How Johnson County voters helped crush Brownback’s tax cuts

John Skubal

John Skubal

Dinah Sykes

Dinah Sykes

Many Johnson County voters last year sent a great message to Topeka: They were sick and tired of Gov. Sam Brownback’s ruinous income tax cuts.

In stunning fashion, the decisions those voters made in 2016 did the almost impossible this week.

They elected two GOP senators and eight representatives from both political parties who were key votes in helping to kill the tax reductions and put in place badly needed tax increases. The new money will help balance the budget and provide better public services for Kansans.


Johnson Countians last year properly ousted two ultra-conservative Republicans from the Legislature and sent GOP moderates John Skubal and Dinah Sykes to Topeka.

Skubal beat incumbent Jeff Melcher in the GOP primary, then coasted to victory in the general election. Sykes defeated incumbent Greg Smith in the primary and won a hard-fought general election.

Fast forward to Tuesday night.

The Senate got 27 “yes” votes, the exact number needed, to override Brownback’s veto of tax increases approved in the Legislature on Monday.

Skubal and Sykes voted for the tax increases, which effectively dumped the income tax cuts from 2012 and the unfair tax exemptions for owners of 330,000 LLCs.

Melcher and Smith would have fought the tax hikes, based on their time in the Legislature, and likely would not have voted to override Brownback.

Kudos to Sykes and Skubal — and Johnson County voters — for what they accomplished in the Senate.

Patty Markley

Patty Markley

Joy Koesten

Joy Koesten


Over in the House, the same kind of scenario played out last fall.

In the Republican primaries, Johnson County voters gave GOP moderates five victories in races against conservative incumbents.

They were: Patty Markley over Craig McPherson; Tom Cox over Brett Hildabrand; Jan Kessinger over Rob Bruchman; Joy Koesten over Jerry Lunn; and Shelee Brim over Charles Macheers and former Rep. Owen Donohoe.

All five moderates made it through the general election in November.

UPDATED June 9: In addition, Republican Sean Tarwater in the general election won the seat vacated by former House Speaker Ray Merrick, who had been an absolute disaster for years for a more progressive Kansas.

Democrats helped out a great deal, too.

Cindy Holscher beat incumbent GOP Rep. Amanda Grosserode in November, Brett Parker defeated incumbent James Eric Todd while Cindy Neighbor beat Eric Jenkins to win an open seat that had been held by a Republican.

In addition, Democrat Jerry Stogsdill won an open seat held by Republican Barbara Bollier, who went to the Senate and was a vote to dump the tax cuts no matter which body she was in.

Again, let’s look at what happened Tuesday night.

The House overrode Brownback’s veto with 88 “yes” votes — four more than the 84 that had been needed.

The five Johnson County GOP moderates mentioned here, plus Tarwater and all the Democrats, voted against the veto.

Tom Cox

Tom Cox

Cindy Holscher

Cindy Holscher

Take them out of the equation — especially if all five moderate Republicans had lost instead of won in 2016 — it’s possible conservative Republicans in the Legislature might have resisted passing higher taxes in 2017, or knocked down the size of the tax hikes.

It’s true, of course, that Johnson County voters could have done even more to get rid of additional conservative Republicans from the House and Senate in 2016. Some solid GOP moderate candidates lost in the primaries, as did well-qualified Democrats in the general elections.

Another caveat: Voters in other parts of Kansas certainly helped out as they sent a few more ultra-conservative Republicans scurrying in either the primary or general elections.

As a result, Brownback faced a much less friendly Legislature in 2017.

Still, it took all the way to June 6 for the lawmakers to mount the efforts needed to dump the governor’s costly income tax cuts.

Thank goodness Johnson County voters made the decisions they did in 2016.