Category Archives: Sam Brownback

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.

Washington-style politics and lobbying moved to Kansas

lobbyistThe FBI probe into the fundraising and lobbying activities of associates of Gov. Sam Brownback made the New York Times. An article this week said that the tactics used by current and former staff members “underline the degree to which Washington-style politics and lobbying have taken root in state capitals.” Or as former Kansas Senate President Steve Morris put it: “K Street has moved to Kansas.”

Unrealistic to think that state tax policy drives economy?

taxrevenueGov. Sam Brownback and GOP lawmakers blamed President Obama for why Kansas tax collections in April were $93 million less than projected. “There are … natural consequences for being in an ocean, in a sea, that belongs to Obama,” said Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane. Though it is silly to blame the revenue drop on Obama, it certainly is true that the Kansas economy is linked to the national and global economies. That being the case, was it unrealistic to think that Kansas’ income-tax cuts, which were relatively small compared with the larger economy, would act like “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” as Brownback promised? So far, Kansas’ economy is lagging the nation and neighboring states while personal income-tax collections are $508 million less than at this point last fiscal year.

If tax revenues are off, it’s Obama’s fault?

Inaugural Swearing InIt has been almost comical to hear the shifting responses by Brownback administration officials to changes in state tax revenue collections. When the March tax collections came in higher than projected, Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan boasted about how “we’re seeing the Kansas economic engine running.” But when the April collections came in $93 million less than projections (which were made only two weeks ago), Jordan and Gov. Sam Brownback blamed President Obama and the national economy. Meanwhile, Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Kansas’ state bonds, citing the state’s sluggish economy, budget problems and revenue reductions resulting from tax cuts. Is that Obama’s fault, too?

Will Brownback lose some support from senior citizens?

votingbooth2A recent Rasmussen Reports poll had Gov. Sam Brownback leading his presumed Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, by 47 to 40 percent. What’s most interesting is the demographic divide of those polled. Brownback leads among men, while Davis is ahead among women. Davis has a 20-percentage point lead in the 18- to 39-year-old age bracket, while Brownback is up by 9 points among 40- to 64-year-olds and by 17 points among those 65 and older. Older citizens are more likely to vote than younger ones, which benefits Brownback. But will Brownback lose some of his support from senior citizens now that he has signed a bill that could give the state control of Medicare?

Nuss will speak out when court’s authority is undermined

nussSome state lawmakers don’t like Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss criticizing a bill, which Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law, linking operational funding for the courts to reforms aimed at weakening the Supreme Court’s authority. “He needs to keep his comments and political actions within the walls of the judiciary,” Sen. Julia Lynn, R-Olathe, told the Kansas City Star. But Nuss is justified in challenging the reforms, particularly when they appear to violate the Kansas Constitution, which gives the Supreme Court “general administrative authority over all courts in this state.” Nuss said: “When I see that authority and the respect for this constitutional institution eroded or being undermined, yes, I speak out.”

So they said

brownbackofficialmug“Thanks for what you do. Take care.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), waving to protesting schoolteachers as he got out of a car in Hays on Wednesday

“Hopefully this is going to put this litigation to bed.” – House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, at the Monday signing ceremony for the school-finance bill

“I’m trying to cover all 105 counties. I don’t know whether I’ll make it or not. When you’re 90, you don’t order room service.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, quoted by the Washington Post cracking up an Olathe crowd on Monday on the first leg of his tour of the state

“I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.” – Dole again, speaking in Ottawa

“4th Time’s the Charm. Dole 2016.” – a sign spotted Tuesday during Dole’s visit to the Dole Institute in Lawrence

Aid to poor decreasing while poverty increasing

CLAIRE CRAWFORD“Currently we are spending 41 percent less on TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) than we were in 2008. In the meantime, poverty, particularly childhood poverty, has gone up. How you rationalize those two numbers is beyond me,” Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said at a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing this week. Here’s how they reconcile the figures: At the same time needs of families have increased, the Brownback administration has tightened eligibility requirements for welfare, food stamps and child care assistance. Last year, Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland contrasted these policies with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: “I was hungry, and you cut my food stamps. I was sick, and you refused to expand Medicaid.”

Arizona governor again vetoes gun bills

gun3On the same day that Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill nullifying local gun ordinances in Kansas, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns in public buildings and events lacking security guards and metal detectors. Brewer has vetoed two other similar bills, saying in 2012 that such a decision on whether to allow or prohibit guns in “sensitive” government locations “should be cooperatively reached and supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders, including citizens, law enforcement officials and local government leaders.” She also vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would allow local government officials involved in regulating firearms to be fined and removed from office. (And also unlike Brownback, Brewer vetoed a bill in 2011 to set up a health care compact with other states. Brewer was concerned about the structure of the compact and that it would “result in additional fiscal challenges for our health care system.”)

Brownback ahead in new poll

thumbsupGov. Sam Brownback is leading his presumed Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, by 47 to 40 percent, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll. Surveys by two other polling groups had Davis alightly ahead in the potential fall matchup. Davis led by 42 to 37 percent among independent voters in the Rasmussen poll.

Help mentally ill by expanding Medicaid

mentalhealthGov. Sam Brownback’s mental health task force made some good recommendations last week on improving the state’s mental health system, such as having the state offer financial support to preschool and early childhood behavioral health care programs and doing a better job integrating services. But the most cost-effective improvement the state could make is allowing the federal expansion of Medicaid. The expansion, which would be fully paid for by the federal government for the first three years and nearly fully funded after that, would enable thousands of Kansans to receive mental health treatment in their communities.

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.