Derrick Sontag
Guest Columnist
What’s the difference between Kansas and New Jersey?  One answer that comes to mind: unlike the comparison to our neighboring states, Kansas has a more limited, fiscally conservative government than the Garden State.  Or so we thought.
Let’s look at the actions of the two states over the last few weeks.  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in response to a budget deficit approaching $11 billion, has proposed a 5 percent reduction in state spending.  This is a result of his campaign promise to force government to live within its means, a pledge that led him to defeat an incumbent governor (this and voters being fed up with an excessive tax burden).
There are some pressuring Gov. Christie to raise taxes but he has said that to accede to tax increases would “kill a job market already on life support.” He went on to say, “Mark my words today:  if a tax increase is sent to my desk, I’ll veto it.”
How do Christie’s actions compare to what’s happened in Kansas?  In response to a budget gap of more than $500 million, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson threatened to veto any budget that hit his desk that didn’t rely on a tax increase.  Two weeks later a coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans complied with his demands by passing the second largest tax increase in the history of our state, a sales tax increase designed to fund a spending increase of more than $200 million.
There have been claims the tax increase will create economic growth and job creation, despite a well-respected economist’s study indicating quite the contrary.  It’s as if legislators are echoing the economic growth pledges heard in Washington D.C. when the stimulus plan passed.  Instead, that D.C. plan has led to 10 percent unemployment and, according to initial projections, will result in our GDP being lower ten years from now than if Congress had done nothing at all.
Apparently Gov. Christie and a majority of the voters in New Jersey understand the economic truism of “the more you tax something the less of it you’re going to get.”  They can point to years of fiscally liberal practices and an unbearable tax burden.
So what’s the difference between the two states?  We’ll always have a beautiful landscape and friendly people.  But let’s hope New Jersey doesn’t end up being the state with a better road to prosperity.
Derrick Sontag is the Kansas state director of Americans for Prosperity. He lives in Topeka.