Health compact another grievance against Brownback

morrissteve2Saying “it is OK to support a high-quality Democrat for governor,” former Kansas Senate President Steve Morris (in photo) explained to the Garden City Telegram that the concerns that led him to join the more than 100 Republicans endorsing Democrat Paul Davis over Gov. Sam Brownback went beyond the “huge deficits” that are likely because of the 2012 income tax cuts and the ongoing raid on transportation funds. He also pointed to the 2014 passage of the health care compact law, a multistate mutiny against the Affordable Care Act that could lead to Kansas taking over senior citizens’ health care. “To try and take over Medicare? No other state’s ever done that. It would be a total train wreck,” Morris said. As the Kansas Republican Party was quick to point out, some of the Republicans for Davis “were thrown out by Kansas voters.” Morris was among those moderates ousted in the Brownback-led purge of 2012.

It’s official: Riverfest was huge success

riverfestfireworks2014The official numbers show what Wichita already knew: The 2014 River Festival was a huge success. About 380,000 people attended the nine-day event (up 5 percent from 2013 and 30 percent from 2012). Also, 111,000 festival buttons were sold (up nearly 7 percent from 2013) and sponsorships increased 15 percent, which helped shore up the festival’s finances. Though the weather was threatening at times, the festival benefited from pleasant temperatures. This year’s concerts were big draws, and there was a good mix of new attractions and old favorites. Congratulations to Riverfest staff and its army of volunteers.

National media spotlight on Kansas (but not in a favorable way)

statesealMaybe former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum wasn’t exaggerating when he said last week that the “future of the free world” hinges on Kansas’ gubernatorial race. National media are certainly treating Kansas’ political and economic news as major stories. Click here to read excerpts from a few recent commentaries.

Victors, King among ‘rising political stars’

victors,ponka-weking,jeffWhen MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” recently singled out “rising political stars” in Kansas, the Democrats were Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the “underdog” challenging Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and state Rep. Ponka-We Victors (left), D-Wichita, noted for her Native American ancestry and advocacy for small business and higher education. The Republicans were state Sen. Jeff King (right), R-Independence, highlighted as a “strong voice on increasing public safety” and likely attorney general candidate in 2018, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, credited with “putting child sex offenders behind bars for life and building a state-of-the-art crime lab” and mentioned as a future candidate for governor.

AFP explanation as disingenuous as mailer

clayton,stephanieIt shouldn’t be surprising that the group behind a disingenuous political mailer is also disingenuous about its purpose. Americans for Prosperity-Kansas sent out mailers blasting Rep. Stephanie Clayton (in photo), R-Overland Park, for voting “against our kid’s future.” The vote in question is the school finance bill that passed late at night this past session. It included the highly controversial (but AFP-backed) provisions to strip teachers of their state-mandated due-process rights and to give tax breaks to corporations for donating to private school scholarship funds. When contacted by The Eagle, AFP-Kansas director Jeff Glendening denied that the mailer had anything to do with helping Clayton’s conservative challenger in the upcoming GOP primary. Yeah, right. He also said – repeatedly – that the mailer didn’t say to “vote for or against” anyone. Why did he emphasize that so much? Because not saying those magic words means that AFP doesn’t have to disclose its funding sources.

2006 Kansas race proved campaign mail works

klinedebate2While expressing exasperation in the Los Angeles Times about having received 200 mailers before a recent primary, campaign strategist Darry Sragow wondered whether such onslaughts are effective and noted: “A team of professors at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale looked at the impact of a six-piece mailing program in the 2006 contest for Kansas attorney general and found that the mailings had a statistically and politically significant effect on the candidate’s share of the vote. They concluded that a 10 percent increase in the amount of mail sent to a precinct increased the candidate’s vote share by roughly 3 percentage points.” The research focused on the “Snoop Dog” mailings by the group Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection, which had ties to abortion provider George Tiller. The fliers criticized incumbent Phill Kline (in photo) for snooping through women’s medical records and helped Democrat Paul Morrison beat him by 17 percentage points. The researchers wrote that there was “no evidence that these mailings affected turnout. As a result, we conclude that these mailings persuaded individuals who were already going to turn out to switch for whom they voted.”

