Sam Brownback became governor of Kansas in 2010, just as Tom Corbett became governor of Pennsylvania. Brownback and Corbett, with the help of Republican majorities in their legislatures, embarked on an extremist Wizard of Oz economic agenda of cutting taxes, especially for large businesses, and reducing spending on education and human services. Spending as a share of the state’s economy dropped by 10% in our state.
Faced with slow economic growth, stark budget deficits, and citizens who were demanding better public services, a bi-partisan majority in the legislature in Kansas this week stood up for common sense against Wizard of Oz extremism and, over Brownback’s veto, rolled back many of those tax cuts.
Is this the year that state legislators in Pennsylvania also embrace common sense and reject extremism?
By electing Tom Wolf Governor In 2014 Pennsylvania voters rejected Corbett’s extremist agenda and his drastic reductions in state spending. But, rather than listen to the voices of the voters, the Republican majorities in the General Assembly have so far doubled down on the Corbett approach, rejecting not only the common sense proposals of Governor Wolf, but a moderate bi-partisan budget agreement that passed the state senate with 43 votes in 2015. Instead, Republican majorities in the General Assembly have continued to reduce spending in most areas and to rely on short term fixes to produce budgets that only look balanced long enough for the General Assembly to get out of town.
The results are no different in Pennsylvania than in Kansas. Cuts in corporate taxes have not produced faster economic growth here anymore than they did there. Instead, growth is slow, tax revenues are far below projections, and just as Kansas was faced with a massive budget deficit, we in Pennsylvania are looking at a two-year deficit approaching $4 billion.
It’s time for a bi-partisan majority in Pennsylvania to emulate Kansas and enact, not broad-based tax increases that fall on working people and the middle class, but targeted taxes that ask the very wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share. It’s time to reject the notion that we can cut our way to prosperity and embrace the common sense notion that public investment, especially in education at all levels, in human services, and in infrastructure, is as necessary to create broadly shared prosperity today as it was in the middle of the 20th century.
It’s time to reject the Wizard of Oz economics that the extremist snake-oil salesmen in Kansas and Pennsylvania have been peddling. If any Kansan today has a dog named Toto, they can tell him that they are not in Brownback’s Kansas anymore. It’s time for Pennsylvanians to be able to say the same about Corbett’s Pennsylvania.