It was very disappointing to learn that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has accused the Kansas Legislature as having “catered to the needs of those at the government trough” when it adopted a balanced state budget this week.
This unfortunate choice of inflammatory rhetoric can only make it more difficult for our great state to recover from the greatest economic challenge of our time. Nobody wants to raise taxes if it can be avoided. The enactment of a one-cent sales tax by the majority of both the Kansas House and Kansas Senate was recognized as a painful but necessary compromise solution to the state’s budget problem.
The important thing to remember is that a coalition of Republicans and Democrats found common ground to end the 2010 Kansas legislative session with a balanced budget. The coalition’s motivation certainly wasn’t to appease special interests who are feeding “at the government trough.” It was intended to preserve essential services while doing the least possible harm to the economy.
The last couple of years have resulted in a $1 billion cut in state spending, an action that affected everyone from kindergarten students to the disabled. Rather than feeding “at the government trough,” these fragile populations have been asked to get by on less. Along the way, state
government was forced to be more creative and efficient. Pain was felt from border to border. And painful as it was, every thinking Kansan will recognize that the adversity has made us stronger and smarter.
It would be grossly inaccurate and unfair to describe the business tax breaks of recent years as “the needs of those at the government trough.” But that is exactly the kind of response that will be offered by those who are so unfairly criticized by the Chamber’s statement. Those tax breaks were solid investments in the growth of our economy. As our economy recovers, those investments will pay off in more profits for the private sector and more tax revenues for the public sector.
The beneficiaries of those tax breaks need to recognize that fundamental needs of Kansans have to be met, and the sacrifices need to be shared by all.