Category Archives: Sam Brownback

Mandela was an inspiration

mandelaGov. Sam Brownback was among the many U.S. and world leaders to react to the death Thursday of former South African President Nelson Mandela (in photo), 95. “Nelson Mandela was a great man who stood up for his principles and human rights,” Brownback said in a statement. “He was an inspiration to many, including myself.” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that Mandela “embodied unsurpassed courage and commitment to equality.” President Obama ordered flags to half-staff until Monday. His presidential proclamation said that “the United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice and human dignity.”

Norquist counts Brownback among 2016 contenders

whitehouse2Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, described Kansas’ Sam Brownback as a “phenomenal” governor and counted him among the seven current or former state CEOs he sees as serious contenders for the Republican nomination in 2016. His list for the Daily Caller also included New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. They “could raise the money and have governed well enough to be able to straight-faced say, ‘I’m running for president and you should consider me as a Reagan Republican,’” Norquist said.

Impact of state tax cuts will be hard to measure

taxrevenueNot only are the state tax cuts not acting like “a shot of adrenaline to the heart” of the Kansas economy, as Gov. Sam Brownback promised, it will be difficult to tell what effect the changes will make, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. We’ll never know “for sure whether Kansas specifically experienced significant gains as a result of this policy,” Justin Ross, an assistant professor at Indiana University, said at a recent conference at the University of Kansas. That’s because there are numerous factors that affect the economy, and the impact of the tax changes can’t be isolated. However, it is clear that the tax cuts are causing a large drop in state revenue – estimated to total about $3.8 billion over six years.

Being like Texas could be costly

texasBeing more like Texas, as Gov. Sam Brownback wants, could mean much higher property taxes and fewer services, Emporia State University professor Michael A. Smith warns. Major Texas cities have among the highest property-tax rates in the nation. And even with all its oil and gas revenue, Texas ranks 40th in per-pupil education funding and leads the nation in the percentage of people without health insurance.

Kansas has a gubernatorial race; Roberts re-energized

brownbackhandPondering who’s up and down in politics these days, the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske noted that the old conventional wisdom was that Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo) would “breeze to a second four years. The new CW: He still will, but with a hitch in his gait against the Paul Davis-Jill Docking Democratic ticket. Put Brownback’s odds at maybe 3-to-1. The issue remains Brownback’s anemic poll numbers. We’re going to have a race, folks.” As for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Kraske wrote: “He’s making all the right moves with tea party challenger Milton Wolf now staring him in the face for the August 2014 primary. Roberts remains a prohibitive favorite. Still, it’s breathtaking to see the extent to which the challenge has re-energized the three-term senator.”

State government falls short on openness

closed-doorState government needs to open up and let the public watch it work, as evidenced by two events Monday in Topeka. Gov. Sam Brownback held a closed-door meeting with select legislators and educators to talk about school finance (his spokeswoman said “the goal really in all of this was to have people feel as free as possible to have an open discussion”). And the Legislature’s joint oversight committee for home and community based services and KanCare held a Statehouse meeting without taking advantage of the room’s streaming-video capability, which could have provided an online audience statewide. One Capitol insider noted on Twitter, “Ironic that no one at home or in the community can watch a HCBS committee meeting” – and wrong, especially with the Statehouse renovation having just cost more than $300 million.

Good time to seek and give forgiveness

bbackmug“As we enter the holiday season, a time when families and friends gather to celebrate traditions, I encourage Kansans to consider the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement declaring Nov. 24-30 as “a week of reconciliation.” Brownback noted that reaching out to those who have hurt us or whom we have hurt can be difficult, but he said that “forgiveness is a sign of strength” and encouraged all Kansans to “build a bridge of reconciliation.”

Will cash reserves run out before economy takes off?

emptypocket“A lot of economists have said that five years is really the time that it takes to have a full and accurate and complete understanding of the impact,” Jon Hummell, Gov. Sam Brownback’s acting budget director, said about the state’s income tax cuts. But does the state have enough cash reserves to make it until then? Former state budget director Duane Goossen noted that the state expects to take in $5.856 billion in revenue this fiscal year but has an approved general fund budget of $5.964 billion, or a $108 million deficit. Next fiscal year, the Kansas Legislative Research Department estimates that the deficit spending will total $204 million. If spending and revenue rates continue, the state will run out of cash reserves within four years. Better-than-projected revenue growth could delay or avoid these shortfalls. Then again, the estimates don’t count any additional education spending that might be necessary due to the school-funding lawsuit.

‘The Fix’ is in on next year’s gubernatorial race

davis,paulThe Washington Post’s political blog, “The Fix,” has included Kansas in the top 15 gubernatorial races of 2014. “This dark red state’s debut on our list will surprise many,” the blog said, but “it’s hard to ignore polls.” Gov. Sam Brownback had only a 34 percent approval rating in a SurveyUSA poll last month. And of registered voters surveyed in that poll, 43 percent said they would vote for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence (in photo), and running mate Jill Docking; 39 percent favored Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Money and Republican registration advantages still favor Brownback in the race, but as “The Fix” noted: “This one’s worth keeping an eye on, at the very least.”

