Democratic Response to State of the State
OFFICE OF DEMOCRATIC LEADER
STATE SENATOR, NINETEENTH DISTRICT
Democratic Response to State of the State
Good evening. I’m Senator Anthony Hensley, Leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus. It is my
privilege tonight to present the Democratic response to Governor Brownback’s State of the State
message, and to offer our perspective on the upcoming 2013 session.
But first, I want to take a moment to remember the lives of 20 children and 6 adults who were
the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. As
well as the two brave Topeka police officers who were needlessly gunned down this past month.
I call upon my fellow Kansans to remember these precious individuals by expressing love to
those you hold dear, especially our children. And the next time you are in the presence of an
educator, police officer or emergency responder, please thank them for their selfless sacrifice and
Just two weeks ago, our nation was on the edge of a fiscal cliff. But as the clock to the New
Year ran out, our elected leaders were able to set aside partisan politics for the common good.
They spared millions of American families from tax increases they couldn’t afford. And, for
now, our nation was brought back from the brink of destruction.
However, the same cannot be said for our state. Governor Brownback has brought us to the edge
of our own fiscal cliff right here in Kansas.
Governor Brownback has brought Washington, DC politics to Kansas. And, tonight, I say
Washington, D.C. politics do not belong in Kansas.
When the Governor took office two years ago he presented the Legislature a five-point plan he
called his “Road Map for Kansas.”
In this plan, he promised to improve our K-12 education system. But Governor, four months into
office, you signed the single largest cut to public education in Kansas history. And last year, you
proposed cutting another $16 million from early childhood programs that have proven to help
our children prepare to learn.
In just three school years, statewide funding for K-12 education was cut nearly $442 million, or a
cut of $620 per child. These cuts are forcing schools to lay off teachers, increase class sizes and
eliminate support services.
I would hardly call that a road map to success.
That is why it is no surprise that a three-judge panel issued its ruling last Friday that the
Legislature isn’t meeting its K-12 school funding duty under the Kansas Constitution.
The court also said it is completely illogical that the State can argue that cuts to public schools
were necessary due to a downturn in the economy, while at the same time Republican legislators
passed the Brownback income tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.
Kansas Democrats did the logical thing to protect schools by voting against the Brownback tax
I can only hope that legislators from both parties and the Governor will work together to focus
our efforts on ensuring that Kansas children receive a quality education, not on efforts to punish
our state’s judicial branch of government.
Members of the Legislature took an oath just yesterday swearing to uphold the Constitution of
Kansas. What is our oath worth if we renege on our constitutional duty to adequately and fairly
fund our schools?
What is our oath worth if we pass the buck onto local school boards – leaving them with no other
option but to cut their local budget, increase local property taxes, or both?
Governor, it is the Kansas Legislature’s constitutional duty to fund public education – it is not
the duty of local property taxpayers.
Governor Brownback’s “Road Map for Kansas” pledges to increase net personal income and
private sector employment.
Governor, if you truly want to increase jobs and incomes for Kansans, you should endorse the
Kansas Jobs First Plan, proposed by Kansas Democrats. It requires any contractor bidding on a
state project funded by Kansas taxpayers to hire Kansas workers first. It also requires that when
our state’s tax dollars are spent for manufactured goods, they should be spent on American-made
Kansas taxpayers shouldn’t pay the wages of out-of-state workers when there are Kansas
workers willing and able to do the same job. And, their tax dollars certainly shouldn’t be paid to
support workers overseas.
Governor Brownback’s “Road Map” also promises to decrease the percentage of Kansas children
living in poverty. But, what is the record of the Brownback administration? The number of
children in poverty has gone up by 34,000, from 14.5% to nearly 19%. In addition, our state’s tax
structure has become more regressive than ever, forcing thousands of low-income families
further into poverty.
As of January 1, 2013, Governor Brownback’s irresponsible tax policy:
Cuts the top tax rate for the wealthiest income taxpayers from 6.45% to 4.9%;
Repeals income taxes altogether for 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other
Eliminates $60 million in food sales tax rebates for 380,000 qualified Kansans, or an
average annual rebate of $156 per person;
Does away with $13 million in homestead property tax refunds for 44,000 qualified
Kansans, or an average refund of $302 per person;
Repeals $9.5 million in child care tax credits for 72,000 qualified Kansans, or an average
credit of $132 per person; and
Unfairly requires employees to pay taxes on their income, even though their employers
will pay next to nothing.
The Brownback tax plan creates tax-free loopholes for million-dollar corporations, without
having to show they are creating jobs or benefitting the Kansas economy. Even those businesses
that move production across the state line will benefit from the Governor’s plan.
While the richest 1 percent of Kansas tax payers will see their taxes go down an average of
$21,000, the poorest 20 percent of Kansas taxpayers will see their taxes go up. Governor, that’s
why I’ve called your tax plan “Robin Hood in Reverse.”
Instead of taking from the rich to give to the poor, you are taking from the poor to give to the
rich. But, Governor Brownback has called his tax plan a “real-live experiment.” Well, to fully
understand the impact his plan will have on thousands of Kansans, I’d like to share with you a
Under the Brownback tax plan, the medical doctor – who makes $250,000 per year – will pay
much less in Kansas income taxes. Meanwhile, the doctor’s receptionist – a single working
mother with two children, who makes $8.00 an hour or less than $20,000 per year – will lose
hundreds of dollars.
Not only must she pay a substantial portion of her income in taxes, she will no longer have the
$420 she received last year from the homestead refund. And she won’t have another $360 per
year from the food sales rebate. She’ll find it harder and harder just to put food on the table for
her two children and pay her bills, while her employer will pay next to nothing in taxes.
The Governor is fond of saying that our state’s tax policy shouldn’t pick winners and losers.
But, that’s exactly what his tax plan does. The losers will be hard working Kansans already
struggling to make ends meet.
The Brownback tax plan is already resulting in a self-inflicted budget crisis. It will eliminate
$2.75 billion from our State General Fund. In the end, average Kansas families, seniors, disabled
and mentally ill Kansans and children will be forced to bear the cost of the Governor’s big-
Governor Brownback himself admitted that his new plan will only create 23,000 new jobs by
2020. What he hasn’t admitted is that these are jobs the state was already expected to create
regardless of its tax policy.
To fully offset the cost of tax cuts for millionaires and out-of-state corporations, the State of
Kansas would need to create over 420,000 new good-paying jobs within just the next 6 months
in a state of 2.8 million people.
The math just doesn’t add up. As someone recently said, “It’s called arithmetic” – a skill that
Sam Brownback forgot in Washington, DC, but has now brought back to Kansas.
With his tax plan now law, the Governor has suggested that so-called “pay fors” or additional tax
increases have to be part of the discussion in the 2013 session. Essentially, the state will have to
make up the cost of the Governor’s nearly $5 billion plan by cutting services and making the
sales tax increase permanent.
The one-cent sales tax was passed by the legislature in 2010, when the national and our state’s
economy were in a downward spiral. At the time, this additional revenue was needed to protect
our schools and the social service safety net. And, the sales tax revenue will be used for a new
transportation plan that will create 175,000 new jobs and bring $6.4 billion to the state’s
economy during the next decade.
But now our economy is recovering. It’s time for the six-tenths of a cent to expire as intended.
We should not break our promise to the taxpayers of Kansas. And, we should not impose more
taxes to an already unacceptable, regressive tax structure.
No amount of political spin from the Governor and those legislators who so adamantly opposed
the one-cent sales tax will change the irrefutable fact that not eliminating this tax as promised is
a TAX INCREASE on every Kansas family.
Governor, the truth is you don’t want to use the permanent sales tax increase to protect schools
or a social service safety net for seniors, the disabled and mentally ill Kansans.
You want to use it to pay for your income tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations.
Kansas Democrats agree that the Governor’s tax plan – as signed into law – is neither prudent
nor financial sustainable for our state. Kansas Democrats want to refocus the attention to Kansas’
real tax problem… high property taxes.
Since 1997, property taxes in Kansas have doubled from $1.9 billion to $3.8 billion. A 2011
study by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranked Kansas 10th in the nation for high property
taxes. The same study ranked Kansas 30th in the nation for income taxes.
Last session, Kansas Democrats introduced a plan to reduce property taxes by $180 million over
the next four years. This plan would reduce property taxes for thousands of small businesses,
working families, and Kansans living on fixed incomes – without bankrupting the state budget or
sacrificing schools. Unfortunately, this plan was ignored by Governor Brownback and his allies.
It must be brought back to the table for consideration this year.
Finally, Kansans take great pride in their strong work ethic. Yet Governor Brownback and his
supporters have little value or respect for the work they do.
Governor, Kansas workers are not the boogey man. They are proud people, who teach our
children, keep our streets safe, care for our most vulnerable neighbors, put out fires, remove
snow from our roads, manufacture our goods, and build our infrastructure and communities.
Each day Kansas workers do their part to make this a great state in which to live and raise a
family. They only ask for a fair shake at the end of the day. They deserve more than what I’m
predicting will be the Governor’s systematic assault on their basic rights that only hinders their
chance at the American dream. Governor, please don’t turn Kansas into another Wisconsin.
Two years of failed policies, internal Republican Party bickering, and misguided values have left
our state nearly bankrupt. With a $2.5 billion projected budget shortfall looming over our heads,
the State of Kansas stands with its toes hanging over its own fiscal cliff. The decisions we make
in the next five months will determine whether Kansas steps forward onto sturdier ground, or
crashes into a financial abyss.
I have no doubt that the journey ahead will be long and hard. And I’m sure we will hit a number
of road blocks along the way. But if we could work together, Governor Brownback and members
of the Kansas Legislature can protect our state from a financial disaster similar to the one that
has plagued our nation for months. And return Kansas to the prosperous state we all remember
Thank you, goodnight, and may God bless the great state of Kansas.