Topeka Kansas Democrats on Friday pounced on a new unemployment report showing that the state’s jobless rate increased for the first time in more than two years, saying it showed Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, was on the wrong policy path.
Brownback, however, said the state’s finances are getting better and that private-sector jobs are growing, even as public-sector jobs decreased.
“The economy in the state has been improving, but not enough,” he said recently.
The Kansas unemployment rate rose to 6.9 percent, up from 6.8 percent in July. The seasonally adjusted rate of 6.7 percent was up from 6.5 percent in July. The increase represented the first time the jobless rate went up since July 2009.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said Brownback and the Republican-dominated Legislature have focused too much attention on abortion, regulating strip clubs and other social issues instead of focusing on the economy.
“Governor Brownback and the Republican Legislature have complete control over every facet of state government,” Davis said. “This is what happens when our governor and Republican Legislature make divisive social issues their top priority.”
Hensley said Brownback promised to make improving the economy his top priority. “We now know his rhetoric doesn’t match his record,” Hensley said.“These unemployment numbers show that job creation isn’t even close to being his first priority. Instead, he spent his first session laying off teachers, state employees, and abolishing 4,600 art-supported jobs, all while promoting an extreme social agenda that does nothing to improve our state’s economy.”
Brownback cut base state aid per pupil and reduced payroll, saying that tough budget decisions were needed to close a projected $500 million revenue shortfall. He vetoed funding for the arts, saying that wasn’t a core function of government and private donations would step in to fill the void.
Despite the higher unemployment rate, Brownback has been touting the creation of private-sector jobs in Kansas. And Brownback has said he will push for lowering income taxes in the next legislative session, a move he believes will attract more business and industry.
His office put out a news release saying that since taking office, Kansas has added 13,000 private-sector jobs and turned a budget deficit into a $100 million surplus.
Tyler Tenbrink, a labor economist with the Kansas Department of Labor, however, said, “Overall there has been no noticeable improvement in the Kansas labor market since April.”