Category Archives: Sam Brownback

Job growth slowed after state tax cuts

helpwantedThe good news for Kansas and Gov. Sam Brownback is that the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent last month, the lowest level in five years. The bad new for Kansas and Brownback’s re-election campaign is that the rate of job growth last year was only 0.7 percent, less than in all of the surrounding states. So while Brownback’s tax cuts were supposed to spur job growth, the rate actually dropped last year and was less than the rates in states that didn’t cut their taxes. Missouri, for example, had a job-growth rate last year of 1.3 percent, nearly twice that of Kansas.

Brownback better deliver on I/DD promises

ddprotestThe Brownback administration went against the pleas of parents and other advocates and privatized the long-term care of Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, beginning Feb. 1. It now officially owns the reform, and it had better deliver on its promises of improved care to this vulnerable population. The parents will be watching closely and holding the administration accountable. “We are not going away,” said Marla Flentje of Wichita. Based on problems with KanCare this past year – including difficulty obtaining approvals for care and delayed and denied payments to providers – there is real reason to worry.

Praeger no longer holding tongue about Brownback

praegerIt’s been clear for some time that Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is no fan of Gov. Sam Brownback, particularly after he undercut her work to develop a Kansas-run insurance exchange. But the long-serving Republican made her feelings know in a very public way this week. Praeger announced her opposition to Brownback’s re-election in a video by a new bipartisan coalition called “Reroute the Roadmap.” In the video, Praeger says, “We looked at the road map that the governor outlined when he took office, and when you look at where we’re going today, we’re going in the wrong direction.”

Governor should release names of judicial applicants

shhhhAfter Gov. Sam Brownback nominated his chief counsel to the Kansas Court of Appeals last year, he refused to release the names of other people who had applied for the job. That was ironic, and irritating, because one argument that Brownback and GOP legislators had made for changing the appointment system was that they wanted more transparency. Under the old system, not only did a nominating commission release the names of those who applied, its interview process was open to the public. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, wants to return some transparency to the process. He sponsored a bill that would require the governor to release the names of all applicants.

State’s cash reserves are going, going . . .

emptypocketGov. Sam Brownback likes to talk about how the state’s cash reserves were virtually zero when he came into office in 2011, and how they have since been built back up (in large part because of spending cuts to public education and an increase in the statewide sales tax). But because of massive tax cuts Brownback pushed through and various spending obligations, those reserves could disappear soon. The Kansas Legislative Research Department estimates that the state’s ending balance will shrink by half by the end of next fiscal year and could be gone the year after that – and that’s without factoring in any court-ordered increase in school funding. Brownback has faith that his tax cuts will generate enough growth to prevent this shortfall, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Brownback: Listen to Utah governor on Medicaid

Doctor Speaking with PatientAnother GOP governor has come to his senses and is backing the federal expansion of Medicaid. Unfortunately, it isn’t Sam Brownback. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said last week that his state would expand Medicaid to cover more low-income citizens. “Doing nothing is not an option,” he said. It shouldn’t be for Brownback, either.

Are abortion and slavery similar?

abortionprotestGov. Sam Brownback flattered his ultraconservative followers in his State of the State address last week by “equating Kansas’ gun- and Bible-toting abolitionists from the 1850s with the anti-abortion protesters who staged demonstrations in Wichita in 1991,” columnist Mary Sanchez wrote. She argued that abortion and slavery are not the same. “If abortion is evil, it is not a social evil, a crime against a class of people for the benefit of another,” she wrote. “The zealots Brownback praised – and upon whom he no doubt depends in his upcoming election – are not doing their cause or the victims it claims to protect any good by pretending that this weak analogy holds.”

