Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s aggressive tax cuts have come back to haunt him. In the latest move to make up for a massive state deficit caused by his economic policy, Brownback plans to cut nearly $45 million in funding for public schools and higher education in his state by March.
Brownback shared his plans for the current budget cycle on Thursday ahead of a Senate vote on a bill aimed at eradicating a $344 million deficit projected for the end of June. More than half of the money would be taken from funding for K-12 schools, and take place as soon as March 7, The Associated Press reported. The cut would also affect Kansas colleges and universities. Top Republicans said lawmakers need to agree on a solution to fix the budget by Feb. 13 to make sure the state pays its bills on time through the summer months.
Brownback spent his first term slashing taxes for the rich, promising it would lead to boom times for everyone else. Brownback’s “real live experiment” was supposed to lift Kansas out of the recession and into economic prosperity. The tax breaks instead led to debt downgrades, weak growth, and left the state finances in shambles. The Republican-led legislature in his state previously celebrated his massive tax cuts, but his action landed the state’s budget in shambles when it didn’t boost the economy like he’d hoped.
In his State of the State address last month to kick off his second term, Brownback announced that he would pursue tax increases, reversing his past policy. Republicans are also calling for higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor as part of the annual budget.
“My budget proposal recognizes that the current budget trajectory is unsustainable and that difficult solutions are required by state law as well as by fiscal prudence,” Brownback said during his speech.
Brownback asked lawmakers for a 30-day window to focus on two state grants, which total $54 million, to withhold from public schools.
The governor, along with the state legislature, cut budgets for schools so much in the past that the Kansas Supreme Court last year declared school funding levels unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is pushing to make two-year community college education free for all Americans. The goal, which Obama introduced in January, is one of his most sweeping secondary education proposals ever. It could help about 9 million students each year and would cost the federal government $60 billion over a decade.