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Everyone in Middle East Given Own Country in 317,000,000-State Solution

Voters Clamoring to Know if Female Political Candidate Is a Mother First

Fleeing Iraqis Relieved That Cheney Has No Regrets About War

Brazilian Government Posts Listings for 12 Soccer Stadiums on Craigslist

LeBron Congratulates People of Cleveland on Having Him Back

New Study Finds Most of Earth’s Oxygen Used for Complaining

When candidates don’t debate, voters lose

debateThe hot races of the unseasonably cool summer in Kansas have seen a scarcity of debates. That may serve candidates strategically but makes losers of the voters. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt sparred at a Wichita Crime Commission forum and have agreed to debate on TV (6:30 p.m. Monday, KWCH, Channel 12) and radio (6 p.m. July 27, KNSS 1330-AM). Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and challenger Alan LaPolice shared the stage at a Liberal event. Secretary of State Kris Kobach and GOP challenger Scott Morgan both spoke to Wichita Pachyderm Club members on Friday. But there have been too few public face-offs, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has declined to debate tea partier Milton Wolf. As the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske said in expressing disappointment in Roberts: “At election time, we expect our candidates to stand side by side with their opponents and address the day’s pressing issues. At least once, right?”

Nice to know names of Supreme Court applicants

stegall,calebTwo thoughts about the 14 applicants who’d like to replace Justice Nancy Moritz on the Kansas Supreme Court: There is a lot of ambition on the Kansas Court of Appeals; four of its members are seeking the promotion, including Chief Judge Thomas Malone and Brownback-appointed Judges Tony Powell and Caleb Stegall (the last, in photo, on the court a mere six months). And it’s great to know who applied – standard practice with Supreme Court openings, but also a transparency that may be endangered. Gov. Sam Brownback and some lawmakers have sought to change the state constitution to cut out the nominating commission and give the governor free rein to fill openings (subject to Senate confirmation), as he now has for the Court of Appeals. Last year, Brownback declined to release the names of the applicants for a new Court of Appeals spot, then picked Stegall, his former counsel. That was the first time in 32 years that Kansans hadn’t known who applied for the court and who made it to the top three.

So they said

santorum“Sam Brownback ruffles feathers. He takes on dragons.” – former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (in photo), campaigning in Olathe for the governor’s re-election

“Reagan didn’t turn the country around in the first six months of tax reduction. I think we’re in fine shape.” – Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, telling Bloomberg that criticism of Brownback’s tax cuts is unwarranted and Kansas is the “point of the spear”

“Well, they don’t call the Senate the assisted living home for nothing.” – Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., after a Johnson County GOP official inadvertently introduced him as the state’s “senior citizen” rather than its senior senator

“I think he’s a fine man. He just lacks leadership skills. Washington is in a deadlock, but that might be a good thing when you’re talking about government.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, talking about President Obama during a Cottonwood Falls visit

Can’t conclude that tax cuts pay for themselves

taxcuts“The business boom predicted by tax cut advocates has not happened, and it certainly has not come remotely close to offsetting the static revenue loss from the legislated tax cuts,” Howard Gleckman wrote in Forbes magazine about Kansas’ declining tax revenues and sluggish economy. Gleckman concluded: “One can argue whether cutting taxes is a good thing. One can argue about whether government is too big. One can even argue about whether low taxes increase business activity. But one cannot credibly argue that tax cuts increase revenue or even pay for themselves.” Another Forbes contributor, David Brunori, argued that while Gov. Sam Brownback oversold the short-term benefits of the tax cuts, it “may be too early to know if the Kansas experiment is a long-term failure.”

Orman ad likely resonates with Kansans

orman,gregGreg Orman faces long odds running as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas. But a campaign advertisement he released last week likely will resonate with many Kansans. It shows red and blue teams competing in a muddy tug-of-war contest. “Washington’s stuck between two parties who care more about winning than they care about our country,” Orman says in the ad, adding that “most Kansans just want government to live within its means and stop telling the rest of us how to live our lives.”

