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Eagle editorial: Which Kansas is that?

  • Published Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback drew the honor Saturday of delivering the Republican weekly address, which is meant to respond to the Democratic president’s weekly address. In the process, Brownback painted an unrecognizable picture of the state after two years of his leadership.

After saying “you change America by changing the states,” Brownback ran into trouble with some specifics of what he called Kansas’ “financial turnaround.”

When he said Kansas went from having $876.05 in the bank to a $500 million ending balance two years later “and did it without tax increases,” he left out the part where a 1 percent sales-tax increase passed in 2010 sustained state revenues and state services as the federal stimulus money dried up and the economy struggled. Nor did he mention that he campaigned against the temporary sales-tax hike in 2010, helped last year to oust moderate Republican legislators who had voted for it and now wants the 2013 Legislature to make it permanent.

Talk about a turnaround.

As for Brownback’s claim that “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” – where to start? Perhaps with the districts, including Wichita, that have been forced to close schools and cut programs because of state reductions in base per-pupil funding and capital outlay equalization dollars, while the governor has used pension funding and debt payments to claim he’s spending more on schools. And, of course, Brownback didn’t mention that a Shawnee County three-judge panel has ordered the state to put at least $400 million more into K-12 schools.

In saying that “we passed the largest tax cut in state history – eliminating the income tax on small businesses altogether,” Brownback didn’t go on to explain the devastating impact the 2012 tax plan is projected to have on the state’s revenues and, it follows, ability to fund schools and social services over the next few years. Nor did he mention the tax breaks for lower-income Kansans that were eliminated so 191,000 businesses could pay no income tax and individuals could pay less.

KanCare just started Jan. 1, so he was jumping the gun in saying “we reformed our state’s Medicaid system to save a billion dollars over five years.” And many legislators and other Kansans have questioned the wisdom of consolidating agencies and eliminating programs – two more of his points of pride.

Brownback is due praise for his work on water and technical education, and he gets to enjoy the ride of the improving economy.

But it’s hard for those who know the whole story not to hear such an address and wonder which Kansas Brownback is talking about – the one he’s actually governing or one made of political spin and presidential ambitions.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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