A large majority of Kansans disagree with the direction Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature have taken on taxing and spending.
The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University talks to 928 Kansans about state issues annually. This year’s survey focused on taxes and spending. It has margin of error of 3.2 percent.
The Wichita Eagle published a special section on the survey and its message.
The director of the Docking Institute, Gary Brinker, told the Eagle, “Our results show that the tax structure they want seems to be completely the opposite of the tax policies coming from the Legislature. The survey also shows strong support for K-12 education spending. Most want it increased or not cut.”
Here are some of the results:
— 62.5 percent said Kansas income tax should either be increased or remain the same.
— 67.5 percent said the sales taxes should either be increased or stay the same.
— 52.2 percent said property taxes should be significantly decreased or somewhat decreased while 41.9 percent said it should remain the same.
— 57.9 percent thought state funding for K-12 public education should be increased.
— 35.3 percent thought funding for higher education should be increased, while 48.8 percent supported the current level.
— 47 percent thought state funding for social services should be increased, 45.9 percent said they thought it should remain the same.
A LITTLE OVER HALF — 50.4 percent — said they thought state spending should be reduced even though they advocated more spending on education and social services.
This is not an inconsistency. In the first place, that number means that 49.6 percent of the state’s citizens think that state spending should either increase or remain the same. Secondly, a statement in favor of more spending for education and social services is a declaration of budget priorities rather than a statement in favor of a bigger budget.
What the Fort Hays State research shows is that the shift to the extreme right in Kansas politics doesn’t accurately reflect a change in what Kansans expect from their state government.
The numbers show that nearly two-thirds of us want the state income tax to stay where it is or go higher — which is exactly opposite to the direction taken by the governor and the Legislature. It seems fair to assume that most of us believe that those with higher incomes can afford to pay more. But the governor and the lawmakers not only reduced the top bracket, but exempted many very well-to-do business owners from the income tax altogether.
Support for increasing state support for the public schools is just as high as most thinking Kansans would have expected; neither does it come as a surprise that most of us want state support of higher education to remain the same or rise to meet the challenges of the information-based world we live in.
SO WHY DID Kansas voters elect the nation’s most radically right governor and give him a House to match? The short answer is that state elections are determined by a relatively small percentage of the population: those who vote in primaries; those who are turned on by ideology; those immune to math.
To be sure, there were many other factors involved. But the main motivator was anti-government fever which blinds the infected from seeing the consequences of weakening the state by starving it of revenue.
How destructive the disease will be and when it will cure itself so that our great state can return to health remain unanswered questions.