Huge stakes in Kansas primary
The Kansas City Star
Kansas’ day of political reckoning is Tuesday.
Primary voters will determine whether Gov. Sam Brownback gets a Legislature willing to cooperate fully with his draconian social and fiscal agendas.
The House is there already. Only two or three votes in the Senate stand in the way. That’s why Brownback and his allies, which include the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the wealthy Koch family in Wichita, are pulling out all the stops to purge the Senate of moderate Republicans.
Kansas will be a meaner and poorer state if voters allow that to happen.
Here is some of what is at stake in this election:
The shape of public education. Brownback and the Legislature have cut deeply from the operating budgets of public school districts already. A fair number of lawmakers disagree that a key function of state government is to maintain quality schools; some actually resent public education as a symbol of government overreach. That all plays into Brownback’s small-government philosophy. Kansas needs legislators who understand what quality school districts mean to families and communities and are willing to protect them.
Separation of powers. Not content with just legislative cooperation, Brownback wants the governor to also be able to hand-pick the state’s judiciary. Moderates in the Senate have rejected his proposal to allow the governor to select state appeals judges, subject to Senate confirmation. (Currently the governor chooses from a panel of nominees selected by a non-partisan commission.) Look for the change to occur quickly if conservatives take over the Senate, followed by a ballot measure asking voters to allow the governor to also select Supreme Court justices.
Taxes and services. Brownback signed a crippling income tax cut into law this year and is likely not finished. His philosophical allies are pushing for a “taxpayer bill of rights” that would cap spending and require voter approval of any tax increases. That would impair the state from adequately funding schools or whittling down its disgracefully long waiting lists for disabled citizens needing services. College tuition would also be expected to increase.
Sales and property taxes. Fewer dollars at the state level would put pressure on city and county governments to maintain their levels of services by increasing taxes on purchases and on property values. Brownback also wants to give school districts permission to seek unlimited tax proposals from voters. All of this creates a wider gap between wealthy and less affluent communities and school districts.
Choice. Brownback has made it clear he will sign any bill limiting a woman’s right to an abortion, whether or not it is constitutional. His intrusions don’t stop there. On another front, the governor intends to turn all of the state’s Medicaid program over to private managed care companies, including long-term services for developmentally disabled citizens. Understandably, that group is deeply worried about receiving poorer care and fewer options.
Brownback sincerely believes in diminishing government and in stamping his religious values into public policy. We think Kansas has too proud, too compassionate and too independent a heritage to allow itself to be turned into a test lab for those radical principles.
It is crucial to advance moderate, independent-minded Republicans in Senate races Tuesday. Locally, voters should support Pat Colloton in District 11; Kay Wolf in District 7; Tim Owens in District 8; Tom Wertz in District 10; Joe Beveridge in District 21 and Pat Apple in District 37.