Last week, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), candidate for governor, doubled down on his opposition to the $26 billion federal bailout of state governments, to be voted on in the House today. He rightly notes that the new spending program, H.R. 1586, will only exacerbate the crippling federal debt, as there are no offsetting cuts in government outlays associated with the bill. This is just one of many reasons to oppose this legislation.
Perhaps most importantly, it includes $9.8 billion in tax increases via double-taxation of international corporate income. The United States already has the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world; driving it even higher will only prolong the current recession as it will further hamper job creation and economic growth. Because it violates the federal Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which Sen. Brownback has signed, ATR will be key voting against H.R. 1586.
But as a candidate for governor, Sen. Brownback has an even greater incentive to oppose the bill. It includes $131 million in Medicaid dollars for Kansas, continuing a trend in which Washington D.C. aids and abets overspending in state capitols by artificially propping up state budgets. State lawmakers are effectively off the hook for their unsustainable spending binges, rather than being forced to come to terms with economic reality.
The Lawrence Journal-World wrongly notes that Kansas' "$13.7 billion budget won’t balance without the money, which covers health care for the poor and disabled." This completely ignores the idea of budget prioritization. If Medicaid spending (which will continue to skyrocket after Obamacare's expensive coverage mandates) is so important, its funding source need not be new taxes and federal spending, but can be found within the current revenue stream by shifting funds from less important obligations.
Fiscal conservatives' greatest fear about this recession are being realized – most notably, that an enduring reliance on debt-financed bailouts will keep lawmakers from learning the most important lesson of this downturn: Overspending, not falling revenue, is to blame for state budget crises. Without consequences, the same problems will continue to occur. When times are good and state coffers are flush, public employees will continue to see automatic compensation increases and porky spending projects will continue to be funded without accountability. When economic output declines, governors and state legislatures will inevitably look to Capitol Hill for "emergency assistance."
For his part, incumbent tax hiker Gov. Mark Parkinson has voiced predictable support for the bailout. Brownback's opponent in the gubernatorial race, state Sen. Tom Holland, said, "If this is the damage that Senator Brownback can cause from Washington, imagine what he can do in Topeka.” He misses the point entirely. By allowing state government to grow unchecked in perpetuity, supporters of H.R. 1586 are the ones doing serious damage to state budgets. Hats off to Sen. Brownback for realizing one of the main causes of Kansas' budget woes and opposing these failed policies in Congress.