Now that even Republicans have turned against Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's supply-side "experiment," have the supply-side truthers learned anything from this spectacular failure?
No, of course not.
Anti-tax puritan Grover Norquist, who organized support for Brownback's experiment, says Kansas didn't teach us anything.
In an interview on Wednesday, Norquist was unbowed by the result of Brownback’s experiment. “This is nothing new,” he told me. “You had a legislature unwilling to do the spending restraint necessary.”
Norquist said that although voters elected Brownback as a “Reagan Republican” in 2010, the state had always had “an inverted Republican Party” that was more vulnerable to the influence of teachers’ unions and other interest groups dependent on government spending. “Kansas is an outlier,” he said, pointing to Republican-led states like Texas, Florida, and Arizona as better examples of places where conservative leaders had cut both taxes and spending. “If you’re a Republican looking for a model, Kansas is not the model,” Norquist said.
During the first few years of Brownback's experiment, the legislature was more than willing to cut spending. In fact they did. They cut spending so much the lack of funding for basic public education was ruled unconstitutional. Other programs such as Medicaid were also cut to pay for Brownback's experiment, yet the hole created by his tax cuts just kept growing.
The legislature went as far as they could legally go and then some.
Pointing a finger toward a state like Texas is a misnomer for several reasons including the fact that Texas has a population and tax base of over 27 million people and a gross state product of $1.6 trillion. Kansas has a population of 2.9 million and a gross state product of just $155 billion.
The latest budget passed by the Texas state legislature cut spending by just 0.5 percent, but there was a time not very long ago when the state was in more trouble. After the cost of oil and gas plummeted, former Governor Rick Perry turned to the state's so-called "rainy day fund" to plug holes in the budget for education and infrastructure.
Kansas does not have billions (generated by taxes on oil and gas) stored in a vault to pay for education and infrastructure. The Kansas state legislature voted to create their own rainy day fund last summer, but no money was immediately appropriated for it because the state has no money.
Kansas has a law on the books requiring a positive balance, but the requirement has been waived in recent years because they had no money.
State law requires a positive annual budget ending balance of 7.5 percent of expenditures. But the Legislature regularly suspends the requirement.
A memo released by legislative researchers [September, 2016] indicates Kansas is already experiencing a $20 million shortfall, just two months into the fiscal year. The state began the fiscal year with a projected end balance of just $5 million.
That’s just 0.1 percent of expenditures.
This could change now that Sam Brownback's tax cuts are history.