Four former Kansas governors and other state leaders have announced an effort to raise money to oppose policies and laws created in recent years by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature.
The Save Kansas Coalition, which sent out a news release Friday, includes former Republican governors Mike Hayden and Bill Graves, and former Democratic governors Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin.
The group also includes former Kansas Senate presidents Dick Bond and Steve Morris, and other political leaders past and present. Another member: Barry Flinchbaugh, a professor emeritus at Kansas State University who has helped write national agriculture policies.
The group issued a public statement on Friday, asking for money “to help educate Kansas voters about the destructive policies of Sam Brownback and his supporters in the Kansas legislature.”
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It already drew at least one critic on Friday.
Graves doesn’t even live in Kansas anymore, said Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell.
“So he ought to be quiet.”
Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes at Brownback’s urging in 2012 and 2013 in an effort to stimulate the economy. While even some GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that the tax cuts didn’t work as anticipated, Brownback and his top aides blame the state’s ongoing fiscal problems on regional slumps in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing.
The state’s tax collections have fallen short of expectations 10 of the past 12 months.
When asked for a reaction to the coalition’s letter, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley responded that “the governor is focused on working with the Legislature to ensure Kansas schools remain open.”
The “shared values” the Save Kansas Coalition members want to promote, they said, include a balanced tax policy, quality education, health care access, safe highways, job growth and judicial impartiality.
Carlin, governor from 1979 to 1987, said he and others in the group have worked together “in smaller-scale ways” since at least the 2012 election.
“It became clear that there was a serious effort underway to take out some good Republicans, like Steve Morris, in the 2012 primary,” Carlin said.
Whoever was behind that effort “had a lot of money and used a lot of false advertising,” Carlin said.
The movement has matured since then, he said.
“We thought that if we banded together, both Democrats and Republicans, that maybe we can combine our thoughts and resources, and try to make a difference,” Morris said.
The group will try to raise money, recruit and advise candidates and educate voters about state policies, Carlin and Morris said.
Contributing: Bryan Lowry of The Eagle; Associated Press