansas and pay its bills.
If Kansas doesn’t address its revenue crisis, the budget hole that the state currently has will only get larger and larger, which will threaten the state’s essential services, infrastructure improvements, and even emergency responder services. The Kansas legislature should reject Brownback’s irresponsible budget proposals and fully fund its promise to Kansas public employees.