No fast lane to savings from turnpike merger

ksturnpike2When Gov. Sam Brownback pushed lawmakers last year to merge the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the Kansas Department of Transportation, he said the merger would save the state $30 million over two years, though he and KDOT officials provided no specifics on those savings. Last week, KDOT Secretary Mike King outlined $17.2 million in savings that he said would occur over the lifetime of the changes, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The bulk of those savings, $11 million, came from refinancing a KTA bond, which presumably could have been done without a merger. Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, who fiercely opposed the merger, said that he is “keeping his powder dry” about how well it is working. “I told them (KDOT) I will give them three years before I either apologize or take credit for being right,” he said.

Brownback has duty to defend voting rights

votingaug12It was disappointing but not surprising that Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t mention in his State of the State address last week the 20,000 Kansans who have had their voting rights suspended. Brownback has tried to back away from this issue, leaving it to Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the courts to resolve. On Friday, staff at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission rejected Kobach’s request to allow Kansas to go beyond federal rules and require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. As governor – and as the person who signed the law that created this mess – Brownback has a duty to defend the voting rights of Kansas citizens.

No surprise some took offense at abortion comment

tillerclinicAnyone familiar with Sam Brownback’s record as U.S. senator and Kansas governor should not have been surprised to hear him mention abortion during his State of the State address. But Brownback should have known he risked offending African-Americans by mentioning it in the same breath as the state’s fight against slavery. His statement that “the Summer of Mercy sprung forth in Kansas as we could no longer tolerate the death of innocent children” also was heard by many as an endorsement of those massive 1991 anti-abortion protests outside the Wichita clinic of George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion zealot. “Another day, another bizarre abortion comment from a Republican politician,” responded the Daily Beast. As Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, the state’s first elected black female senator, put it: “Why was this needed in the speech?

Another side to state budget improvements

brownbackofficialmugGov. Sam Brownback cited some real and impressive improvements in the state’s fiscal health during his term in his State of the State address Wednesday night, including the turnaround from a $876 ending balance in fiscal 2010 and the decline in the unemployment rate from 6.9 to 5.1 percent. But as our Thursday editorial notes, he didn’t mention the severe spending cuts that enabled him to replenish the state’s reserves. Nor did he own up to the widespread budget problems he and his allies in the Legislature have helped create for prisons, K-12 schools, courts, state universities, social services and local governments across the state. And it’s premature at best to take credit for the state’s economic rebound, especially when Kansas compares unfavorably with many other states’ recoveries and the most drastic effects of the 2012-13 tax slashing are yet to come.

Don’t accept Brownback’s decision on Medicaid expansion

doctoroutThe public and state lawmakers shouldn’t accept Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to block a federal expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. The health and well-being of too many Kansans are at stake, in addition to the economic health of the state and its hospitals. Brownback had been sitting on the fence on expansion, neither supporting it nor ruling it out. But Monday his office issued a statement saying he wouldn’t recommend it this year. Because Brownback and the Legislature blocked expansion last year, about 78,000 low-income Kansans are already in a coverage gap of not qualifying for Medicaid or for the insurance premium subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act. Maybe if Brownback and state lawmakers went without insurance this year they would show more concern for others.

Lt. governor’s campaign loan is unprecedented

money-bagThe $500,000 loan that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer made to the re-election campaign of Gov. Sam Brownback appears to be unprecedented in Kansas history, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said she can remember no loan of that size from a candidate. Colyer said the loan shows his team’s commitment to the state and the administration’s policies. “The governor and I are very convinced in making sure that we have a better future for kids,” he told the Journal-World. But the campaign of House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the likely Democratic challenger, said that the loan shows the strength of Davis, who raised nearly as much money as Brownback did last year but in less than half the time.

Loan inflated Brownback’s fundraising total

colyerThe fundraising of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, looks even more impressive with the news that $500,000 of Gov. Sam Brownback’s announced fundraising total was a last-minute loan from his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (in photo). Not counting the loan, Brownback raised about $1.1 million last year, while Davis raised $1 million in just four months of the year. Davis also had more donors contribute to his campaign last year than Brownback. Because of donations he received in previous years, Brownback still has a significant money lead. But Davis is off to a fast start, and the Colyer loan suggests that the Brownback camp is getting nervous.