Davis endorsements a ‘RINO stampede’?

elephantfightThe national political media, including some opinionated observers, lit up over Tuesday’s endorsement by dozens of Kansas Republicans of Democrat Paul Davis for governor. “RINO stampede in Kansas,” declared American Thinker. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne tweeted: “What’s the matter with #Kansas? 104 Republicans oppose Gov. Sam #Brownback because his tax cuts went too far.” Breitbart.com called the 104 “mostly long-retired or recently fired moderate, establishment Republicans” and the move a “spiteful strike against the voters of Kansas who threw many of them out of office.” Closer to home, former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays initially tweeted, “I was surprised at the list of R’s endorsing Rep. Davis. I actually thought about 1/3 of them had died.” A later tweet apologized for his “intemperate, insensitive remark…. I violated my own rules & philosophy regarding political discourse.”

Secretary of state race also getting some notice

Scott Morgan, candidate for Kansas Secretary of State.  2014Kansas’ gubernatorial race is receiving a lot of national media attention, but the GOP primary in the secretary of state race also is starting to get some notice. Scott Morgan (in photo), who is challenging incumbent Kris Kobach, appeared this week on the “All In With Chris Hayes” show on MSNBC. Morgan, who served as a staff member to former Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, acknowledged that it will be difficult to win in a GOP primary, but he felt compelled to run. “At some point you have to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t us; we’re better than this.’” Morgan said that Kansans may not be flashy but we are decent. “We can be kind to each other,” he said, “and we don’t have to fan fear all the time.”

WuShock is unusual, but is it creepy?

wushockmascotWichita State University’s WuShock was named “the creepiest mascot” in a New York Post article this week. “Who knew a shock of wheat could be this angry?” the article asked. No. 2 on the list was the old Burger King mascot, with its leering plastic grin. OK, that one really was creepy. WSU wasn’t the only Missouri Valley Conference school to make the ranking. Little Egypt, the Egyptian hunting dog mascot of Southern Illinois University, was ranked the sixth creepiest. “Why not be more honest and call this one ‘Angry Mullet Head’?” the paper asked.

Davis backers include area school board members

davis,paulThe 104 current and former Republican officials who are endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (in photo) include several area school board members, reflecting the strained relationship between school districts and Gov. Sam Brownback. “As a 13-year local board of education member, I know four more years of the current governor will not be good for kids or Kansas,” Wichita school board member Lynn Rogers said. Other area GOP school board members include Gail Jamison, Sara McDonald and Kevin McWhorter of Goddard; Roger Elliott of Andover; and Janet Sprecker of Derby. Carol Rupe Linnens, former member of both the Wichita school board and the Kansas State Board of Education, spoke at the announcement event in Topeka Tuesday. “We need a governor who values our schools and makes them a top priority,” she said.

Brownback: Preserving environment is conservative, biblical

environmentGov. Sam Brownback noted in an NBC News interview that environmental issues haven’t “been an area of interest in my wing of the Republican Party – the conservative wing of the party.” But he argued that it’s a natural fit. “To conserve and be responsible for our natural resources is a very conservative position to take,” he said. “But it’s also about taking care of what God gave you.” In addition to his efforts to preserve the state’s water supply, Brownback noted the investment in Kansas in wind energy. “I think God gave us a beautiful place,” Brownback said. “He gave us a fabulous aquifer. And I think we need to be responsible with that and see that future generations can use that as well.”

No wonder farm groups aren’t backing Huelskamp

huelskamp,timThe decision by top Kansas farm groups not to endorse Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, speaks a thousand words about Huelskamp’s misplaced priorities and belligerent behavior. Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association refused to endorse Huelskamp, who was kicked off the House Agriculture Committee and has voted repeatedly against farm bills. And this wasn’t an insider decision; local committees in each county in Huelskamp’s district voted on whom Farm Bureau should endorse. Though Huelskamp’s combative, uncompromising style gets him bookings on cable TV talk shows, it has made him an ineffective representative for the farmers and ranchers in his district – and anyone else who wants to see results, not just “no” votes.

Alarm ordinance sounds like ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’

firetruckwichitaThe city clearly has a problem with security and fire false alarms, and especially with chronic abusers who owe more than $800,000 in false-alarm penalties. The proposed ordinance on the Tuesday agenda of the Wichita City Council could help, including by transferring responsibility for initial registration from alarm companies to users. But council members need to be cautious about refusing to respond to alarms when a residence or business has had more than six false alarms during a 12-month registration period and/or has failed to pay fees or penalties. Yes, ignoring a fire or security alarm in such cases could free up police and trucks for real emergencies, while saving taxpayers money. But “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” seems a questionable model for public safety.

