by Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan
Board Chair, Kansas Interfaith Action
Unitarian Universalist Minister, Topeka
Aka "Revenue Rev"
This weekend (March 24-26), I will embark on an epic journey with intrepid fellow Kansans who will walk from three different cities (Manhattan, Emporia, and Lawrence) to Topeka – over 60 miles. We walk to demand that the state legislature "Restore the Revenue." We are asking for comprehensive and fair revenue reform—a return to responsibility. I am walking because I believe that revenue policies provide a moral compass for communities and, together with our budget, tell us what goods and service we will provide, who should pay for these goods and services, and who should receive them.
Since 2012, when Kansas eliminated the upper tax bracket, told LLC's and S-Corps they didn't have to pay taxes, and created a ratchet mechanism to put a chokehold on future increases in tax revenue, we have failed to see any meaningful growth or investment in our state's economy. Instead we have seen continual cuts, and we have been unable to invest in our future: our schools, roads and other infrastructure, programs supporting families and children, healthcare (including mental healthcare), police departments and public safety, and retirement benefits and wages for state employees.
At the same time, we have seen unprecedented attacks on voting rights; on the rights of immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQ folks; on environmentally sound land use policies; as well as a a vast increase in the presence of guns in all areas of public life. We have one of the highest sales taxes on food in the country, which hits low income families when they were already struggling. Unemployment is being "reported" in ways that hide the truth about how many people are no longer working—and we often fail to disaggregate the data and see that people of color are facing levels of unemployment last seen in the Great Depression.
The name for this crisis is Jim Crow economics. I am walking because I believe that America's heartland is suffering a heart attack from these policies, and we must step in to offer defibrillation, as Rev. Dr. William J. Barber would say. I also believe that behind these tactics is a desire to dismantle the fabric that makes for a civil society and a strong democracy, for the benefit of a handful of people who will be left with all of the resources and power, while the rest of us scramble to find resources to pursue our dreams and our support our families. Pitting us against each other is a tactic meant to distract us from our common cause. Instead of blaming corporations which are making unprecedented profits, or CEOs making multi-million dollar salaries, for the fact that many of us make less than half a living wage ($15-20/hour), we are encouraged to blame immigrants, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ people, and anyone who can be identified as marginalized or Other. This has been happening in Kansas for some time, and now appears to be happening all over the country.
We can't begin to fix our state's problems —to fund the services we need for all of us—until we Restore the Revenue and ask those who have made money off our labor and shared resources to re-invest some of it in the form of taxes paid back into our state economy. Asking poor people to pay more and receive less while folks with resources far beyond their needs pay less and invest nothing...is not What Jesus Would Do.
Here's what you can do:
Send the walkers your encouragement and stories of how state budget cuts have affected you over the last 4-5 years. I personally ask for your prayers and inspirational words. Use the hashtags #ksleg and #revenuerev
Repost our posts from the walk—pictures, conversations, and songs—on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. There are some rallies and gatherings along each route, so check in and see if you can join us along the way, even if you can't walk! (Check the Kansas People's Agenda Facebook page for updates from the walkers and plans for rallies along the way.)
Contact your legislators and ask them to Restore the Revenue; write to the editor of your local paper and share why you think this is a moral issue, too.
Meet us in Topeka Monday , March 27 – march with us from Topeka High or meet us at 10:30 at the KS Supreme Court building. Come to the indoor rally!
Forward Together, NOT ONE STEP BACK!!!