Now that legislators and media have imposed the largest tax increase in Kansas history and put citizens in worse shape than prior to 2012, the effort is shifting to rewrite the history of Kansas tax reform. The first salvo was released by Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske, who writes that then-Senator Steve Morris says Governor Brownback lied to him in order to get the 2012 bill passed. But according to former Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal, the pants-on-fire badge goes to Senator Morris.
I had this very discussion about the history of Kansas tax reform with Senator Morris in a December 2014 live interview on WIBW radio. Senator Morris had two opportunities to respond to the condensed version of Speaker O’Neal’s account provided below he did not refute what I said. And Steve Kraske knew that Senator Morris wasn’t telling the whole story because he admits Governor Brownback’s recollection differs from Senator Morris,’ but without any other verification, Kraske declares Brownback to be the liar. Governor Brownback made a lot of mistakes over the years for which constructive criticism is fair game, but the raw hatred of all things Brownback and the expectation of government to limit taxation to that needed to efficient fund services will apparently continue to drive the narrative. You see, Kansans may have just been taxed back to the Dark Ages but the false drum beat must continue so that other states and Congress are sufficiently intimidated to allow bloated governments to continue to grow.
Here’s Mike O’Neal’s recap of the events leading up to passage of the 2012 Kansas tax reform bill, which is supported by the legislative record.
“What Morris intentionally leaves out is that the tax bill was in conference committee, where Sen. Donovan and Rep. Carlson had all but reached agreement. Morris prohibited Donovan from signing off on an agreement and instead teed the bill up to kill it on the Senate floor. When House leadership caught wind of this act of treachery I spoke to the Governor and we developed a strategy whereby he came in and asked our caucus to concur in the Senate amendments. If that succeeded the bill would go to the Governor, whereupon the Governor would announce that he would agree not to sign the bill until the House & Senate went back to Conference to come up with a compromise. If they did he would sign the compromise. If they didn’t, he’d sign the bill on his desk.
I brought the bill up for vote only after the Senate convened and began work on the bill in an effort to kill it. We did not limit debate. In fact, opponents used the House rule that allows 1 minute for each explanation of vote to attempt to run the clock out allowing the Senate time to kill the bill. Members who were there will recall I went out of my way to follow the rules and did. Morris was using every tool in his tool bag to kill the bill. I used every tool in my bag to pass the bill.
We succeeded in getting the bill passed before the Senate vote to kill the bill. The bill went to the Governor, whereupon he honored his agreement not to sign the bill just yet. House and Senate conferees went back to Conference. I oversaw the House conferee offers with Carlson. We proceeded to make numerous offers to the Senate that would have addressed many of the concerns raised about the underlying bill. We offered more money for schools and more funds for local ad valorem property tax relief in particular. The Senate rejected every offer. They assumed the Governor was bluffing and, when no deal was forthcoming, the Governor made good on his promise to sign the bill.”