November 8 was kind of a euphoric night. The could-be good guys beat the definitely bad guys on a national stage, shocking everyone. But into each life a little darkness must fall, and the darkest parts of election night 2016 were reserved for the people of Johnson County. We screwed up on a pretty epic scale. The damage to our wallets is going to be painful in ways we haven't yet considered. So, here's a short list of the most painful--and disturbing--losses.
1. The Courthouse Sales Tax
I can count on one finger the number of people that I know who voted for the so-called public safety sales tax. I know A LOT of liberals and Democrats and with the exception of one movement Dem who thinks government always knows best--no questions asked--none of them voted for this thing. It's not that the county couldn't use a modern and larger courthouse. It's that the tax proposal included a slush fund for local governments--one they didn't even ask for! They literally created a tax proposal that will bring in more than they need to spend on the courthouse for no reason. Under the sales tax initiative, municipal governments will get a cut of the proceeds.
This is awful on so many levels. First, once the cities get used to this sales tax gravy train, they'll never willingly get off. This sales tax, which will supposedly sunset in 10 years, will become a permanent part of most city budgets. When it is set to fade down the memory hole, I can guarantee you many of these cities who NEVER requested this money in the first place will be at the county commission with hats in hand saying they'll never survive unless another sales tax initiative passes. This is a form of subtle blackmail and manipulation on the part of the county commission, and it's repulsive.
With this latest sales tax increase, most places will see sales tax rates of up to 10 percent. In my hometown, the sales tax has doubled over the last 20 years with no end in sight. Will we one day pay 25 cents on the dollar in sales taxes?
2. Ugh. The County Commission
My ability to stomach the neverending sales tax train that's about to pull into the county commission station would be greatly improved if voters had elected fiscal conservatives to the commission. In one instance, I can say for certain, they did not. In the other, the jury is still out.
Voters elected Steve Klika, a guy who has yet to vote against any spending increase, rather than elect Benjamin Hodge. Hodge would have been a voice of fiscal sanity on the commission, and now we're stuck with a guy who thinks government is just awesome. We should all just hand him our wallets and be done with it. This was a painful loss.
Voters also refused to re-elect John Toplikar. I've heard Mike Brown, Toplikar's replacement, will be a conservative voice on the commission. It will be difficult to out-conservative Toplikar. Additionally, I've heard Brown was a proponent of the King Louie purchase. I'm going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt for now, but it's a short rope. That King Louie purchase is the dumbest, most inappropriate thing I've seen a political body do in quite some time, and if Brown thought it was a good idea, I question his judgment. The King Louie purchase was a complete waste of money, done for reasons that I still haven't discerned. Living in Johnson County is about to get a lot more expensive--and not because everyone is getting pay raises. We're all about to get a pay cut in the form of even more tax increases.
3. The Judges
Speaking of having your wallet absconded in a holdup, the Kansas Supreme Court is about to go no-holds barred on Kansas taxpayers. In the last few months, Kansas' highest court has been unusually quiet, as the judges likely quaked in fear for their futures.
Despite campaigns that spent millions to oust four of five judges through retention election, all of the judges will keep their black robes. The majority of the court has made no secret that they think they should determine how much money the Kansas Legislature should spend on schools. In the latest school funding case before them, the justices will determine the dollar amount of a word "adequacy" that isn't even the Kansas Constitution. This charade is one of the most disturbing in all of politics, and I'm sick about how much time and effort was spent to toss these judges out and about just how little it helped. I thought the judicial retention races were going to be close; they weren't.