Hilltop Voices: Ad astra per aspera

To the stars through difficulty.

When Governor Sam Brownback ran in the 2010 gubernatorial election and reelection in 2014, his position on taxes was clear: low taxes to facilitate economic growth. Brownback is fulfilling part of his economic promise to the state of Kansas. He came through on the first part. Since taking office in 2010, Brownback has eliminated income tax for almost 200,000 businesses and lowered the top income tax rate by 1.55 percent.

The second half of his promise, however, has not appeared. The original plan was to cut income taxes, which would prompt an influx of capital into the state and result in higher tax revenue and more jobs as the state economy grew. Today, rather than a wealth of new business and jobs, Kansas is facing a $344 million budget shortage for this year and a $600 million budget shortage for next year.

In order to address the budget shortfalls, Brownback did what was the most fiscally responsible in the short term. He cut government services. He drove to balance the spreadsheet. The most recent cut was $44.5 million from education for the current fiscal year.

There are two important things about this cut. First, even after reducing state spending on education by two percent for universities and one and a half percent for K-12, education funding remains almost $200 million more than last year. This is due in part to the Dec. 14 Supreme Court ruling decision, which ruled that Kansas had to spend more money on education due to discriminatory effects of budget cuts on low-income school districts. Second, the three main components of the Kansas budget are education, Medicare, and pensions. Therefore, any significant cuts significant to the budget must come from one of these three areas: your child’s classroom, your local policeman’s  retirement, or your grandma’s healthcare.

However, there is another solution. Kansas could reinstate the tax revenue with a new governor. Kansas came close in 2014. Paul Davis, Brownback’s moderate-Democrat opponent in the 2014 election, received 46.1 percent of the vote compared to Brownback’s 50 percent.  In addition, there is already an unofficial online petition circulating to recall Brownback with 34,390 signatures and a goal of 40,000.

An official recall campaign would require interested, concerned Kansas citizens to organize first and prove that there is grounds for a recall. In Kansas, a governor can be recalled for conviction of a felony, misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform duties as proscribed. The whole recall process has three phases. First, the recall team must submit a list of 100 volunteers who will collect signatures, a statement of recall grounds, $100, and support signatures from 88,702 registered Kansas voters (the required number of signatures equals ten percent of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. 887,023 votes were cast in Fall 2014). In the second phase, concerned citizens must collect 354,808 signature (forty percent of total votes cast) in 90 days to trigger the recall election. The phase is a statewide recall election in which citizens vote whether to remove or replace the sitting governor.

Overall, Kansans have two choices. Either live with the implications of Brownback’s policies or use the political infrastructure developed during Davis’s 2014 campaign develop a grassroots movement to recall Brownback.

Note: This process will cost the around $64 million dollars.  Visit Mother Jones to get stats on Wisconsin’s experience during the Walker recall. Also, if Brownback survives it, he will go straight to Washington, but, hey, at least Kansas would get rid of him.

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