Category Archives: Sam Brownback

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.

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?