Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brownback budget director apologizes for numbers error

February 19, 2013


— Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director apologized publicly Monday for supplying him with an incorrect figure that led the Republican governor to make erroneous claims about total state spending under his Democratic predecessor.

Budget Director Steve Anderson said in a statement that the mistake occurred in entering data on an internal administration spreadsheet. The information was passed along to Brownback’s office, and he used the material in recent presentations to groups about his budget and tax proposals.

The error showed total state spending peaking at $16 billion during the state’s 2010 fiscal year, under Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson. The actual spending for fiscal 2010 was about $14 billion.

Relying on the mistaken figure, Brownback used a Power Point chart to suggest total state spending had declined significantly since he took office in January 2011. While total spending is lower now than it was two years ago, it’s still 2.6 percent higher under the current, fiscal 2013 budget than it was under the fiscal 2010 budget.

“We should have caught the incorrect information but we did not,” Anderson said in his statement. “I apologize to Governor Brownback and the citizens of Kansas for this error.”

Anderson said the error has been rectified in the administration’s internal spreadsheet, and Brownback’s office produced an updated version of the governor’s Power Point presentation with the correct figure. Anderson stressed that the incorrect figure wasn’t included in the budget proposals that Brownback submitted to legislators last month.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a conservative Hutchinson Republican and a Brownback ally, didn’t see the mistake as significant. He said legislators rely for information not only on the Budget Division but the Department of Revenue and their own research staff, so mistakes get caught.

“We’ve dealt with people giving us bad numbers in the past, and usually, the other two agencies end up figuring it out at some point,” Bruce said. “It’s up to the Legislature to do their due diligence and reconcile those issues.”

But House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said the latest mistake is part of a pattern in which the administration has provided misleading information to the public.

Earlier this month, the Department of Revenue released figures showing that Brownback’s proposals this year to overhaul the state’s personal income tax code would provide the biggest percentage reduction in income taxes to filers with adjusted gross incomes of $25,000 or less. The analysis excluded about 289,000 filers who don’t owe income taxes under state law, and most of them are in lowest-income category, because, the department said, the governor isn’t proposing any changes for them.

Also, the analysis didn’t account for the governor’s proposal to cancel a decrease in the sales tax scheduled for July.

Brownback’s critics also take exception to his repeated public statements that only 54 percent of the funding for the state’s public schools is spent on instruction, when state law sets a goal of 65 percent. The State Department of Education reports a figure of almost 62 percent to the federal government, and Brownback’s allies and critics are arguing over what should be included as spending in the classroom.

“I think there is the pattern from this administration of trying to make numbers fit whatever their end policy goal happens to be,” Davis said. “My level of trust in the information that’s being provided to us is certainly waning.”

Total state spending has more than doubled since fiscal 1993, when it was about $5.9 billion. It peaked at almost $14.7 billion in fiscal 2011, a budget year split between Parkinson’s administration and Brownback’s.

In fiscal 2012, which concluded June 30, spending declined about 2 percent, to just under $14.4 billion. Spending is expected to hit about $14.4 billion under the current budget.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

This misinformation campaign is part of rt wing strategy. They are not prepared to be called out on this matter by so many different sources. I call it '"cooking the books". The rt wing gates away with this fraudulent information at the beltway level which is where the innermost Brownback admin received training aka Deception 101 - 401.

Just like the erroneous numbers regarding how much is spent per public school student. If this crew figures in the $20 million spent on the extravagant USD 497 PLAY athletic improvement project then $$$$$ per student can truly be misinterpreted.

Mike1949 5 years, 4 months ago

Ok, someone was about to blow the whistle on the republicans, there is NOT any other reason they would admit to anything! They were about to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, so they decided they had better own up to the misinformation. Question is, who was about to catch them?

costello 5 years, 4 months ago

Someone already did. I'm sure this was a response to the article in the Wichita paper last Saturday.


Randy Leonard 5 years, 4 months ago

The Wichita Eagle called them on it last week. It amazes me that most of the newspapers in the state including the Eagle-Beacon, Hays paper, and the KC Star do not support Brownback and have called him out on many issues yet the sheep in this state continue to blindly follow him and the other conservative Republicans.

question4u 5 years, 4 months ago

"'We should have caught the incorrect information but we did not,' Anderson said in his statement.'"

Fraud or incompetence? This is an ugly picture, though not one that we haven't seen before.

Is Brownback so out of touch that he's only seen two numbers? Has no one ever actually discussed the state economy with him? Calling this an error on an internal administration spreadsheet suggests that the people who should know the correct numbers, and more importantly, WHAT THEY MEAN, did know these things. Otherwise the error would be much deeper.

The only possible conclusion is either that Brownback is clueless about even the most basic facts about the economy (whether spending went up or down), or he knew and didn't care about the facts.

So, incompetence or fraud? Why does this question keep coming up about Brownback? More importantly, how did this question become so intimately tied to the future of Kansas?

somebodynew 5 years, 4 months ago

Two reasons: 1. It is called fact checking before making numerous public speechs and using those numbers to support your (failed) policy. 2. If you truly believe that I have a good bridge to sell you.

Alyosha 5 years, 4 months ago

You know that it was a clerk how, p76? You speak as if you have direct personal knowledge that a clerk inflated a number by $2 billion.

The story says only that "Budget Director Steve Anderson said in a statement that the mistake occurred in entering data on an internal administration spreadsheet."

Where do you get your information that it was a "clerk," not a political appointee, or Anderson himself, that inflated the number by $2 billion?