Take better care of veterans

veteransfieldGood for Gov. Sam Brownback for wanting to improve veteran services in Kansas. Brownback proposed a $1.4 million renovation of the Kansas Soldiers’ Home residential facility in Dodge City. He also wants to open a housing unit in Winfield that was built several years ago but never opened, and to hire four outreach officers to connect veterans with services. Funding for the facility improvements in Dodge City would come from a special building fund restricted to improvements at state-owned hospitals and veterans’ facilities. Other funding would come from federal sources, including Medicare, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

So they said

Robert Gates“People have no idea how much I detest this job.” – Wichita native Robert Gates (in photo), in an e-mail to a friend while serving as U.S. defense secretary

“Today I learned that football helmets are made out of soybeans while speaking to the Kansas Soybean Expo.” – Gov. Sam Brownback, tweeting on Wednesday

“Sometimes they’re mad at me, but we’ve always had a good conversation. Kansans disagree in a respectful way.” – Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., after a Salina town hall got testy on Thursday

“Liberal organizations endorse liberal candidate. Shocking.” – David Kensinger, a spokesman for the Brownback re-election campaign, about the endorsements of Democratic challenger Paul Davis by the Kansas Families for Education PAC and the Kansas National Education Association

“Because the state runs downhill from western Kansas to eastern Kansas, is the simplest answer.” – Josh Svaty, vice president at the Land Institute in Salina and former Kansas agriculture secretary, on why eastern Kansas residents should care about declining aquifer levels in western Kansas

“Thank you very much for your advice. We will take your opinion on these matters, consider them along with opinions from all other segments of the Kansas public and of interested parties, and we will make our decision, because the constitution tells us it is our decision as to how much to fund schools for in the next budget.” – Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, suggesting to KCUR Radio how the Legislature might answer a Kansas Supreme Court decision ordering a specific school funding increase

“I think that we should actually be boring all of you tremendously. That means that we’re doing our job.” – Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, also on KCUR, on whether it would be anti-climactic if the court instead directed lawmakers to do a new cost study

Give Docking some credit for Davis’ fast fundraising

dockingHouse Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, is getting attention for raising $1 million from 3,359 donors in 2013 for his challenge to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. That’s a lot raised in just 145 days, and for a candidate with little statewide name recognition. But credit also is surely due his prominent running mate, Wichita financial adviser Jill Docking (in photo), who had passed the million-dollar mark once before: Docking spent $1.1 million in her losing 1996 Senate race against then-congressman Brownback (of a total $5.5 million officially spent on the contest to succeed Sen. Bob Dole). But after 20 years in politics, Brownback is a champion campaign fundraiser, and predictably ended 2013 with $2 million to spend from 10,000 donors.

2014 will answer some pressing questions for state

questionmark“Will Kathleen Sebelius continue to run the Department of Health and Human Services?” asked the Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling, in one of his “14 questions for 2014.” There were other pressing questions specific to Kansas, including: “Have the Kansas tax cuts worked? Gov. Sam Brownback promised more jobs and more residents if the Legislature slashed tax rates. A year later, the results are mixed, to say the least. A year from now the verdict will be in – on the tax policy, and on Brownback.” “Will the Kansas Supreme Court provoke a showdown with the Legislature over school funding?” “Will Pat Roberts run out of conservatives to whom he can pander?” And, “Can Kansas Democrats still be considered a major political party? They have a candidate for governor but have struggled to find well-qualified candidates for other important races.”

Davis a candidate to watch in 2014

davis,paulThe National Journal listed Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, as a candidate to watch in 2014. Davis is running for governor this year, and the Journal said that “a right-wing takeover” of the Kansas GOP is driving moderate Republicans toward Davis. It noted that Davis had a slight lead over Gov. Sam Brownback in a SurveyUSA poll taken last fall. However, it still considers Brownback the favorite in this race “barring additional evidence.”

