Category Archives: Sam Brownback

Brownback should veto bill giving state control of Medicare

praeger“To include Medicare into an attempt to make political statements about the Affordable Care Act, I think, is wrong,”  said Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger (in photo). It is wrong. Yet House Bill 2553 would give the state control of all federal health care programs, subject to congressional approval, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Brownback needs to veto the bill, which is being promoted by an out-of-state group, and not jeopardize the health care of senior citizens. Praeger also cautioned that there could be political consequences if Brownback signs the bill: “I would be very nervous if I were running in a statewide campaign about making that bloc of seniors upset.”

Brownback: Get off the fence on due-process rights

bbackwinWhy won’t Gov. Sam Brownback say whether he supports eliminating due-process rights for public school teachers? He’s been riding the fence since the Legislature passed a school-finance bill that strips teachers of these rights. If he supports that, he should say so. If he doesn’t, he should also say so – and then take action, by either vetoing the bill or demanding that legislators repeal the provision when they return to Topeka on April 30.

Let world know there’s no place like Kansas

keeperbridge“There’s No Place Like Kansas” is a nice variation on the “Wizard of Oz” line and a good slogan for promoting Kansas tourism. More than 32 million people visit Kansas annually, generating $8 billion in expenditures, according to a news release from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. But Kansas has the potential to attract even more visitors. As Gov. Sam Brownback noted when he was in Wichita last week kicking off the new tourism campaign: “Kansas is a special place and we know it. Now we have to tell the rest of the world about it.”

Welcome to the skies, Learjet 85

learjet85aCongratulations to all those in Wichita and worldwide whose skill and hard work readied Bombardier Aerospace’s Learjet 85 for takeoff Wednesday from Mid-Continent Airport. It took 6 1/2 years for the midsize business jet to go from announcement to first flight, during a period that included a brutal recession. But the successful test further affirms that Wichita’s status as Air Capital of the World is a thing of the future, not just the past. Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement also offering congratulations: “Many thanks to the Learjet 85 team for its hard work in accomplishing this significant milestone in the program and Bombardier for its continued investment in Wichita.”

More polling problems for Brownback

brownbackofficialmugAnother Public Policy Polling survey has found Gov. Sam Brownback lagging Democratic challenger Paul Davis. In the firm’s April 1-2 poll of 886 Kansas voters (52 percent Republicans and 30 percent Democrats), 45 percent said they would vote for Davis, a Lawrence attorney who is the House minority leader, if the gubernatorial election were held today; 41 percent favored Brownback and 14 percent weren’t sure. Fifty-two percent said Kansas should accept the new federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage, and 41 percent said Brownback’s opposition to expansion would make them less likely to vote for him. In a February survey by the same North Carolina-based firm, Davis led Brownback 42 to 40 percent. The latest PPP survey was funded by the liberal group MoveOn.org, and a Brownback campaign spokesman dismissed the results.

Brownback wanted economy measured in ‘timely manner’

taxrevenueIn the commentary on today’s Opinion page, Stan Ahlerich, executive director of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, argues that it is irresponsible to look only at “a narrow, short-term set of facts” when evaluating the state’s economy. But these facts are the very benchmarks that Gov. Sam Brownback and the council established to measure the state’s economy. And Brownback himself said two years ago that they should be used “to monitor in a timely manner if our policies and initiatives are having the desired economic effect.” Brownback also said that his tax cuts would act like “a shot of adrenaline to the heart” of the Kansas economy. That sounds like Kansas was supposed to see quick improvements – not see lower growth rates than the regional average on all but one of the measurements. Even when the past five years are compared, Kansas lags the regional average in nearly all the council’s benchmarks.

