Gov. Sam Brownback, on his way to the Cotton Bowl in Texas this week, stopped in Oklahoma City and met with leaders of two energy companies, SandRidge and Chesapeake, looking to smooth the way for energy companies to do more hydraulic fracturing in Kansas.
Fracking, as the process is commonly called, is spreading fast across the country and allows the extraction of more oil and gas. It is new and home-grown energy and it creates jobs, Brownback Chief of Staff David Kensinger told Wichita’s Pachyderm Club on Friday.
Kensinger said the process is already in use in Harper and other counties and could bring 25,000 new jobs to the state and significantly boost the state economy. The governor will announce more details soon.
“It’s making people a lot of money and creating a lot of jobs elsewhere,” Kensinger said. On other issues, Kensinger said:
• With a new legislative session looming, Brownback is looking for more ways to cut spending while still protecting the state’s public school students, the elderly and other vulnerable people. More cuts, in spending and by the elimination of more agencies, are being considered, he said.
• One of the toughest problems to solve in state spending growth is how to fund the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Brownback will propose that state employees with five years’ experience or less be moved to a “defined contribution system,” a change that will “give us time” to resolve the problem down the road, Kensinger said.
• Medicaid expense growth must be dealt with also, and this will be contentious, Kensinger said.
Kensinger made a case, to a packed and enthusiastic audience, that the governor had already done much to set the state’s finances in order. When Brownback was inaugurated, Kensinger said, 100,000 Kansans were out of work; 11,000 private sector jobs have been created, with the help of his policies, since then. The state at the time Brownback took over was working to resolve a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars; it now is $300 million in the black, he said.