The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 1, 2013

Our view: Wrong way in Kansas

The Joplin Globe

— There’s an old adage: It’s twice as hard to do right as it is to do wrong. That’s because in order to do right, a person must not only do the right thing, he must do it the right way. In order to do wrong, a person only has to screw up one of those two.

We think Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and some of his Republican allies are wrong.

Not because they are doing the wrong thing necessarily, but because they are going about it the wrong way.

Three years ago, Kansas legislators raised the state’s sales tax by a penny, from 5.3 to 6.3 percent, citing a temporary revenue crisis that has proved not so temporary. The plan was for the tax to decrease on July 1 of this year to 5.7 percent.

That difference — six-tenths of a percent — is worth about a quarter-billion dollars per year to the state.

Promises have been broken for a lot less.

Brownback and some Kansas Republicans now want to keep the sales tax at 6.3 percent, offsetting revenue the state lost when they cut the state’s income tax rates. That six-tenths of a percent — officially $258 million — is money they want to use to fund higher education and other needs, including social services.

But this “tax swap” was not the deal that was made three years ago.

Kansans were promised that part of the increase would be short-term, and if that is how it was sold, that’s how it should be handled.

The truth is, Kansans have not had the debate they need to have about switching from income taxes to consumption taxes. While it has yet to be decided whether consumption taxes are the better way to go, there’s no doubt that there is a better way for Brownback and the legislators to go about it.

Breaking a promise is no good beginning.