If you can't provide a verifiable source for your claim, it's a worthless claim.

dabbindan 5 years, 4 months ago

clerk or not, it was the responsible officials who failed to "notice" and passed the information on as "fact" and those officials are who are the ones who are being taken to task here by all. now will you get off this clerk fixation?

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

The phrase "government takeover of health care" won the dubious honor of "Lie of the Year" from a well known fact checking organization.

Greg Cooper 5 years, 4 months ago

What your paste and copy proves, P, is that the act exists, and that it does something. What it does NOT do is what you claimed: force people to have insurance.

Try again.

Alyosha 5 years, 4 months ago

Your claim that "government" took over healthcare is a) irrelevant in the context of this story, and b) factually incorrect.

Kindly demonstrate how there are now no private insurers or private doctors and how there are instead only state-controlled insurance plans and state-controlled doctors. That's what "government" taking over healthcare would in fact mean.

So if you can't show demonstrate and prove how all healthcare industries have been nationalized, your formulation and claim of government taking over healthcare is literally nonsense. Why are you satisfied with posting nonsense claims?

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Actually, that's not really true either.

The only penalty for failing to buy health insurance is a rather small "tax", and there are many exemptions from that.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Not so.

Paying a small fine which can be easily avoided for most people isn't forcing anybody to buy insurance. It's forcing them to pay a small fine if they choose not to.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

The government also forces employers to pay wages. Therefore the government has taken over all private industry, and we now live in a socialist utopia. Is that how that logic works, L1?

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Elected officials who believe that "the government is the problem" and then going on to prove their point only shows that we have incompetent elected officials in this state.

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

2 billion dollars is a rather large mistake. Considering that Brownback has done little to cut back, but has mostly hired "consultants" to change everything and try and privatize everything, I would think that the budget is actually bigger. I mean we have to make sure that Koch's cronies get a piece of the pie.

Budgets_Smudgets 5 years, 4 months ago

I do not believe Steve Anderson. It wasn't an insignificant mistake in terms of magnitude, and should have been obvious to any senior budget division official in reviewing the data. The Governor used this statistic not once, but many times over the course of weeks in multiple presentations. You mean to tell me, only a "reporter" was the first to notice it? And where was Mr. Trabert, the think-tank guru (and putative scion of Koch financial honesty) on this one?

As the well written article by the Eagle also indicated, the additional lies and deceptions that the Governor has made relative to school spending are well understood by his administration....even by his so-called "task force" on school spending, (which included no representatives of the schools themselves.)

Based upon hints in statements from officials in his administration, I predict the next step will be for the Governor to start substituting his personal, (or his budget director's) estimates for future revenue estimates, thus ending Kansas's decades long and highly esteemed use of the non-partisan, expert-driven Kansas Consensus Revenue Estimating Group.

When that happens, he will be fully substituting political judgement for professional judgement. He will then be fully in control of "cooking the books" because he will forecast blue sky and growth based on his tax cuts, which will be highly over-optimistic (especially for years just beyond the next election).

sciencegeek 5 years, 4 months ago

This isn't necessarily a mistake. This administration cherry-picks statistics to suit their purpose. This isn't the only PowerPoint presentation they've been pushing with statistics that have been filtered and "interpreted" to support their cause. Example: their calculation of how much money makes it into the classroom, where they chose to include/exclude what was necessary to make the point they wanted to make.

"There's lies, damn lies, and statistics." Brownback shows no shame in the extent to which the books are cooked.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

That's twenty years, not ten.


chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

It was an internal error on one of his spreadsheets. ;-)

Janella Williams 5 years, 4 months ago

I like Sandy. She has been a good insurance commissioner. And I'm not a conservative.

Alyosha 5 years, 4 months ago

So the real story here, aside from the incompetence of the Governor's department heads, is that the Governor himself doesn't even know — till the Eagle pointed it out to him — that he's been monumentally incorrect about his budgetary assumptions and beliefs.

The incompetence of this administration is dangerous. Like giving monkeys the run of the Starship Enterprise.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 4 months ago

Dave Trabert where are you? You're the guy who criticizes every penny that goes to education. Are you going to honestly say you didn't know Brownback was using the wrong information as he was going around the state saying we need to cut back? Oh, you probably just kept quiet since you knew the misinformation made your cause look better. You're as big a fraud as Brownie is.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Dave Trabert was also implicated in giving false and/or misleading figures in several of the newspaper articles that called out this and other math errors.

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

Anybody is surprised?

These people are absolutely shameless. The only surprise is that an apology was made.

Steve Stucky 5 years, 4 months ago

I'll bet it wasn't brownbacks fault at all. I'm thinking it was the gawdawful bush!!!

TinmanKC 5 years, 4 months ago

Hey Sam, just quote your buddy Rick Perry "Oops"

SDTPlant 5 years, 4 months ago


You are so correct! This guy is not some numbers cruncher who just happened along. He gets his marching orders from the Guvna. And for all of those of you who are saying "show me empirical proof", I say show me empirical proof that this CPA (I'm assuming he's at least that) didn't cook the books at the instruction of the Guvna. To overlook $2.00 is one matter. That's change for the buskers down on Mass.

We'll be years cleaning up the mess that this adminstration leaves us.

Dan St. John 5 years, 4 months ago

Is it lost on anyone that Anderson said the numbers sent to the legislature were the correct numbers? LAST MONTH? As in, the numbers Brownback would have been using to make his presentation. That there was a massive change since believe the statement of accidental. His powerpoint presentation would have been heavily focused on all numbers making dems look bad. If they already had the accurate figures ANYWHERE the Gov should have, and would have, noticed upon first read through in memorizing the presentation literature.

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