Category Archives: Sam Brownback

Brownback to blame for conflict with teachers

brownbackmugGov. Sam Brownback said last week that he regrets the adversarial relationship he has with teachers, the Hutchinson New reported. But whose fault is that? Besides cutting base state aid to schools – the operational money that pays teacher salaries – Brownback has seemed much more interested in advancing the agenda of libertarian groups than in aiding teachers. If he cares about his relationship with teachers, why didn’t he intervene last session when GOP lawmakers were stripping teachers of their state-mandated due-process rights? Why has he supported legislative efforts to weaken teacher unions? Why didn’t he get more input from teachers and school administrators before proposing education reforms? It’s no wonder the relationship is strained.

So the independent polls are inaccurate?

thumbsupdownGov. Sam Brownback’s campaign tried to dismiss a new SurveyUSA poll showing Brownback trailing Democrat Paul Davis by 8 points. “SurveyUSA has a history of inaccurate polling and this is more of the same,” the campaign said in a statement. Actually, SurveyUSA has been one of the more accurate polls in recent state elections. And what about the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, which is Republican leaning and showed Davis up by 10 points? Or the latest survey by Public Policy Polling, which had Davis up by 2 points? Meanwhile, the Brownback campaign released its own “internal poll” Tuesday showing Brownback leading by 1 point. Obviously, much could change between now and the November election, and Brownback and his allies will continue to try to paint Davis as a lackey of President Obama. But the SurveyUSA poll, which was sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, shows the hole Brownback is in right now: He trails Davis in every age, gender and racial category.

Brownback has changed emphasis on K-12 spending

brownback54In a TV ad for his re-election campaign, Gov. Sam Brownback says, “We’re putting more money in public education.” That’s true. Total school funding in Kansas is more for fiscal 2015 than it was in fiscal 2011, when the governor took office. Brownback and others rightly point with pride to increased funding for teacher pensions and capital costs, and to some extra money and local property-tax relief ordered by the courts. But in Brownback’s first gubernatorial campaign and earlier in his term, he complained that too few dollars were making it into Kansas classrooms, even using a questionably low percentage to try to prove his point (in photo). His count-it-all view now seems at odds with his classroom emphasis back then. And as Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards recently wrote, “when measured against changes in the cost of living, funding for educational programs that can actually be spent on teachers, administrators and student support programs has declined by $500 million since 2009.” That’s why hearing Brownback’s claims of “more money” for schools makes many of those who work in schools want to raise their hands in objection.

What’s new? Political ad cherry-picks claims

cherry-pickingA new political advertisement by the Republican Governors Association portrays Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis as being devoted to “tax-and-spend” ideas of President Obama. Though information in the ad is partly true, it “falls short because conclusions are based on cherry-picked snapshots that don’t fully explain his (Davis’) record,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “At the same time, the commercial fails to point out actions by Davis that correlate to those of (Gov. Sam) Brownback.” For example, the ad criticizes Davis for voting for several policies and programs that Brownback also supports.

Is Brownback an education governor?

bbackgovGov. Sam Brownback is trying to cast himself as an education governor, arguing that he has overseen “record school funding.” But a Kansas City Star editorial noted that the funding increases were mostly for the state’s pension system and for building and other capital costs. “The money school districts rely on to make their payrolls, purchase classrooms supplies and meet other day-to-day expenses is $548 less on a per-student basis than it was six years ago,” the editorial said. Brownback deserves credit for helping shore up the pension fund, the editorial argued, “but being a ‘pension governor’ isn’t the same as an education governor.”

Unlucky couple of weeks for Brownback campaign

bbackwinGov. Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign has been having a string of bad luck lately. Brownback won the GOP primary earlier this month, but all the talk was about how his unknown opponent garnered 37 percent of the vote. Then at a GOP celebration event the next day, Brownback had to deal with questions about Standard & Poor’s downgrading the state’s credit rating. Then on the same day last week that Brownback unveiled his new campaign “road map,” Rasmussen Reports released a poll showing Brownback trailing his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, by 10 percentage points. Then it was discovered that his new campaign commercial included a shot in which a Davis campaign sign could be seen behind Brownback. It could be a long campaign unless his luck picks up.

At least disclosure violation is in the past

capitoldomeIt’s disconcerting that the state of Kansas violated investment disclosure laws when it sold bonds several years ago, though it’s good that the problem appears to be in the past. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced this week that the state had failed to adequately disclose the poor financial condition of its pension plan when issuing bonds in 2009 and 2010 to pay for state projects. The SEC issued a cease-and-desist order against the state. To its credit, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration already had changed how the state handles the disclosures. Brownback and the Legislature also reformed the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to improve its solvency.

Open judicial selection process welcome, endangered

justiceladyThis week’s vetting of 13 applicants for the Kansas Supreme Court stood out for its welcome transparency, including a public audience and even live-tweeting of the interviews by some observers. And the three finalists recommended to Gov. Sam Brownback by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission all seem well-qualified – Kansas Court of Appeals Judges Karen Arnold-Burger and Caleb Stegall and 5th Judicial District Chief Judge Merlin Wheeler. But it could be the last such exercise of open government in Kansas if a re-elected Brownback and conservative Legislature again pursue a constitutional amendment to junk the nonpartisan commission in favor of letting the governor do his own picking, subject to a Senate vote. That would be a bad move. Before Brownback chose Stegall, an administration attorney, for the appeals court last summer, exercising his new unilateral selection power for that court, the governor released no names of applicants or finalists and the vetting was done behind closed doors. What Brownback sold to legislators as a remedy for the supposedly secretive, undemocratic nominating commission system turned out to be more secretive as well as partisan.

Wall Street Journal editorial asked Kansas ‘to ignore the bad stuff’

emptypocketA recent Wall Street Journal editorial defended Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic policies and claimed that liberals are afraid that other states will follow the tax-cutting trend. “Are they kidding?” asked former state budget director Duane Goossen. He wrote that the editorial “asks Kansans to look away, to wait longer, to ignore the bad stuff … suggesting all the while that it’s not really so very worrisome. But it is.” Rather than being worried that the tax cuts will succeed, Goossen said, “here in Kansas, we are worried that the state will face a long, long recovery from the fallout from the 2012 tax policy.”

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

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.

Age split in polling on governor’s race

brownbackhandPaul Davis, Democratic candidate for Kansas governor.  2014One might suspect that younger adults would be the age group least supportive of Gov. Sam Brownback’s (left) re-election, given his stance on gay marriage and other social issues. But a new SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, shows younger voters as Brownback’s biggest backers. Though he trails Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (right) by 8 points overall, 40 to 48 percent, Brownback leads by 15 points with voters younger than age 35. Brownback also has a 4-point lead with 35- through 49-year-olds. Davis leads by 13 points with 50- through 64-year-olds and by 20 points with those 65 and older. Also of note: Davis’ lead in the Wichita area is 7 points, nearly identical to the statewide results. Davis leads by 15 points with women and by 2 points with men. And on the issue of education, Davis leads by a whopping 58 points, 76 to 18 percent.

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

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.”