When it comes to tax cuts, ultraconservatives can’t help themselves. It’s an addiction.
There have been numerous reports that since the start of the legislative session in January, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning has been seen endlessly circling the Capitol rotunda with uncontrollable shakes and breaking out in a sweat.
“When he voted to override Brownback’s veto a year ago, Majority Leader Denning didn’t think withdrawal from the tax cuts would be a problem,” confided another member of the Senate. “I even suggested that he should go somewhere for treatment over the summer, but he blew that off. When he said a couple of weeks ago that he regretted voting against the veto, I knew he’d lost the battle.”
Senate President Susan Wagle made no pretenses about her desire not to go cold turkey. She voted not to override the veto and earlier this month she was successful in pushing through the Senate a bill that will cut taxes by $141 million next year and, by some estimates, upwards of another $160 million in the following years.
“When she came out of the Senate chamber following that vote it was like a junky leaving a crack house,” said one long-time capitol observer.
“I saw that same look on the faces of ultraconservatives back in 2012 when they passed the Brownback tax cuts. There’s a serenity that you can see in their faces. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. A tax cut high never does.”
And it’s always those closest to you who suffer the most.
Wagle and her ultraconservative junkies pulled back the sofa cushions and emptied the change drawer on the bedroom dresser to toss some money in the direction of public education.
“They promised the Supreme Court that they would clean up their act, that they had learned from the past and would do what’s right, but we’ve seen all this before,” said a tax addiction counselor who said he’s made “numerous” late night visits to the Capitol.
“They’re trying to quiet the wolf at the door, so to speak, but they aren’t really interested in solving the problem — just in buying a little more time.”
Children in the state’s foster care system are also victims when runaways can’t be found or youngsters are forced to sleep on couches in the offices of foster care agencies.
Salaries are so bad and pay increases so infrequent that the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF) wants $5.4 million over the next three years to provide a 5 percent pay hike and to help retain its current workforce. In addition, DCF wants to hire 200 unlicensed staff members to conduct child welfare investigations.
“But, if tax cuts are being used to pay for Wagle’s addiction, where are we supposed to come up with another $5.4 million?” asked an anonymous lawmaker.
Unfortunately, even the elderly pay a price in a desperate attempt by ultraconservatives to get another tax cut fix. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) doesn’t have the staff to keep pace with federal requirements for nursing home inspections.
In 2015, the state completed surveys at 79 percent of the state’s 350 nursing home facilities. That has fallen significantly to only 35 percent in 2017 and it is expected to be less than 40 percent this year.
When told that this could put the state at risk of losing millions of federal dollars in Medicare and Medicaid funding, Wagle’s response was, “Once I get a tax cut I’ll be able to think clearer. Just give me a tax cut.”
As one might expect, many Republican addicts are in denial.
Following the Senate’s decision to cut taxes by $141 million next year, Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker) was immediately on the defensive, declaring “This is not a tax cut. It was stopping a tax increase.”
“That’s a typical response. I’ve seen it a million times from Republican lawmakers,” said tax addiction specialist Ryan Seymour. “The easiest way to avoid confronting the problem is to pretend a tax cut doesn’t exist.”
When reminded that the Senate bill will raise the state’s standard deduction by 25 percent, Tyson finally conceded that it did amount to a general “tax cut” across the board.
Immediately after making that statement, Tyson passed out due to what her aides referred to as “exhaustion.” They said she planned to spend the next two weeks getting treatment at a facility in New Hampshire.
The scourge of tax cut addiction also means that mental health facilities are understaffed, highways are falling into disrepair, KPERS remains underfunded, higher education is forced to ask their students for more money and lawmakers are forced to sell their souls to the Koch brothers like . . . well, like common street politicians.
“It’s not just the addict who suffers, but everyone connected with the addict and all those who rely upon the addict’s ability to think and act clearly,” reminded Seymour.
“All they can think about is the next tax cut, a quick campaign donation . . . and the next election.”
Of course, says Seymour, it’s never enough.
“Once you’ve had the sweet taste of passing a tax cut you always want more. Cost is never an object, not as long as the Koch brothers are dangling a dime bag of campaign money in front of you,” he says.
So how does the cycle of tax cut addiction end?
“There’s only one way,” emphasizes Seymour. “Until voters are tired of seeing their children, their elderly and their state suffer, it won’t end. They’re the only ones who can decide when enough is enough.”
Rod Haxton is publisher of The Scott County Record. He can be reached at email@example.com.