Because ballots don’t have spaces for kudos and complaints, election results must speak for themselves. Tuesday’s election stated a clear preference for conservative Republican leadership, with most Kansas voters interested in seeing what the GOP incumbents can do with more time in power in Topeka and with full control of Congress.
If Gov. Sam Brownback’s vulnerability proved exaggerated, the close election confirmed the division in the state over his aggressively ideological record and his stated desire to “hit the accelerator” on tax cuts in a second term. He and his Legislature already have wrecked a balanced tax system, leading to credit rating downgrades, and must now rescue the state budget responsibly; job growth and administration efficiencies won’t be enough.
Meeting the state’s fiscal obligations could get far harder if the Kansas Supreme Court sides with school districts and orders more funding. Either way, Brownback’s re-election means further threats to the independence and proper funding of the state judiciary. Its defenders – and it will need many more – must be ready.
But if expanding Medicaid and rethinking KanCare now seem out of the question for Kansas, a second term will give Brownback the chance to build on his excellent progress on water use and technical education. Overall, he should take to heart his caution to new legislators two years ago to “not overplay your hand.”
GOP overreach poses a similar risk in the U.S. Senate, newly liberated from the abysmal leadership of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. But if they work together, the GOP-led Congress and Democratic president are well-positioned to get the Keystone XL pipeline out of regulatory limbo, act on illegal immigration and border control, fast-track trade agreements, and actually fund the government with appropriations bills rather than emergency measures.
As expressed by Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who more than accomplished his mission as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee: “The message from 2014 was in part, ‘We don’t like the direction the country is going…. Work together and get something done.’”
Having survived scares in the primary and general elections, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., now expects to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee. That again puts Kansas in a great spot to shape farm policy.
Even as Roberts and the other Kansans in Congress continue to help push the president and country toward deficit reduction, they will need to shake loose the federal funding to finish the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. Anything they can do to keep the tax and regulatory environments positive for general aviation would be welcome in Wichita.
And the entire congressional delegation would do well to be as aggressive in defending Kansas against coming defense cuts as Roberts was on election night: “I will fight to keep our Kansas military bases at the ready. McConnell, Fort Riley, Leavenworth, Forbes – you make our country and our state proud and safe, and I’ve got your back.”
In Topeka and Congress, the party that disdains government now must show it can govern well.
For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman