Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

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.


oletimer 1 year, 2 months ago

the fact that browny is not personally taking the blame for this screw up is nothing new. we can't have the "king" being proved an idiot, now can we? Sure we can. he proves it every day


bbnemesis 1 year, 2 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.


SDTPlant 1 year, 2 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.


TinmanKC 1 year, 2 months ago

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


Lane Signal 1 year, 2 months ago

This is just more of the same weasel games Brownie always plays. We really should focus here on the fact that Brownie is unwilling to take the hit for this. He has his bean counter come forward and take responsibility. If Brownie were a leader he would come out and apologize for the error. He would indicate that his team used the wrong numbers. He would take the hit and he would own the mistake. Instead, he hides behind his staff and tries to avoid responsibility. Brownie is not a leader. He is a sneaky little weasel who will never own his mistakes. We should fear his lack of integrity as much as we fear his scorched earth political agenda.


ssteve1 1 year, 2 months ago

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


verity 1 year, 2 months ago

Anybody is surprised?

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


Tracy Rogers 1 year, 2 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.


Alyosha 1 year, 2 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.


Scut Farkus 1 year, 2 months ago

I can't wait for the "Sandy Praeger for Governor" campaign to begin.


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 2 months ago

How does our state spending double in the last ten years when population and CPI are no where close following that kind of growth? Where did all the money go? I don't see teachers salaries up 250% in ten years. Where is it? I would like to see a side by side budget between 1993 and 2013 and see where all the money is being blown.


autie 1 year, 2 months ago

If it is Anderson's mistake, he should be fired for gross incompetence. If it is Brownbacks twist, he should be fired for lying.


Budgets_Smudgets 1 year, 2 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).


tomatogrower 1 year, 2 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.


autie 1 year, 2 months ago

I think our civil servant is a lliar. No clerk mistake. Book cook lies.


Jackie Jackasserson 1 year, 2 months ago

I am not mad at the clerk. Many state data bases are old, set up in a manner unsupportive of questions posed without staff allocated to update the data bases. However, the governor should also apologize publicly.


1 year, 2 months ago

@P76 Nobody is bagging on "a clerk," unless you're calling The Guv a clerk. So, give up on that. To answer question4u's comment, it's both incompetence and fraud at the administration level. You'll notice also that once again The Guv takes none of the responsibility.


P76 1 year, 2 months ago

the mistake occurred in entering data on an internal administration spreadsheet.

So some government clerk fat fingered a number. Why are people mad at the clerk? It was a mistake. An accident. Why are the haters bagging on the clerk?


question4u 1 year, 2 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?


Mike1949 1 year, 2 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?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 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.


prospector 1 year, 2 months ago

Ah Sam, close enough for government work, Right?


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