Category Archives: Sam Brownback

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

Norquist’s group lauds Kansas’ tax cuts

budgetcut“Kansas Tax Cuts Are Working,” declared a blog at Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Writer Will Upton pointed to Kansas’ unemployment rate compared with Missouri’s, and especially the job growth along the border on the Kansas side. Upton seconded the Brownback administration’s contention that most of the $338 million revenue shortfall is due to federal tax policy, and said “Kansas still remains a relatively high tax state” in its region. The conclusion: “Opponents of tax reform and spending interests want to try and write an early obituary for the Kansas tax reform. Unfortunately for them, the tax cuts are working and will continue to improve the Kansas economy for years to come.” Upton didn’t mention that since the tax cuts kicked in January 2013, Kansas has trailed the nation and all neighboring states except Nebraska in job growth. Meanwhile, a review of Kansas’ tax plan and resulting budget problems by Josh Barro of the New York Times was titled, “Yes, if You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue.”

Will Brownback-Davis end the way Brownback-Docking did?

bbackoathA National Journal article headlined “Can a Democrat Win in Kansas?” reported the polling showing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is vulnerable to the challenge by House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, amid the state’s deepening revenue problems. It concluded with an interesting flashback: “A Cook Political Report race ranking by Charlie Cook on the 1996 Kansas Senate contest – when Brownback first ran for Senate against Democrat Jill Docking, Davis’ running mate this year – reads like a preview of this year’s gubernatorial race. The summary comes complete with moderate grievances against Brownback for his conservative record…. The race was considered a toss-up to the end, when Brownback ultimately defeated Docking by 10 percentage points.”

Kansans for Life credits Brownback for Alito

brownbackarmsupGov. Sam Brownback welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, saying it “affirmed the right of religious freedom, one of the bedrock principles enshrined in our Constitution,” and “again rebuked a needless overreach of President Obama’s administration.” In its response to the ruling, Kansans for Life gratefully linked the opinion’s author, Justice Samuel Alito, to Brownback: “Alito’s appointment to the court would not have occurred had not our governor, then-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, led the resistance to President Bush’s 2005 nomination of Harriet Miers to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.” Of course, Brownback has done plenty for the anti-abortion cause as governor, too, after having said in his 2011 State of the State address: “I call on the Legislature to bring to my desk legislation that protects the unborn, establishing a culture of life in Kansas.” As of early this year, Kansas had paid private law firms more than $1 million to defend anti-abortion laws enacted under Brownback.

Brownback polling poorly in Wichita, among women

brownbackofficialmugOne of the most striking findings in a new poll on the Kansas gubernatorial race is how poorly Gov. Sam Brownback is doing in Wichita. Statewide, Brownback trails his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, by 6 points, 41 to 47 percent, in a SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KSN, Channel 3. But in Wichita, Brownback is behind by a whopping 15 points, 36 to 51 percent. What’s even more stunning, Brownback trails his GOP primary opponent, Jennifer Winn, among Wichitans by 3 points, 45 to 48 percent. Statewide, Brownback leads Winn 55 to 37 percent, which still isn’t that great, considering how few people have even heard of Winn. Also of note in the survey is the sizable gender gap. Statewide, Brownback narrowly leads Davis 44 to 43 percent among men. But among women surveyed, Brownback trails Davis 37 to 51 percent. Brownback also is far behind Davis among moderates (23 to 69 percent) and independents (27 to 46 percent), two groups that sometimes swing close elections.

Fiscal trends only count if they are positive?

cashGov. Sam Brownback doesn’t like it that the media are focusing on how the state’s cash balance is rapidly disappearing and that it is borrowing twice as much money this coming fiscal year as it did this year. But Brownback is the one who has pointed to these measures as evidence of the success of his policies. Brownback has repeatedly bragged in recent years about the amount of the state’s cash balances. And last year he boasted about how the state needed to borrow only $300 million to help meet cash-flow demands. If those were signs of success, why aren’t the opposite trends cause for concern?

