KS. Lawmakers Break Grover Norquist Anti-Tax Pledge With Budget Deal

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About three-quarters of Republican state lawmakers who signed Grover Norquist’s notorious anti-tax pledge broke their promise not to raise taxes by approving a budget that will raise $384 million in tax revenue.

According to the tally of The Hutchinson News, only six of the state’s 53 lawmakers who have signed either Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform pledge, or the Koch brothers-affiliated Americans for Prosperity pledge, voted against the recently-passed package. Fifteen of the 21 ATR-pledge signers approved of the Senate budget deal or its House version, which the group confirmed to TPM does not meet the standards of their anti-tax promise. Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who is expected to sign legislation, is not among the ATR pledge-signers.

The budget legislation will raise the state’s sales tax to one of the highest in the nation and increases cigarette taxes by 50 cents per pack. It comes after Brownback faced a $400 million budget shortfall when his promises of economic growth generated by $3.8 billion worth of tax cuts fell short of expectations. After surviving a tight reelection race, Brownback’s haggling with his legislative counterparts grew desperate — this year’s legislative session was the state’s longest in history, as various dueling factions among lawmakers broke out — before coming together on the deal, which leaves Brownback’s income tax cuts largely intact while cutting $50 million from the state budget.

“After going twenty-three days over the 90-day session, and with legislators deadlocked over how to tackle the state’s overspending problem, threats and arm-twisting by House and Senate leadership won out,” Will Upton, state affairs manager at Americans for Tax Reform, said in a statement to TPM. “It is disappointing that despite calls by a significant number of lawmakers for spending cuts, Republicans leaders in Kansas proved to lack the will to actually reduce spending. Instead, they resorted to classic Washington style tactics to force through, by the slimmest margins, the largest tax increase in state history.”

Kansas is just one of a number of GOP-led states where lawmakers faced a difficult choice between raising taxes contrary to the Norquist pledge and drastic cuts to education and other public programs. In Louisiana, legislators reluctantly passed a complicated budget workaround that allows Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to offset tax hikes with an illusionary tax credit, which even conservatives said opened the door to future reckless fiscal policy. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is facing heat for offering $250 million in public money to build a new NBA arena while proposing deep cuts to many public programs. Jindal and Walker — both ATR-pledge signers — are expected to announce presidential runs in the weeks to come.

Updated: This story has been updated to include comment from Americans for Tax Reform.

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