One of the top Republicans in the Kansas Senate will not seek re-election, citing frustration with his colleagues’ unwillingness to address the state’s budget woes.
Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, was the only member of Senate leadership to vote against a budget that will require Gov. Sam Brownback to make more cuts in order to balance earlier this week.
King played a major role in reforming the state’s pension system during Brownback’s first term to put it on more secure financial footing and strongly objected to the Legislature’s decision to delay a $96 million payment to the pension fund as part of the budget fix.
Moody’s Investor Services gave the state a negative credit outlook the day after the budget passed, specifically citing the pension delay.
King announced that he would not seek re-election to his seat in the 15th Senate District in southeast Kansas in a statement Thursday, saying that the Legislature’s recent veto session “shows the harm of putting politics over good government.”
King elaborated on this in a phone call.
“I am not attacking the right. I am not attacking the left … I think we as a state are focused too much on politics, on ‘gotcha’ votes, on trying to make the other look as bad as possible rather than make the state as good as possible,” he said.
He called his support for exempting pass-through business owners from income tax in 2012 an error and lamented that efforts to roll back the exemption this year failed to gain traction.
“If we can no longer stick out our necks by proposing innovative ideas and solutions to our most daunting problems, and if we punish those who do, what is left of our role as legislators?” he said in the statement. “To blindly follow the status quo, to put out the same mundane sound bites crafted to say as little as possible, and to repeat the cycle?
“That’s not governing. That’s not what Kansans elected us to do. That’s political cowardice that cannot be rewarded.”
King, an attorney, was elected to the Kansas House in 2006 and then the Senate in 2010. He took the position as vice president after conservatives took control of the chamber in 2012. He had also served as Senate Judiciary chairman.
Democrat Chuck Schmidt, a retired school superintendent from Independence, has filed for the seat. King did not say who he would like to take his place as the Republican in the race.