Brownback shows no interest in Medicaid expansion

doctoroutThough Gov. Sam Brownback says he hasn’t decided yet whether to allow a federal expansion of Medicaid, his comments sound like he has no interest in it. During a recent interview with the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Brownback said that “Obamacare is not working and it is not going to work.” He also scoffed at the federal government’s promise to cover all of the costs of expansion for the first three years and a minimum of 90 percent after that. “They’re going to up our percent,” he said. Nor did Brownback show interest in alternative models of expansion being pursued by other red states.

Kansas losing out on millions in Medicaid funding

medicaidRep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, was one of the speakers at a Friday rally at the Statehouse in Topeka supporting a federal expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. Not only have Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature refused to allow an expansion, but GOP legislative leaders wouldn’t even allow Ward to have a hearing on the issue this past session. “That is wrong,” Ward said. “This is the place where we have those discussions.” The federal government would pay the entire cost of expansion for the first three years and nearly all the cost after that. By not expanding, Kansas has lost out on about $164 million in federal funding since Jan. 1, according to the Kansas Medicaid Access Coalition.

Data favors a second Brownback term

bbackoathGov. Sam Brownback has a strong 78 percent chance of winning re-election in November, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of early polling in all 36 gubernatorial elections and the accuracy of such polling data since 2006. Republicans currently hold 29 governorships, and the site’s Harry Enten concluded that “Republicans are favorites to hold most Republican seats, and Democrats are likely to hold most Democratic seats.”

Kansas ‘renaissance’ looks more like dark ages

brownbackcampaignOne day before the state reported that its tax collections for May were a stunning $217 million less than expected, Gov. Sam Brownback had a commentary in the Wall Street Journal headlined, “A Midwest Renaissance Rooted in the Reagan Formula.” Brownback summarized the state’s income tax cuts on his watch and touted the business formations, unemployment rate and private-sector job growth, also giving a nod to neighboring states’ recent tax cuts. “Kansas and its neighbors in Missouri and Oklahoma are charting a course based on a vision of lower taxes and leaner governments leading to a more prosperous citizenry,” he wrote. On Thursday the governor delivered a similar message at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Asked by the Hill about the decision of Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the state’s credit rating over fiscal concerns in the state, Brownback said: “They’ve been downgrading a lot of states.” Actually, Moody’s has downgraded only three states in the past year: Illinois in June 2013, Kansas in April and New Jersey last month.

Brownbacks are encouraging kids to read for fun

schoolreadingGood for Gov. Sam Brownback and first lady Mary Brownback for supporting Read Kansas Read. The annual reading program, which is a collaborative effort by the Kansas State Library system and Kansas State Department of Education, encourages children to read for fun throughout the summer. The top readers in each age division from the seven library regions in the state will be recognized by the first lady at the Kansas Book Festival in September. Jo Budler, the state librarian, said that Kansas libraries had more than 97,000 children and teens participate in summer reading programs last year. “I hope that we have even more visit their library and make reading a priority this year,” Budler said.

So they said

robertsmug“Maybe the Kochs are to blame for the planes lost in the Bermuda Triangle. How about the volcanic eruption at Pompeii years back? Even, Mr. President, the futility of the Chicago Cubs.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., on the Senate floor last week, blasting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for pointing figures at the Koch brothers for climate change and California wildfires

“I kept hoping that the governor would eventually see the rationale behind getting those federal dollars. Those are our tax dollars that are going to Washington that are going to other states that are expanding coverage.” – Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, lamenting Gov. Sam Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid as MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes” examined Kansas’ sharp right turn

“It never surprises me that the most active governors have a dip in their popularity as their opponents go nuts.” – Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, in an Associated Press article about Brownback’s low approval ratings and re-election bid

“You serve food with integrity? How about serving people with integrity?” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, tweeting about Chipotle Mexican Grill having asked its customers not to bring guns into its restaurants, which Huelskamp also said showed Chipotle’s “disdain for the 2nd Amendment”

Brownback campaign a ‘man-bites-dog story’

brownbackofficialmugGov. Sam Brownback’s difficult re-election campaign is a compelling story because Kansas is such a red state and this is shaping up to be a big year for Republicans nationally, Jeff Roe, a GOP consultant based in Kansas City, told National Public Radio. “It’s a man-bites-dog story – can a Republican lose in Kansas?” Roe said. But Roe thinks that Brownback will pull away in the end and cruise to victory. “This is going to be a fun race to watch in May and June,” Roe said, “and a real boring one to watch in October and November.”

