Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Holy smokes, this is a stupid plan

Monday, March 14, 2016

Holy smokes, this is a stupid plan

A Facebook reader asked for my take on a nugget of information last week that revealed Gov. Sam Brownback met with legislators to discuss the possibility of bonding of tobacco settlement funds to put money into Kansas coffers today. For what it’s worth, the administration is saying this is a “black helicopter” theory, according to news reports.

First, let me just say that I’m shocked that the Governor bothered to meet with Republican legislators at all. Thanks, I guess. Brownback hasn’t been much of an ally to his Republican allies in the Kansas House or the Kansas Senate. He’s repeatedly put them in awkward positions. If I hear one more time that Brownback is a “nice guy” I may just lose it. I know I’ve said this before, but legislators, stop saying that.  Being “nice” isn’t an excuse for stabbing your political allies in the back. (Ahem. Line item veto of WyCo Star bond budget item. Ahem. This. Ahem. This. Ahem. I could go on.)

I hate the idea of bonding tobacco settlement money to make Kansas’ budget work. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this, but I’ll do it one more time: You know what would go a long way in fixing Kansas’ budget challenges? Spending cuts. I absolutely recognize this may not appear politically expedient, what with all the starving children with iPads attending classes in buildings that rival the castles and palaces of the world’s wealthiest monarchies. Still, I suspect if someone showed real leadership, coupled with principle, on this issue, the silent majority would rally to the cause.

If Brownback is going to spend all of his time making life difficult for Kansas legislators, the very least he could do is make it difficult for them by proposing, advocating, and leading on spending cuts. But nope. Brownback has decided to make life difficult for legislators instead by stomping his foot and demanding a horse arena subsidized by Kansas taxpayers for the next 20 years. I don’t even…  (BTW, person in the Brownback administration who told me via private message that the commerce department was going to be clearing up public “misconceptions” about using STAR bonds to move the American Royal to KCK, I AM STILL WAITING.)

Now, liberals are screaming about possibility of using tobacco-backed financing to make Kansas’ budget work. I should note that other states that liberals love, like California, have resorted to using tobacco settlement financing. Seriously, this is one of the worst ideas in the history of budgeting. It’s right up there with using pay day loans. Off the top of my head, a short list of reasons using tobacco funds is so, so stupid:
  • ·         It’s a short-term fix that doesn’t solve the problem. Kansas revenue isn’t meeting projections, and we’re spending too much. A one-time infusion of cash solves the problem temporarily. It’s kicking the can down the road. Very Washington, D.C. of you, Governor.
  • ·         The government shouldn’t be suing tobacco companies in the first place. This big cash settlement encourages more of the same. Encouraging ambulance chasers to chase ambulances to balance the budget of bureaucracies is just gross. At some point, the magic cash tree that is Big Tobacco is going to run out of cash. Obviously, the Governor has a real problem with smoking. He wants to force smokers to bank roll all sorts of nonsense. (This isn’t the first time Brownback has attempted to balance the budget by forcing smokers to pay extra.) I hate, hate, hate with a passion that burns like 10,000 suns using the tax code to incentivize or de-incentivize behavior. If we don’t want people smoking, ban it. Sin taxes put government in the odd position of needing to proliferate undesirable behaviors to make a profit. Personally, I think sin taxes are immoral for that reason alone.

These tobacco settlements have been nothing but a slush fund for do-gooder organizations, and they are going to have a field day complaining that using tobacco-settlement financing to (temporarily) balance the budget is somehow taking food out of the mouths of children. See Kansas Action for Children. 

If for no other reason, I oppose this tobacco settlement plan because I don’t think I can handle months and months of self-righteous opposition from these groups. I’m already up to my eyeballs in self-righteous teachers unions pretending that if we don’t take all of the money from citizens and give it to the teachers’ unions we’re somehow ruining the future. There’s only so much self-righteous I can take at one time, and my sanity matters. 

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