No, Gov. Brownback: You’re definitely not in Kansas anymore

Chuck Sheketoff

Clueless. Absolutely clueless.

Someone — it's not clear exactly who — had the idea of bringing Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to Oregon to lecture our state on tax policy, specifically regarding Measure 97.

That’s like bringing the Governor of Michigan to tell us how make our drinking water safe.

Kansas, sadly, has become a poster-child for tax policies that harm the economy and schools. And that is directly due to Brownback, arguably the nation’s least popular governor. It’s gotten so bad that even late-night comedians have taken their shots at Kansas.

You see, Brownback’s tax policies wrecked the Kansas economy and budget. When he took office, he pushed through massive tax cuts mainly benefitting the wealthy. Brownback promised economic prosperity, but the opposite occurred. The economy shrank after the tax cuts took effect. And even after it began growing again, the Kansas economy continued to lag behind the national economy.

The economic hit caused a collapse in revenue collections, which in turn led to deep cuts to education and other vital public services:

Most states are restoring funding for schools after years of significant cuts, but in Kansas the cuts continue. Governor Sam Brownback recently proposed another reduction in per-pupil general school aid for next year, which would leave funding 17 percent below pre-recession levels. Funding for other services — colleges and universities, libraries, and local health departments, among others — also is way down, and declining.

In short, Gov. Brownback’s Kansas experiment is a cautionary tale on what not to do on tax policy. Brownback is the last person someone should take tax policy advice from.

Instead, Brownback should be here to take notes on what works. Since the Brownback tax cuts took effect, jobs in Kansas have increased by a meager 2.1 percent, compared to 6.9 percent for the nation as a whole, and by a whopping 11.4 percent here in Oregon. Over the years, Oregon’s economy has been one of the nation’s top performers. Our state’s economy has performed quite well after raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations in January 2010 — measures that helped avert some budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession.

That Brownback, whose tax policies have proven disastrous, would criticize Measure 97 is validation for voting “yes” on Measure 97.

Measure 97 will allow Oregon to invest in and greatly improve our schools, senior services and healthcare. That’s something Brownback and Kansans can only dream about.


Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

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