Topeka Kansas Gov.-elect Sam Brownback announced Thursday that a personal friend who has held numerous state and local government jobs over the past three decades will lead his administration’s initiative to attack outdated or overly burdensome state laws and regulations.
Dennis Taylor will head a new office of the repealer, which Brownback says will identify laws and regulations that the new administration wants to eliminate in hopes of making Kansas government less expensive and more business-friendly. Creating the office will fulfill a campaign promise, and Brownback said he’ll use existing resources to pay for it.
Brownback also nominated Taylor to serve as secretary of administration, the official who oversees state purchasing, the upkeep of its office buildings and phone and computer services for its agencies. The 61-year-old has coordinated the city of Topeka’s efforts to make its municipal government more efficient since 2008.
But Taylor’s career in government spans 36 years. He served twice as a Cabinet secretary in Kansas and led a state social services agency in New Mexico. He’s held city and county jobs in Kansas and Missouri, and is a past adviser for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s operations for Eastern Europe.
The incoming governor said he and his wife have known Taylor and his wife for years. Taylor’s appointment as secretary of administration must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.
Brownback, a Republican who takes office Jan. 10, described the office of the repealer as part of an attempt to make state government more efficient in the face of ongoing budget problems. Legislative researchers project a potential shortfall approaching $500 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
“We face some very difficult decisions, but it’s also an opportunity to make positive change to deliver high quality services at a lower cost,” Brownback said during a Statehouse news conference. “So, you’re going to see us — and particularly Dennis — leading the charge, looking for efficiencies.”
Taylor began his government career in 1974 as a research attorney for the Kansas Supreme Court. He served four years as an elected Shawnee County commissioner and as operations manager for Jackson County, Mo., before joining Republican Gov. Mike Hayden’s administration in 1987 as secretary of human resources. He later was Hayden’s chief of staff and his secretary of social and rehabilitation services.
Since then, he’s moved back and forth between government and private business. He led the Juvenile Justice Division in New Mexico’s Department of Children, Youth and Families in 1997-99.
Taylor said he expects to spend much of his time listening to Kansas residents about suggestions for laws and rules to repeal. He said his experience with the city of Topeka suggests that many recommendations will come from government employees themselves.
“We’re not in necessarily times the luxury of choice. It’s really a necessity,” he said of the effort.
Brownback outlined his proposal for an office of the repealer early in his successful campaign for governor. Some critics initially mocked the idea as creating a new bureaucracy, but others worried that his true goal was to let businesses escape environmental and other regulation.
But Brownback said he’s also heard complaints from local officials about state paperwork requirements, such as one that requires counties to file reports with the state on the value of business machinery that they’re no longer allowed to tax by law.
“These may seem like real kind of pipe works, nuts and bolts, this is about the furnace and how it operates, and truly it is,” he said. “We’re seeing the private sector do this across the board.”