Capitol Update: Sen. Sykes warns tax cut bill could derail Kansas’ pandemic recovery

Sen. Dinah Sykes, Democrat representing Kansas Senate District 21. File photo.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Rui Xu, Rep. Jo Ella Hoye and Sen. Dinah Sykes are scheduled to send updates this week. 

Below is the submission from Democratic State Sen. Dinah Sykes of Senate District 21.

The final stretch of the 2021 legislative session is upon us, and Republican leadership has promised fireworks for the wrap-up session. Why seek opportunities for compromise with Gov. Kelly (and Democratic legislators representing their constituents) when these politicians can use their power to feed conspiracy theories, take away civil rights and undermine the governor ahead of the 2022 election?

Though they’re pushing legislation that suggests they believe otherwise, these extremists won their elections and leadership positions fair and square. All Kansans must face the consequences.

As you follow the Legislature this week, it’s worth refreshing your memory on some of the extreme, unpopular, and unnecessary bills my colleagues and I will be fighting to keep off the books.

My recommendations: Sen. Ethan Corson’s Capitol Update column on voter suppression laws; Sen. Cindy Holscher’s comments on a license plate with racist roots; and Representatives Brandon Woodard and Stephanie Clayton’s thoughts on a bill singling out children from playing school sports.

Legislative leadership has proudly touted their intention to override the governor’s vetoes of these bills. After all, the bills serve to stoke their base, benefit special interest groups and make it easier for extremists to win future elections.

They’ve been less vocal about SB 50, which targets all Kansans, not just those they disagree with.

Perhaps this is because Kansans decisively rejected SB 50’s premise in 2014, 2016, and 2018, when we elected legislators that overturned the colossal failure that was the Brownback/Colyer tax experiment. The same tax cuts for giant multinational corporations that destroyed our economy then are back in this bill, with potentially worse consequences.

Let’s be clear about the impact SB 50 will have on our state: it blows a $307.7 million hole in our state general fund that will undo much of the progress we have made to accelerate out of the pandemic through record economic development.

It will force us to cut funding for public schools, transportation, and health services.

It will make our communities less attractive to business, encourage more of our talented young people to leave and hurt funding for our most vulnerable Kansans.

Public schools are doubly penalized by this reckless tax plan. With a depleted state general fund, we risk going back to the courts because of our inability to fund schools at constitutionally-required levels. And SB 50 does such massive damage to our budget that if we do not sustain the governor’s veto, we also risk losing out on federal relief dollars provided by the American Recovery Plan specifically earmarked for K-12 and higher education.

This hurts our students both in the short and long term, and it breaks our promise to Kansas kids to provide adequate, equitable education.

SB 50 is a bad deal for Kansas. We need to sustain Gov. Kelly’s veto and turn our attention to fixing the budget — which also does not adequately fund our schools.

This column will likely be published after Republican leadership brings their override to the floor. For all our sakes, I hope they failed.