Topeka Approximately 200 people rallied Saturday outside the Statehouse, protesting the policies of Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republicans.
"It breaks my heart to see what some of the folks in the building behind me have been doing to the place that we call home," said Lisa Ochs, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas.
Many of the proposals opposed by the crowd deal with restricting the Kansas National Education Association and public employee unions.
The crowd booed House Bill 2023, which would prohibit teachers and state employees from voluntarily having deducted from their paychecks funds for political activity.
"What burns me most is when the folks in this building try to take away your right to participate in the political process," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. "There is nothing more fundamental than your First Amendment right to participate in democracy and have your voice heard," Davis said.
The bill, backed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, has been approved in the House and is now pending before a Senate committee. Supporters say it is needed because employees are being coerced into signing over funds for political campaigning.
Several of the speakers at the rally on the east side of the Capitol said some legislators are attacking teachers and public employees while Brownback fights for tax cuts for wealthy Kansans.
"Gov. Brownback wants to keep bailing out his corporate friends, empty the state treasury and then point the finger at you and me," said Randy Mousley, president of the United Teachers of Wichita.
Last year, Brownback signed into law a package that reduced the state personal income tax and eliminated income taxes for 191,000 business owners.
Brownback has said the cuts will boost the economy, but so far, the cuts have led to budget shortfalls. To bridge the revenue gap, Brownback has proposed making the temporary state sales tax of 6.3 percent permanent and eliminating homeowner deductions.
Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf, who was defeated in the Republican Party primary last August and has since switched to the Democratic Party, said Brownback has political motivations with his tax plan.
"This is an experiment that Sam Brownback is conducting and it's not for the people of Kansas. It's for the Republican Party in 2016, so he can say that Kansas cut taxes and brought back jobs," Schodorf said.
Brownback has said moving the state toward no income tax will make Kansas more attractive to businesses.
"You're moving really from taxing the production side of the equation to the consumption side of the equation," he said recently.
Another speaker at the rally, Resa Boydston, a mental health technician at the Kansas Neurological Institute, said the state's tight budget situation was leading to a skyrocketing turnover rate at the residential facility that care for people with profound disabilities.
"My guys that I take care of, they deserve to have that stability, and running people in and out is not going to get it for them," Boydston said. "We're the only support they have. We're their family. They couldn't survive without us," she said.
Others who spoke at the rally were Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka; the Rev. Joshua Longbottom, pastor at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence; and Sulma Arias, executive director of Sunflower Community Action. Deena Burnett, president of the Lawrence Education Association, read a letter from Dave Reeber, a Free State High School biology teacher.