Category Archives: Kansas government

So they said

brownbackhandout“I don’t know anybody who hires a new coach or CEO and says, ‘Go ahead and keep managing the slow decline. Just don’t make it hurt too much.’ They hire someone to get it going the right way, and that’s what we’re doing.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), talking fiscal strategy in the Los Angeles Times

“I wish I could take that back, because I don’t consider this an experiment. So many people on the left really want this to fail.” – Brownback again, in a Washington Post article about what he had called Kansas’ “real live experiment”

“This effort to starve state government is now pressuring school governments, and the social service agencies are having a much tougher time. It just seems that he has this objective without understanding the consequences or caring about the consequences.” – Reno County Commissioner Brad Dillon, a former Brownback supporter now backing Paul Davis, also in the Post article

“What do guns have to do with the (insurance) department?” – Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, in the Topeka Capital-Journal, about the “100 percent pro-gun” language turning up in ads of GOP candidates vying to replace her

Tax-collection news good, but shortfall still looming

taxrevenueIt’s a relief that the state’s tax collections for July came in on target, breaking a three-month streak of big shortfalls. The state collected $408.6 million in taxes last month, which was $1.6 million, or 0.4 percent, more than estimated. Over the three previous months the state had collected $334 million less than expected. Though the turnaround is good news, the state is still facing major budget problems. Even if tax revenues over the next 11 months meet the estimates, the state will use up nearly all of its cash reserves this fiscal year and will face a large budget shortfall next fiscal year.

Beware of last-minute campaign mailers, ads

mud.jpbHeading into the final weekend before Tuesday’s primary, voters should beware of last-minute mailers and ads attacking political candidates. Such claims usually are misleading and exaggerated. The worst offenders often aren’t the opposing candidates but third-party groups. For example, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas – a critic of public education and education funding – has been attacking some pro-education lawmakers for not voting last session for a school funding bill (that also eliminated state-mandated due-process rights for teachers and granted tax credits for business donations to private schools). Mailers proclaim that “when our schools needed a lifeline,” the lawmakers voted “no.” The cynicism and hypocrisy are stunning. Political action committees also have launched new TV ads attacking congressional candidates, including Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

Kansas governor’s race now considered toss-up

bbackoathAfter looking at the latest polling and campaign finance disclosures in Kansas’ gubernatorial contest, Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics shifted it from “leans Republican to toss-up” this week. It concluded: “Kansas is so Republican that we won’t be surprised if this one teeter-totters back in (Gov. Sam) Brownback’s direction – but the governor has a lot of fence-mending to do, and quickly.”

Laffer said tax cuts would have ‘near immediate’ impact

lafferIt wasn’t only Gov. Sam Brownback who thought that lowering the state’s income taxes would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Economist Arthur Laffer (in photo), who consulted on Kansas’ tax plan, made a similar prediction. A 2012 report he wrote with Stephen Moore, who is now the top economist with the Heritage Foundation, argued: “The quality of schools also matters as does the state’s highway system, but it takes years for those policies to pay dividends, while cutting taxes can have a near immediate and permanent impact, which is why we have advised Oklahoma, Kansas and other states to cut their income tax rates if they want the most effective immediate and lasting boost to their states’ economies.”

Liberals afraid of ‘what’s right with Kansas’?

capitoldomeThe Wall Street Journal editorial board defended Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cut policies in an editorial Wednesday headlined, “Why liberals hate Kansas.” “The truth is that it’s too soon to draw grand conclusions about the tax cuts, which have been in effect for all of 19 months,” the editorial said. “But some early economic indicators suggest they may be producing modest positive effects.” The problem is that those modest effects aren’t keeping up with the loss of tax revenue, and the state is quickly headed for large budget shortfalls. The editorial concluded that liberals are trying to stop the tax-cutting trend from spreading by predicting catastrophe. “They’re afraid people may soon be asking what’s right with Kansas,” the editorial said. But a Wall Street Journal news article last month reported that, so far, the results of Brownback’s tax cuts “are serving as more of a warning than a beacon.”