So they said

bbackmug“Kansas is, at last, escaping the economic death spiral it had been in. My ‘Road Map for Kansas’ is working.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), in the fundraising letter in which he misstated dates regarding the state’s finances and referred to Democratic opponent Paul Davis (in boldface type) as “a liberal lawyer from Lawrence who was a two-time delegate for Barack Obama”

“Kansas is the most changed state in America.” – Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, touting the administration’s economic, education and pro-life records at a Saline County Republican candidate forum

“Most good things that last are bipartisan.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, to Kansas Public Radio, about working with Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy to pass the Americans With Disabilities Act

“I’d love to have a magic wand to bring some of your sanity back to Washington. You are missed.” – former Democratic Gov. John Carlin, visiting with Dole in Salina on Tuesday

“Probably the best thing we did this spring was we got out of town after 79 days.” – Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, on the legislative session

“It was amazing how hardheaded those folks were. They just couldn’t accept the fact that they got beat.” – Hineman again, on opponents of renewable energy standards

Brownback’s cash-reserves claim not the full story

cashSam Brownback loves to mention, as he did in a campaign fundraising letter this month, that the state had only $876 in the bank when he became governor, and that it now has hundreds of millions of dollars in cash reserves. But as Eagle reporter Bryan Lowry noted, the $876 was actually the balance on the last day of the fiscal year six months before Brownback was sworn in. And a main reason why the reserves rebounded was that Brownback’s predecessor, former Gov. Mark Parkinson, and the Legislature approved a temporary sales tax increase. What’s more, Brownback opposed that sales tax increase when he campaigned for governor. But after he was elected, he opposed revoking it and convinced the Legislature to make part of the increase permanent. And if the size of the cash balance is the measure of fiscal responsibility, shouldn’t Kansans be concerned that the balance is dropping rapidly because of state income tax cuts (which Brownback also fails to mention)?

So they said

bbackmug“In my 2014 State of the State address which began this legislative session I asked what kind of state we would leave to our 3 millionth Kansan. I believe, through the hard work of this Legislature, we have met our commitment to leave her a state with a growing economy, responsible state government and a world-class education.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), in a session-ending statement

“Kansas is so red that Attila the Hun ought to be able to win an election in Kansas if he only had an ‘R’ listed after his name on the ballot.” – MSNBC host Rachel Maddow last week, noting Brownback’s surprisingly low approval ratings going into his re-election bid

“That’s just further evidence of the kind of dark money campaigning that goes on in Kansas politics these days.” – Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, on a mailer opposing renewable energy standards

Vote on Moritz gives Brownback a court seat to fill

moritzThree long years after the seat opened, a Kansan has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz, with a vote of 90-3 on Monday. To their credit, Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran supported President Obama’s nomination of Moritz, with Moran calling her “well-prepared” and saying: “I am confident Nancy’s service on the 10th Circuit will be guided by the values we hold in Kansas, including empathy for others and respect for the rule of law.” Roberts and Moran inexplicably blocked Obama’s 2011 nomination to the seat of former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, who also was well-qualified. But Moritz will be a great addition to the court; a Beloit native and Washburn University Law School graduate, she had experience as a federal prosecutor and coordinator of appellate cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas before Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed her to the Kansas Court of Appeals in 2004 and Gov. Mark Parkinson named her to the Supreme Court in 2011. Of course, Moritz’s confirmation also has a key benefit for Kansas Republicans – providing Gov. Sam Brownback with his first opportunity to name a member of the state Supreme Court.