Kansas’ economy, employment lagging region

kansasgreetingsAnother report shows the Kansas economy is lagging, and this one can’t be dismissed by Gov. Sam Brownback’s supporters. That’s because it is from the governor’s own Council of Economic Advisors and is based on benchmarks established specifically to measure economic trends. The March 2014 report shows that in the past year Kansas grew less than regional states in population, gross state product, personal income, employment, private-industry wage level, private-business establishment and several other measurements. For example, Kansas’ private-sector employment growth rate was 0.9 percent compared with 1.5 percent for the six-state region (and 2.1 percent for the nation). Also, private-industry wage levels went down slightly in Kansas but up slightly in the region and nation. The only measure in which Kansas did better than the regional average last year was in the growth of building permits. In establishing the benchmarks two years ago, Brownback said they would enable the state “to monitor in a timely manner if our policies and initiatives are having the desired economic effect.” So far, the answer is “no.”

Comparatively low unemployment rate normal for Kansas

jobhuntKansas’ unemployment rate in February was 4.9 percent, a 0.1 point increase from January. Kansas was one of only 10 states in which the unemployment rate increased last month. It decreased in 29 states and nationally. Kansas now is tied for having the 12th-lowest unemployment rate, down from the 10th lowest the previous month. A commercial praising Gov. Sam Brownback’s accomplishments highlights the 10th-place ranking. However, Kansas has long had a low unemployment rate compared with other states. In January 2011, the month Brownback took office, Kansas had the 12th-lowest unemployment rate. The year before, in January 2010, it was the fourth lowest.

Brownback calling on ‘freedom fighters’ in Wichita

bbackwinGov. Sam Brownback is headlining an “Awakening Freedom Tour” event Saturday at Central Christian Church, 2900 N. Rock. Brownback will talk about the spiritual history of Kansas and about being a family-friendly state. Brownback also spoke last month at a tour event in Lenexa. The tour focuses on moral decline in the United States and the “battle to remove God from the public dialogue.” Organizer Donna Lippoldt of Wichita said that “we need to get some freedom fighters up and going to take this country back.” Take the country back from whom?

Credit-rating agency raises concerns about state finances

cashMoody’s Investors Service is raising concerns about Kansas’ ability to pay its debts. The credit-rating agency considers the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision in the school-finance case a “credit negative” because “the mandated increase will pressure state finances that are already stressed by revenue losses from income tax cuts.” A spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback downplayed the Moody’s report, noting that Kansas still has a strong bond rating. But John Robb, a Newton attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the school-funding case, said there is reason to worry about state finances. “The grand experiment better ramp up in the next three years, or we’re going to have a train wreck,” he said. “Moody’s appears to recognize that.”

Brownback defends Dole; what about moderates?

dolemugGood for Gov. Sam Brownback for saying he didn’t appreciate the recent suggestion by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that former GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole (in photo) didn’t stand for principle. “You can disagree with him on policy, but he’s the iconic figure of the World War II generation,” Brownback said on Fox News. “He’s a wonderful man.” Brownback also cited President Reagan’s rule against speaking poorly of fellow Republicans. “Reagan was always a very inclusive person and he had a lot of moderates in the party,” Brownback said. What would Reagan have thought of the Brownback-led campaign two years ago to purge GOP moderates from the Kansas Senate? The many mailers attacking former Sens. Dick Kelsey, Jean Schodorf and others certainly weren’t concerned about speaking ill – or speaking accurately.

So they said

bbackmug“I’m hoping the championship game is between two Kansas teams, and then I’m debating on what I’ll bet myself at that time.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), after explaining his WuShock pin to FoxNews.com

“They’re grinders. They’re hard workers. They’re scrappy and they’re fighters with big hearts. They reflect our town and the best of America and we love them. Godspeed to them. Go, Shox.” – Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, in a speech praising the WSU men’s basketball team on the House floor

“They’re American…. I wish Harry Reid would do his job of running the Senate.” – Brownback again, when asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s criticism of the Koch brothers as un-American

Brownback points to welfare cuts with pride

brownbackofficialmugAsked by FoxNews.com about being criticized for hurting social services as well as education during his administration, Gov. Sam Brownback said: “What we have done here is really try to encourage work in these programs. So we’ve required people to apply to work if they’re able-bodied. And that’s reduced some of the number of people on social services. But I think most people agree that the way out of poverty isn’t a pittance from the government. It’s work, it’s education, it’s family stability. Those are the real ways out.” According to a December report by the United Community Services of Johnson County, Kansas’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program dropped from a monthly average of 38,963 in fiscal 2011 to 21,887 in fiscal 2013. This drop occurred during the same time the number of Kansans living in poverty was increasing.