Too bad Kansas doesn’t have its own exchange

The good news is that state health insurance exchanges are operating much better than the disasterous federal website. The bad news for Kansas is that Gov. Sam Brownback blocked the state from creating its own exchange. As a result, very few Kansans have been able to sign up for insurance. Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, only 371 Kansans successfully selected a marketplace plan through Nationwide, only 26,794 people signed up for insurance through the federal site during its first month of operation. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said the low numbers show why Obamacare “should be put to pasture.”

‘Shot of adrenaline’ isn’t working yet

Forecasts of reduced tax revenue indicate that the state’s massive income-tax cuts aren’t yet acting like “a shot of adrenaline to the heart” of the Kansas economy, as Gov. Sam Brownback promised, our Friday editorial noted. And in other bad news for the administration, more than 50 Kansas counties are suing the state over millions of dollars in oil and gas taxes. Lawmakers have said that they will work to make sure the counties are paid in full. But Brownback officials are unlikely to release the money without a fight – especially if the state tax collections continue to disappoint.

Brownback defends policies toward the poor

Gov. Sam Brownback defended his administration’s policies toward the poor in an article in Governing magazine. “Instead of focusing on spending more money on a system that creates dependency, we need to reform our welfare system to provide the opportunity for people to learn the skills to be self-sufficient,” he said. But others noted that telling people to get a job isn’t helpful if jobs aren’t available. Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Mark Holland suggested that Brownback’s policies are contrary to biblical values, such as Matthew 25: “I was hungry, and you cut my food stamps. I was sick, and you refused to expand Medicaid.”

Brownback spinning numbers on school funding

Gov. Sam Brownback wrote in a commentary (Oct. 26 Opinion) that his administration has increased state funding on education by $200 million. But that “is just one particular way of spinning the numbers,” wrote Lawrence Journal-World education reporter Peter Hancock. Of that total, nearly $143 million was increased contributions to the state’s pension plan – money that schools can’t use for operating costs. Another $29.5 million of the increase was approved by the Legislature more than six months before Brownback was elected. Hancock noted that Brownback compared fiscal year 2010, the budget year that ended six months before he came into office, with fiscal year 2015, which doesn’t begin until next July. “If we compare the budget that was in place when Brownback was sworn into office, fiscal year 2011, to the current fiscal year, total state spending has actually been cut by nearly $24 million,” Hancock wrote.

So they said

“There was some good news today for embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Obamacare will cover all her injuries after the White House throws her under the bus. She is totally covered.” – Jay Leno (in photo)

“Sam Brownback of Kansas: one great governor reforming government to cost less” – Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, on Twitter

“We are at the end of the food chain, and things run downhill.” – Johnson County Manager Hannes Zacharias, on how state tax cuts harm county governments

Kansas missed out on insurance marketplace

After Gov. Sam Brownback returned a $31.5 million federal grant to create a Kansas-specific health-insurance marketplace, the person who was poised to lead the Kansas project, Gary Schneider, left the state and became project manager for the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, the Kansas Health Institute News Service reported. The result? Colorado’s insurance marketplace is working relatively smoothly, while Kansans who need insurance are stuck with the problem-plagued federal website.

School spending percentage headed for record low

Gov. Sam Brownback boasted in a commentary in Sunday’s Eagle that state spending on K-12 education has increased more than $200 million since he was elected. He omitted the fact that the increased funding went to the state pension plan and that base per-pupil funding has dropped dramatically during his tenure. School finance as a percentage of Kansas personal income also has dropped and is expected to hit its lowest level in history next year, according to John Heim, executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards. “We are spending less than our parents spent on educating us and our grandparents spent on educating them,” Heim said.

Could water planning be Brownback’s legacy?

To his credit, Gov. Sam Brownback continues to press for visionary action on water, calling last week for administration officials and community and business leaders to come together on a 50-year plan by next November. Speaking at the Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas in Manhattan, he singled out sustaining the Ogallala Aquifer and the state reservoirs as “top-of-the-barrel” challenges. “This is not to cast aspersions on anybody,” the governor said, according to the Salina Journal. “This is where we are. Work together and work it out. We have to solve a problem.” Solving that problem would make water planning rival tax cutting as Brownback’s legacy.

Obama more popular than Brownback, Roberts?

For what it’s worth – and GOP defenders of Gov. Sam Brownback would be quick to say “zip” – a new SurveyUSA poll finds that the governor is less popular than President Obama in Kansas. The survey, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12 in Wichita, put Obama’s approval rating in the state at 38 percent, the same as in July 2012. Meanwhile, 34 percent said they approve of Brownback’s performance, 2 percentage points less than in July 2012; the number of those who disapprove of the job he’s doing has risen by 11 percentage points since then, to 59 percent. Approval numbers are way down for Sen. Pat Roberts (36 percent) and Sen. Jerry Moran (39 percent), suggesting the shutdown war in Washington, D.C., may have soured Kansans about politicians generally. EDITOR’S NOTE: Some percentages in this post were changed Thursday morning in response to updated SurveyUSA results. The headline was also changed to reflect a newly lowered approval number for Obama.

