Brownback's wrong address: Unexcused absences of candor and logic
The Kansas City Star
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has been tapped to deliver the weekly Republican address today. Expanding on a popular theme, he will talk about how, while Washington remains a mess, GOP governors are straightening things out.
Unfortunately, some of what Brownback says in his address (which was pre-recorded and embargoed until 5 a.m. Saturday) is exaggerated or misleading.
Like this: “The year I became governor, the state began the fiscal year with just $876.05 in the bank — less than $1,000 and it projected a $500 million deficit. Two years later we had a $500 million ending balance — and did it without tax increases.”
Kansas, like most states, was in deep trouble when Brownback took office in 2011. What lifted Kansas out of its hole was a one-cent sales tax that Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson signed into law and which took effect in July 2010. Brownback has benefited from that tax increase his entire term. He also is lobbying the Legislature to keep it in place, even though part of it is supposed to expire this July.
Then there’s this: “Now to make that financial turnaround a reality, we didn’t cut state funding to schools, we didn’t cut state funding for our universities and colleges, we didn’t cut state funding for our Medicaid system, we didn’t cut state funding for our prisons.”
Brownback plays games with education funding, counting factors like bond debt, capital improvement funds and mandatory increases in teachers’ retirement contributions in the total. But he cut more than $100 million from basic elementary and secondary school funding in 2011, and reduced the amount of state aid allotted per pupil further last year. And thanks to the overdose on income tax cuts, funds for schools, universities and corrections are all on the chopping block this year.
Brownback makes these questionable claims repeatedly, and seems determined not to let reality intrude. The national Republican party has bought into his myth. Kansans know better.
Stay healthy, kids
Missouri Rep. Steve Cookson, the Republican from Poplar Bluff who made news last year with his ill-fated “don’t say gay” bill, is back with another preposterous piece of legislation.
This time it’s the “don’t get sick” bill.
Cookson’s bill is short and self-explanatory: “School age children of welfare recipients must attend public school, unless physically disabled, at least 90 percent of the time in order to receive benefits.”
In other words, a family’s financial well-being would depend on a child’s school attendance. That’s a lot of responsibility to place on a first-grader with tonsillitis, or a middle-schooler with mononucleosis, or a high school kid with clinical depression. Not to mention the problem of sick kids dragging themselves into school to avoid going over the threshold.
You wouldn’t want a child missing 18 days of school (Missouri’s school year is 174 days). But it happens, and sometimes it’s unavoidable. Passing a law penalizing a family for excess absences is arbitrary and unfair.
We’ll drink to that
The Kansas Legislature concluded its regular session Friday, though the hard work of finalizing a budget while dealing with a massive deficit brought on by income tax cuts remains for the wrap-up session in May.
The extended break provides an opportunity to contemplate the damage wrought this week. The Legislature sent Brownback an extreme and harmful anti-abortion bill. It passed a bill proposing to waste money and legal resources by drug-testing people who receive welfare or unemployment benefits and who provoke “reasonable suspicion” that they might be using illegal drugs.
It was close to approving a bill making it a felony for a federal law enforcement agent to enforce gun laws the Legislature doesn’t like, and also legislation allowing people to carry guns into some public buildings, and enabling schools and colleges to arm employees.
The Senate did please some people by passing a bill allowing alcoholic beverage to be served in the Capitol at certain designated events, specifically the dedication of the refurbishing project of the building itself.
That news led a person to wonder on Twitter: “From some of the bills introduced and/or passed, why would Kansans believe that the Kansas Legislature doesn’t already have liquor in the statehouse?”