So they said

“I think what Gov. Brownback has done with the tax laws and forward-thinking for our state of Kansas and the growth of Kansas in jobs is becoming a model states are looking at throughout the nation. I think he has done it in a very nonpartisan manner.” – Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, in a Daily Caller article headlined “The next tax reform model for the nation to come from Kansas?”

“My experience with Gov. Brownback after having served for seven other governors is that he is the most partisan governor Kansas has ever had.” – Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, in the same article

“You wouldn’t expect this from me. Cheer Liberal today.” – U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, tweeting on Shrove Tuesday, which was pancake race day in Liberal

State must increase school funding

school-fundingThe state must significantly increase school funding to meet its constitutional obligations, but exactly how much and when is still uncertain. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled today that a three-judge panel needed to look at more than just cost studies to determine the adequacy of funding. The timing of that is unclear. But the court did rule that funding is not equitable and gave the Legislature until July 1 to fix that. How will lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback respond?

Governing notes competitiveness of Brownback-Davis race

capitoldomeGoverning magazine has shifted Kansas’ 2014 gubernatorial race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican,” noting Gov. Sam Brownback’s low approval ratings and the “emergence of a plausible contender: state House Minority Leader Paul Davis.” The magazine said: “Despite being a solidly red state, Brownback’s staunchly conservative agenda – and that of Kansas’ even more conservative Republican legislators – hasn’t been universally loved.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post misstated Governing’s change in the race’s status.

Norquist still likes Brownback in 2016

norquistGov. Sam Brownback’s poll numbers have made re-election this year his first concern. Yet Grover Norquist (in photo), founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, told National Review Online that Brownback would be competitive if he decided to run for president in 2016. “Because he’s done it once, it is credible that he may choose to do it again. He’s thought about it,” Norquist said, praising how Brownback succeeded in replacing nine of 11 moderate Republican state senators in 2012 so he’d have a more like-minded Legislature to support his aggressive economic agenda. Asked about the two surviving moderates, Norquist said: “One, I’m told, is shell-shocked and sits in the corner and doesn’t talk to anybody. And the other sort of came over and rejoined our team.”

Brownback to GOP: Talk about poverty, mental health

bbackmugAt Politico’s recent State Solutions Conference, Gov. Sam Brownback said talking more about poverty and mental health could help the Republican Party among women voters and on social issues. “The answer can’t just be cut food stamps. That’s not the model,” he said. “Two-thirds of our prison population in Kansas has mental health, substance abuse or both problems.”

New business filings don’t reflect full picture

smallbusinessBecause the Kansas economy is growing at a lower rate than the economies of neighboring states and the nation, Gov. Sam Brownback has pointed to new business filings as evidence that his tax cuts are starting to work. But noting that the state had more than 15,000 new business filings in 2013 doesn’t reflect the full picture. That’s because more than 16,000 other businesses were dissolved by their owners or forfeited for failure to file an annual report, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. The net increase in registered businesses, after adding back 4,500 businesses that owners reinstated that year, was only about 3,600. “When you do the math, the net new growth in Kansas in 2013 is actually smaller than before the tax cuts of 2012 took effect,” said Annie McKay, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

So much for 20-year partnership on Finney building

finneybldgThe Brownback administration’s frustrating decision to bail on the city-owned Finney State Office Building is moving forward, though the lease doesn’t expire until Sept. 30. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services will join the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Kansas Department of Labor and the state Board of Indigents’ Defense Services in the former Ryan International Airlines building at 266 N. Main while the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Human Rights Commission will go to the Garvey Center – which at least keeps these agencies downtown. Meanwhile, the Kansas Department for Children and Families reportedly wants a 96,000-square-feet site the U.S. Postal Service is closing at 2601 S. Oliver. That means DCF’s more than 550 employees will no longer be working downtown and the agency’s low-income clients will have to adjust to an office that isn’t centrally located or accessible by multiple bus routes. Mayor Carl Brewer lobbied the governor personally to try to save the 20-year city-state partnership by offering a $6 million renovation and a deep discount on rent. He told The Eagle editorial board last week that “we’re disappointed at the fact that they chose not to stay” at the Finney building and said the goal now was to keep it from sitting empty.

