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Archive for Saturday, November 4, 2006

Sebelius questioned about commitment

November 4, 2006

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— Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius faced new questions Friday about her commitment to staying in Kansas if voters give her a second term and her claims to making state government more efficient.

Republican challenger Jim Barnett has repeatedly questioned whether Sebelius aspires to be president or vice president, or to serve in a Democratic president's Cabinet. Sebelius said Friday she intends to serve out a second term if re-elected, but neither she nor her staff offered an absolute guarantee.

Barnett and other Republicans also have doubted repeated claims by Sebelius that her efforts to streamline state government have resulted in $1 billion in savings. On Friday, a former Department of Administration official challenged Sebelius' claims about saving money by eliminating the state's central motor pool in November 2003.

Ed Spiess, the motor pool's former director, said the department has falsified numbers it has used to justify its decisions, continues to mislead legislators and can't claim any savings. He filed two federal lawsuits against department officials; one was settled last year and the other is pending.

"With the motor pool gone, the state has nothing but increased costs," Spiess said.

Department spokesman Gavin Young said the department is basing its assessment on actual numbers that show eliminating the motor pool and suspending the purchase of new vehicles for two years starting in November 2003 saved taxpayers $30 million.

And Administration Secretary Duane Goossen said, "We did not fudge the numbers. We ended up saving more than we advertised or thought we'd have in the beginning. It turned out to be a far better policy than anticipated."

Neither Spiess nor Young would discuss the settlement of the first lawsuit, citing an agreement by both sides to keep its terms confidential. Young wouldn't discuss the second case, which also involves the department's decision not to rehire Spiess, because it is pending.

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