Category Archives: Sam Brownback

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.”

Brownback headlining Christian ‘freedom fighters’ event

brownbackraisedhand2Gov. Sam Brownback will be a headline speaker at an “Awakening Freedom Tour” event Saturday in Lenexa. He will be speaking on the spiritual heritage and legacy of Kansas. The event, organized by the Wichita-based Culture Shield Network, is aimed at encouraging participants to serve as freedom fighters for God and to solidify the role of Christian faith in public life, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “We need a great awakening,” said network founder and director Donna Lippoldt. “It’s time to cause a revolution. We need to get some freedom fighters up and going to take this country back.”

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.