Another nod to Davis’ polling strength

davis,paulSabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has revised the Kansas gubernatorial rating for 2014 from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican,” based on polling suggesting Gov. Sam Brownback might be vulnerable to Democratic challenger Paul Davis (in photo), who is the House minority leader. In Kansas, the website noted, “the centrist Republicans and Democrats will sometimes effectively work together to block the conservative Republicans” and “Brownback has governed as a staunch conservative.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball also observed that “it is surprising to check the history and see that over the past 50 years, the Sunflower State has been governed more often by a Democrat (28 of the last 50 years)” than has Massachusetts (24 of the last 50 years).

More bad polling results for Brownback

thumbsdownOnly 33 percent of Kansans approve of Gov. Sam Brownback’s job performance and 51 percent disapprove, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. What’s more, only 46 percent of Republicans approve of the job Brownback is doing. In comparison, 34 percent of Kansans approve of President Obama’s job performance (though 60 percent disapprove). Brownback’s high disapproval rating is likely why he slightly trails House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, in a head-to-head matchup. Davis leads 42 percent to Brownback’s 40 percent, even though 59 percent of the people surveyed weren’t sure what they thought of Davis.

Good for Brownback for looking into earthquakes

fracking1Credit Gov. Sam Brownback with taking seriously the possibility of a link between the recent seismic activity in south-central Kansas and expanded oil and gas production, specifically the fluid injection involved in “fracking.” Brownback has named a task force to hear from industry and stakeholders beginning with an April 16 meeting at Wichita State University and to otherwise study the issue, calling it a “matter of public safety.” The temblors have been mild, but it’s not safe to assume they will continue to be. At the very least, Kansas would seem to need more than two U.S. Geological Survey monitoring stations.

Brownback says his fiscal agenda is working

brownbackofficialmugGov. Sam Brownback reflected on his state and his tenure so far in a New York Times article that noted he has “overseen the largest income tax cuts in state history, an expansion of gun rights, restrictions on abortion, sharply reduced welfare rolls, increased voter-registration scrutiny and a paring of state government bureaucracy.” Among the governor’s quotes:

–“We believe this is a strategy that builds a strong state in the future on the red-state model. I think we are doing this aggressively and I think you’re going to see some very good things moving forward. It’s not as if we haven’t tried the blue-state model, because we have.”

–“It’s working. I can tell you where you would’ve been had we not changed the policies. You’d be having higher unemployment, you’d continue to have out-migration in the state of Kansas. You wouldn’t have this level of job growth taking place. You would not have this number of new business formations in the state of Kansas, and you’d still have a broke state government.”

–“Here, you got a mostly rectangular state, in the middle of the country, about 3 million people, no mountains, no ocean, a lot of wind. OK, so what’s so special? But then you look at what’s happened in the history of this state, and it’s an incredible place.”

Poll has Brownback ahead; Davis called ‘credible’

davis,paul“Is Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback at risk of losing re-election in a state Mitt Romney carried with 60 percent?” asked Stu Rothenberg’s blog for Roll Call, concluding that polling and fundraising are making House Minority Leader Paul Davis (in photo), D-Lawrence, look “like a credible contender. He has quickly consolidated the Democratic base while Brownback still has some work to do in rallying Republicans.” Even though a new GOP poll finds Brownback ahead of Davis by 42 to 31 percent, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race has been changed from “Safe Republican” to “Republican Favored.”