Topeka As the 2010 legislative session ended Friday, Gov. Mark Parkinson and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce were at it again.
“I find myself once again completely dismayed at the behavior of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce,” Parkinson said in a news release.
This time, the dispute was over Parkinson’s line-item veto of a provision in the state appropriations bill that would have prevented the state from spending money to enforce potential regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists have linked to climate change. The measure was authored by state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who opposes federal regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.
Parkinson said the provision would have caused a lot of problems, including the possibility that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would take over environmental regulation in Kansas. Three of the state’s largest utilities — Westar Energy, KCP&L and Sunflower Electric — contacted Parkinson and asked that he veto the provision.
“The Huelskamp proviso was bad public policy. Therefore, I vetoed it,” Parkinson said.
But the Kansas Chamber, the state’s largest business lobbying organization, didn’t agree. Jeff Glendening, vice president of political affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, said of the veto: “We are disappointed to see the governor veto the Huelskamp EPA amendment. The real beneficiaries of today’s veto are radical environmentalists. We salute Senator Huelskamp’s efforts and thank him for offering this amendment on behalf of Kansas businesses.”
Parkinson responded, “I would expect that the Chamber would be thankful that the wishes of its members — companies which employ hundreds of Kansans, contribute to our economy and keep our lights on — were met. But instead, they reacted with another political attack and categorized their own members, who were the ‘real beneficiaries’ of this veto, as ‘radical environmentalists.’”
Parkinson said the chamber’s rhetoric could hurt Kansas in recruiting business.
“Businesses expect the state chamber to be a common sense, balanced entity. Instead, it has become a partisan political machine that is counterproductive to our efforts to create jobs, grow the economy and move Kansas forward,” he said.
During the legislative session, Parkinson also blasted the chamber, which opposed increasing the state sales tax.
Parkinson and a bipartisan coalition of legislators pushed through a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, saying it was needed to protect schools, public safety and social services.
Chamber President Kent Beisner said those who supported the tax increase “catered to the needs of those at the government trough.”
At the time, Parkinson responded, saying, “It is heartbreaking to think that somebody would equate the disabled, the elderly, school children, veterans, law enforcement and the poor to pigs at a trough.”