So they said

“This cycle of school finance litigation must end. It is the Legislature who has the power of the purse and they must decide how (to) solve this issue in the long run.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), in a statement to Associated Press about the school-finance lawsuit before the Kansas Supreme Court

“You don’t hire a coach to manage decline.” – Brownback again, to National Review, on his efforts to stop Kansas’ population loss by eliminating state income tax and reforming government

“Constitutional rights are not subject to local control.” – Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau, thanking the Legislature for the law that led the commission to open more county-owned properties to concealed-carry of guns

“My treat is to dress up like Richard Nixon and answer the door and go, ‘I’m not a crook,’ OK? I like doing that.” – Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Jim Skelton, as commissioners discussed Halloween candy during a “get to know your county commissioners” moment at last week’s meeting

“We really don’t want to use that.” – Kansas State Board of Education member Carolyn Campbell, to a proposal to include the politically loaded word “progressive” in a pro-schools postcard campaign aimed at the conservative Legislature

“I would say the surrender caucus is the whiner caucus, and all they do is whine about the battle, as if they thought being elected to Washington was going to be an easy job.” – Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, on the congressional colleagues who were eager to accept a Senate compromise

Brownback driving in ‘middle of the right side’

“We’re more of a traditional Republican party now,” Gov. Sam Brownback told National Review about the purge of moderate Republicans from the Legislature last year. “We’re dominated by conservatives and we have a moderate wing and a good section of libertarianism. I’m driving down the middle of the right side of the road.” The article, headlined “What’s Right With Sam Brownback,” said that Brownback seems unlikely to run for president again in 2016. “He’s a better bet for 2020, after eight years in Topeka and when he turns 64 – assuming there’s a Democrat in the Oval Office,” the article said.

‘Values voters’ value extremes, not Brownback

Sen. Ted Cruz (in photo), R-Texas, has been hammered by his fellow GOP senators for shutting down the government without any endgame strategy. But Cruz easily won the presidential straw poll at last weekend’s Values Voter Summit. The second highest-polling person, physician and Fox News contributor Ben Carson, likened Obamacare’s effort to extend health insurance coverage to millions of Americans to a modern form of slavery. “It is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government,” Carson said. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback received only one vote (the same as Democrat Hillary Clinton); Brownback had seven votes on the vice presidential ballot.

Some curious reasons to abandon Finney building

Lack of space as well as a cumbersome layout, especially for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, were cited by the Brownback administration among reasons for wanting to move nine agencies and more than 700 state employees out of the Finney State Office Building in downtown Wichita after two decades. So it was curious to read in Mayor Carl Brewer’s September letter to Gov. Sam Brownback that during the unsuccessful negotiations to try to save the city-state partnership, the state had requested a “50 percent reduction in leased area” in the 300,000-square-foot building. Brewer also said that Diane Bidwell, DCF’s Wichita regional director, complained about the presence of sidewalk vendors. And last week the administration told The Eagle editorial board that Finney does not meet the Kansas Corporation Commission’s needs for a “heavy-lift loading dock” and a building that could withstand an EF-5 tornado. Why the regulatory agency has such needs may be unclear, but there’s no doubt that the state intends to exit the Finney building by next October.

Collecting less revenue is a positive sign?

Collecting about $8.5 million less in state tax revenue than expected during the first quarter of this fiscal year may be a positive economic sign, the Kansas Department of Revenue suggested this week. It may mean that businesses are investing more in machinery, the department speculated. A more likely explanation is that the recently passed state tax cuts aren’t acting like “a shot of adrenaline to the heart” of the Kansas economy, as Gov. Sam Brownback had promised. A report released last week by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University forecast that next year’s nonfarm employment growth in Kansas will be 1.4 percent, less than the national average.

Hensley’s conspiracy theory about Stegall is lame

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, has sound reasons for objecting to the new method of selecting judges for the Kansas Court of Appeals, which threatens the quality, nonpartisanship and independence of the court. But Hensley is off base in seeing a conspiracy in the four-month delay in swearing in Caleb Stegall, whose nomination was confirmed by the Kansas Senate early this month. If Hensley were right about the timing being designed by Gov. Sam Brownback to spare Stegall a November 2014 retention vote, that would mean court officials including Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, as well as Brownback’s office, have lied about the delay being necessary for budgetary and remodeling reasons. Plus, 53 years of judicial-retention elections for members of Kansas’ appellate courts suggest Stegall need not worry about being thrown off the bench by voters, whenever his name first appears on the ballot.

GOP House should follow lead of governors

Talk show host Michael Medved can’t believe the House GOP is recklessly charging into a battle to defund Obamacare that it is sure to lose. “The GOP shouldn’t pursue noble defeat while standing on principle,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “You build momentum for a movement by achieving legislative victories, not by racking up high-profile losses.” The GOP’s only hope comes from bold conservative governors, Medved said, mentioning Gov. Sam Brownback in a list of examples. GOP governors “have no choice but to face up to the grubby, imperfect business of governance,” Medved said. “If only those in Congress would follow their lead.”