Maybe Brownback should avoid medical metaphors

brownbackofficialmugGov. Sam Brownback’s claim that Kansas tax cuts would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy” hasn’t panned out. So he recently switched medical metaphors, likening the tax plan to going through surgery. “It takes a while to heal and get growing afterwards,” he told the Wall Street Journal. But the new metaphor is still providing fodder for critics. A New York Times editorial this week observed that “it’s not clear the patient can recover from this surgery,” noting that the state could blow through all its cash reserves by the end of this new fiscal year. Steve Thorngate wrote in Christian Century that “the operation was entirely elective, motivated by not necessity but ideology,” and he warned others to “look to Kansas and see what very concrete things happen when lawmakers choose to starve their own government.”

Glickman’s tips for democracy

congressinsessionIn Politico magazine, former Wichita congressman Dan Glickman and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe proposed “Ten Ways to Strengthen Democracy.” Among their ideas to “fix the electoral process, return Congress to legislating and enhance public service”: Increase primary participation with a single June primary date for congressional primaries and more open primaries. Let special commissions handle redistricting. Increase disclosure of political contributions, including those made to independent groups, and of spending by congressional leadership PACs. Reform the filibuster and Senate debate. Empower congressional committees. Adopt a biennial budget cycle. Synchronize House and Senate workweeks. And “the president and congressional leadership should hold regular monthly meetings.” Glickman and Snowe co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Environmental Study Finds Air in Chicago Now 75% Bullets

Criminal Prosecuted to Fullest Extent of Budget

People Who Call Obama Worst President Since Second World War Also Blame Him for Starting It

Bored Scientists Now Just Sticking Random Things Into Large Hadron Collider

Report: Half of All Americans Probably Should Have Thought of That Before They Opened Their Mouth

Tiahrt not impressed by 57 votes against Obamacare

tiahrtnewmugA campaign commercial by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, brags that he has voted 57 times against Obamacare. His GOP primary opponent, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, isn’t impressed. Somewhere between the seventh and 57th vote they should have figured out it wouldn’t work, Tiahrt told The Eagle editorial board. The GOP House needs to pick its fights wisely, Tiahrt said, and use its power over the purse strings to get what it wants. Pompeo concedes that “there is a little bit of repetition” to some of the votes. But he told the editorial board that the Affordable Care Act is such an enormous change that House Republicans have an obligation to continue to make their case and express their vision.

Can’t blame all of revenue drop on capital gains

taxrevenueFormer state budget director Duane Goossen raised more doubts about the Brownback administration’s claim that federal tax policies caused the state to miss its revenue estimates by $338 million during the past three months. Even if $3 billion in capital gains income was shifted from the 2013 tax year to 2012 (which Goossen points out is highly improbable, as $3 billion would be the entire amount of capital gains income for Kansans in an average year), at most that might have resulted in a reduction of $147 million in state income tax collections in fiscal year 2014 (assuming that the entire amount was taxed at the highest rate). That’s less than half as much as the estimates were off. All total, Kansas collected $726 million less in tax revenue in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s more than the tax drop during the entire Great Recession, Goossen noted, when revenue fell $618 million during a three-year period.

Still too many Kansans lacking health insurance

doctoroutAbout 359,000 Kansans – or 12.6 percent of the population – were uninsured in 2012, according to a new report by the Kansas Health Institute. The national average was 14.8 percent. In Sedgwick County, the uninsured rate was 15.5 percent. Two-thirds of uninsured Kansans have family incomes above the federal poverty level ($23,050 annually for a family of four in 2012), KHI reported, and more than three out of four uninsured Kansas adults are working. Though the current uninsured rate is not known, more than 57,000 Kansans signed up for health coverage through the insurance marketplace, according to federal data. That total doesn’t include Kansans 26 and younger who are now receiving health insurance through their parents’ plans, as part of the Affordable Care Act. More than 75,000 additional Kansans could be insured if Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature would allow a federal expansion of Medicaid.