All-day kindergarten funding not such an easy sell

school-fundingGov. Sam Brownback thought that having the state fund all-day kindergarten instead of only half-day was something nearly everyone could support. But the GOP education committee leaders aren’t yet convinced that it’s a good idea, and Democrats question where the money will come from. “I don’t know if I’m sold on all-day kindergarten,” Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, chairwoman of the House Education Committee, told the Arkansas City Traveler. Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, is also unsure about the proposal and the benefits of all-day kindergarten. Brownback proposed phasing in the full funding over five years, paying for a $16.3 million increase next fiscal year out of the state’s ending balance. But Democrats note that the cumulative cost of the funding increases over five years would be $244.5 million, and the state’s ending balance was already projected to be exhausted within five years – even without considering the likelihood that the state will lose its school-funding lawsuit.

Brownback a champion of climate change?

Arctic MeltGov. Sam Brownback likely winced at being included in a list of “eight champions of climate change in the U.S. in 2013” published in the Guardian newspaper. Brownback was cited for fighting off “cynical attacks to repeal state renewable portfolio standards.” Brownback’s motive likely was more economic than environmental, as energy standards and wind tax credits have helped fuel billions of dollars of investment in wind projects in Kansas in the past few years.

Wise to delay I/DD shift to KanCare

CB060917The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were wise to delay approval of shifting long-term care for Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities into KanCare. There were too many questions and concerns about for-profit insurance companies managing these services to approve it starting Jan. 1, as the Brownback administration wanted. The rollout of other Medicaid services this year has been rocky, particularly the payments to providers. And the I/DD community is overwhelmingly opposed to privatizing long-term care. State officials hope to resolve the concerns by Feb. 1, but the federal agency shouldn’t approve the waiver unless it is convinced that Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities will be protected.

Brownback vs. Davis the ‘sleeper race’ of 2014?

brownbackmug The Washington Post’s Fix blog again ranked Kansas last among its “top 15 gubernatorial races of 2014.” It noted that House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, is “criticizing Gov. Sam Brownback (R) for tax cuts that cut funding for education,” adding that “Democrats think this is THE sleeper race in 2014.” The other incumbent GOP governors seen as vulnerable by the Fix are Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, Maine’s Paul LePage, Florida’s Rick Scott, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Ohio’s John Kasich, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Arizona’s Jan Brewer. Meanwhile, the Fix notes that Democrats have reasons to worry about incumbents Dan Malloy in Connecticut, Pat Quinn in Illinois, Mark Dayton in Minnesota and John Hickenlooper in Colorado.

Brownback’s approval ratings tamping down 2016 talk

bbackwinThough the presidential prospects of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have risen lately, much GOP speculation about 2016 continues to center on governors, with New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker among the most likely contenders. While sizing up the rest of the field, including Texas’ tarnished Rick Perry, Dallas Morning News columnist Carl Leubsdorf observed that “efforts by Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Kansas’ Sam Brownback to make reputations as conservative reformers have sapped their home-state popularity.” But Slate’s David Weigel, reporting on a recent Americans for Tax Reform event, noted that as a screen showed slides of “naughty” and “nice” political figures of 2013, Brownback was included in the latter category “for leading a conservative policy revolution in Kansas.”

ALEC not just any special-interest group

alec-logo-smThe American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed special-interest group, is not the bogeyman that some people make it out to be. But it also isn’t merely one of “hundreds of groups that do model legislation and hold meetings,” as Gov. Sam Brownback said this week in trying to downplay ALEC’s influence. As the Lawrence Journal-World noted, both Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, have held high-ranking positions with ALEC, and about 50 GOP Kansas legislators are members of the group. Brownback wrote the foreword for ALEC’s annual report in 2011, and he and the Legislature have approved several of ALEC’s model bills – some virtually word for word.