Colyer tries to fool Kansans twice

colyerIt’s hard to believe that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer tried the same trick twice. On New Year’s Eve last year, the last day of the campaign finance reporting period, Colyer loaned the Brownback campaign $500,000 – the largest campaign loan in state history. Several days later, reporters asked Colyer and Gov. Sam Brownback about the loan, which looked suspiciously like it was aimed at inflating the campaign’s fundraising total to match the fundraising of the Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis. Colyer told the Lawrence Journal-World that the loan represented his commitment to making a better future for Kansas kids. Brownback told the Kansas City Star that the loan would allow him to take his message to voters this winter and spring. Neither of them disclosed that the campaign had already repaid Colyer for the loan, on Jan. 2. Now, Colyer has done it again. On July 23, a day before the latest reporting period ended, Colyer again loaned the campaign $500,000. And again, the campaign claimed that the loan was merely a sign of Colyer’s commitment to the campaign.

Kansas losing out by not expanding Medicaid

healthcaregovHow much is Kansas losing out by not allowing a federal expansion of Medicaid? About $820 million over the next three years, according to a study by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Kansas is also losing out on 3,800 new jobs over the three-year span. And up to 100,000 low-income Kansans are losing out on needed health insurance. Expansion also would save the state money by moving some adults the state now cares for, such as those with mental illnesses, onto Medicaid and by reducing other costs. But neither the financial nor moral arguments for expansion seem to matter to Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature.

Why big difference in gubernatorial polls?

thumbsupdownA new poll from the research firm YouGov, in partnership with the New York Times and CBS News, has Gov. Sam Brownback ahead of his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, by 10 points, 47 to 37 percent. Yet SurveyUSA polls, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, have consistently shown Davis ahead, including one released last week that had Davis up 8 points, 48 to 40 percent. How could there be such a big difference? The YouGov poll is using a new sampling method based on an online panel, while SurveyUSA uses the traditional method of random telephone surveys. The non-probability online panel is controversial, and it tends to underrepresent minorities (only 4.4 percent in the Kansas poll). Ultimately, the only polling that matters is what happens in the voting booth.

So they said

brownbackofficialmug“It’s law. It’s going to happen.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), saying he opposes the proposal of his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, to postpone additional scheduled state income tax cuts

“Western Kansas sees it as not real Kansas.” – Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker, to the Hill newspaper, about Johnson County, home to U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf

“Rolling into Dodge City. I wonder if there are any recliners for rent.” – Wolf, tweeting a dig at Sen. Pat Roberts’ February statement that he has “full access to the recliner” at the home of some Dodge City donors

“They’re a bunch of humorless has-beens who don’t like being outed as Democrats.” – Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, in the Salina Journal, doubling down on his recent tweet that Democrat Paul Davis’ gubernatorial campaign “really raided the nursing home” to find the Republicans endorsing him

Candidate endorsements being released

Recall ElectionThe Eagle editorial board has begun releasing its endorsements for contested primaries. Thursday’s endorsements were for Kansas House races in Sedgwick County. Friday’s will be for Sedgwick County Commission and District Court. Saturday’s will be for Kansas governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. On Sunday we will endorse for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. The endorsements that really matter are by voters in the Aug. 5 primary.

New jobs report is nothing to brag about

joblessKansas Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said the state’s new jobs report was good news. “With another month of private-sector job growth, Kansas continues its comeback from the recession,” she said. The problem is that job growth is much slower than the national average and lower than in nearly all the surrounding states. The June report showed private-sector employment in Kansas grew only about 1.3 percent over the past year. Nationally, it grew 3 percent. What’s more, Kansas was one of only nine states that had fewer jobs at the end of June than it did seven months ago. The unemployment rate in Kansas also increased slightly, to 4.9 percent, while the rate in Wichita rose to 5.9 percent.

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”