Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, proposed raising taxes over the weekend. You read that correctly.

That is the same Sam Brownback who, along with state GOP lawmakers, embarked on a bold conservative experiment in tax-cutting three years ago. The experiment failed, and Kansas is now in big, if predictable, trouble. Instead of spurring a treasury-filling economic boom, the deep tax breaks pushed the state’s budget far out of balance: Even after Republicans hacked away at education and highways and fiddled with payments for its pension program, the state still faces a $400 million gap.

With the legislature deadlocked and state workers facing mandatory furloughs if lawmakers don’t have a budget by Sunday, Brownback bowed to reality and proposed raising more tax revenue. But he bowed only so far. He didn’t roll back his steep cuts to income and business taxes, instead proposing an increase in the sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.65 percent.

In theory, moving away from taxes on labor and business and toward taxes on consumption can have attractive economic benefits. But the way Brownback originally cut business taxes provided “an incentive to game the tax system without doing anything productive for the economy,” the Tax Foundation’s Joseph Henchman found. Raising revenue by reversing this distortionary policy would seem to be the obvious first step toward fixing the budget.

Even if that weren’t the case, it is very hard to run a modern government on sales taxes without also imposing a heavy burden on low- and middle-income people.

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