Sunday, June 9, 2013

Mock funeral crowd mourns ‘death’ of Kansas

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

About 150 people, most wearing black and carrying signs, lined up two-by-two and marched south on Massachusetts Street on Saturday in a mock funeral procession for the state of Kansas.

At the helm, four men carried a casket draped with a Kansas flag and filled with handwritten condolences for the state, along with a petition asking Gov. Sam Brownback to repeal a bill that would increase the state sales tax and reduce itemized and standard income tax deductions.

Brownback has said that he will sign this bill into law with the ultimate aim of eliminating state income taxes.

Saturday’s protest of the tax policies was coordinated by local councils of MoveOn, a liberal public policy advocate group.

The crowd gathered at 3 p.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church, at 925 Vermont St., where the Rev. Josh Longbottom started the memorial service.

“We use the liturgical rite of the funeral as a protest of recent actions by Kansas leadership and to the direction we are headed as a state,” Longbottom said. “If we continue down the path we are treading, it will surely put to death all we love about this great state.”

Last year, Brownback signed into law cuts in state income tax rates and the elimination of state income taxes for the owners of partnerships, S corporations and limited liability companies. Brownback has said the cuts will spur the economy.

The cuts also projected revenue shortfalls for years to come. This year, Brownback and conservative Republicans pushed through a $777 million tax increase that will boost the state sales tax and reduce itemized and standard deductions, while continuing to phase down income tax rates.

Bill Glover, president of the Kansas State University employees association who attended the event Saturday, said that, as a state employee, he has not received a pay raise in four years. Because of the potential cuts to the higher education budget, he thinks this trend will continue.

“We have to say, ‘enough is enough,’ no matter if you have a ‘R,’ ‘D,’ or ‘I’ in front of your name,” Glover said. “The way we’re headed, I don’t know why anybody would want to move to Kansas.”