Archive for Thursday, May 22, 2014

In red Kansas, Republican Brownback appears vulnerable

May 22, 2014


— Despite accomplishing much of his agenda — or perhaps, because of it — Gov. Sam Brownback has run into a wave of negative repercussions that have roiled his prospects for re-election and ignited Democratic hopes in this deeply red state.

Elected three years ago as a leading conservative voice for making state government more business-friendly, Brownback has rolled over his opponents in Kansas to pass tax and spending cuts that seemed to pave a smooth path to a second term.

But recent developments have left his office on the defensive, illustrating the difficulties of putting some of his fiscal ideas into effect.

The state's bond rating recently was downgraded over concerns the state would have to burn through its rainy day funds to make up for revenues lost to his tax cuts. Angry teachers have staged demonstrations at his public appearances and charged that his fiscal experiment will short schools and lead to crowded classrooms.

And the FBI has launched an inquiry into whether members of Brownback's inner political circle tried to pressure companies to hire certain lobbyists close to Brownback's administration.

Even Brownback's admirers acknowledge that his aggressive agenda has complicated his future.

"Brownback has become a real reformer in the constellation of Republican governors," said Phil Musser, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association. "That, of course, has political costs."

Suddenly, Democratic groups that ignored Kansas in 2010, when Brownback won election by 30 points after giving up his U.S. Senate seat to run, are showing interest. A national party organization is training four field operatives to help Democratic candidates in the state and the Democratic Governors Association sent out a fundraising email touting Brownback's leading opponent, Democratic state Rep. Paul Davis.

Recent polls have shown the race to be close, but Republicans enjoy a nearly 20-percentage advantage in registered voters, and Brownback predicts more will move his way later.

"You're going to be in through late summer before they really pay attention to the race," he said.

But Davis said he's encouraged. "For a state that is very concerned about public education and values that, this is a lot of angst and a lot of concern about the direction we're going," Davis said.

Brownback, who grew up on a farm and was state agriculture secretary before being elected to the Senate, envisions using low taxes and other incentives to attract more businesses to replace the jobs being lost to declining agricultural and manufacturing employment. Job growth for the previous decade had been stagnant.

But his aggressive schedule for cutting tax rates has reduced revenue faster than economic growth can replace it. With the owners of 191,000 businesses exempted from paying anything at all and the top rate cut by 40 percent by 2018, tax collections are running 9 percent behind the previous year, with some estimates projecting the budget going into the red by mid-2017.

School officials and moderate Republican lawmakers are worried about the impact on education, which draws more than half the state's revenues.

In rural Scott City, teachers have already agreed to a 2 percent pay cut to avoid layoffs, but parents are worried about larger classes, said Republican state Rep. Don Hineman, whose western Kansas district includes the town.

"It cuts across political philosophies when it comes to that subject," Hineman said.

Some lawmakers worry that the state won't be able to continue complying with a Kansas Supreme Court order to improve funding for poor districts.

Brownback insists that his fiscal plan will work by creating more revenue through new economic activity.

He points to 56,000 new private-sector jobs since he took office in January 2011. The state's unemployment rate, 4.8 percent in April, was well below the national average.

"We just had such a bad situation in the state, we had to change things, and you couldn't wait to do it," Brownback said.

Brownback's legislative critics say he is paying for his impatience and his drive to have GOP conservatives dominate state government. His opponent reported a surprisingly robust $1 million in cash contributions in less than five months at the end of last year, the latest figures available. Brownback raised $1.1 million in cash from donors in 2013.

But his many admirers in national conservative circles insist he will benefit in the long run by thinking big.

"It never surprises me that the most active governors have a dip in their popularity as their opponents go nuts," said Grover Norquist, president of the influential conservative group Americans for Tax Reform.


James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Actually, democrats could run on fiscal responsibility and campaign to repeal Brownback's tax "reform" and lower the sales tax instead of giving the Kochs a complete and total income tax break. Most people didn't get a tax cut out of the last round. I did, but I own a business. I didn't hire anyone or shoot any adrenaline into the heart of the economy because of that tax break. Neither did the other businesses.

The thing about registering Republican is that it doesn't actually obligate you to vote that way. That net Republican advantage didn't stop Sebelius from winning, nor did it stop a long line of Democratic governors. I'm not saying Davis will win or that if he does win he won't be trying to heard a bunch of anti-government cats in the legislature. I'm just saying the idea is not nearly as preposterous as it sounds.

Brownback is a radical with a history of enacting bad ideas that result in exactly the bad consequences he was warned they'd produce. He's deeply unpopular because he's a terrible governor.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 1 month ago

brownie, worst governor in Kansas history and the idiots west of Topeka and also Johnson county love him. It's just the fact that there's an R listed after his name on the ballot. Far too many voters simply vote for anyone with an R after their name.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

Well, said, James.

Tell the voters that taxes will be put back the way they were --resulting in businesses paying taxes again and the rate being raised again on the Koch brothers (and other financially secure people) and they'll vote for Davis in NY minute. Kansans move slowly and surely. They're not so much NY Minute kind of people. And we're blessed to be people who think carefully before acting.

But it has been three years and people have had time now to think about it, to see what has happened, and to realize we need to go back and start over.

As for Davis having to work with the legislature, you're right, and that is the fly in the ointment. It is precisely what Obama has been faced with his entire time. Yet the people gave him not one, but two tries to get the Republicans in the House to work with him to overcome the 2008 financial meltdown. The country is in much better shape now than it was in December 2008, 100% due to Obama because nobody else was even trying.

If Obama can do it, Davis can do it. Davis will know that the people are behind him, if they vote him into office. The legislature will see Brownback get defeated for his behavior, and they will know that the same thing will happen to them if they don't shape up.

This is Kansas. We're more able to know what Kansans will do than we are to know what a whole country will do.

I'll vote for the young lady, Jennifer Winn, who's running against Brownback in the primary. Nobody expects she could win. It'll just be a vote against Brownback.

Then in the primary I'll vote for Davis-Docking. I'll donate to his campaign in hopes of leveling the field because I know the Koch brothers will be piling millions into electing Browback, again.

I expect they'll also be supporting Kris Kobach heavily at the same time. This is important to the Koch brothers. They believe, as Brownback has been saying in so many words, "There are two ways to skin a cat. If you can't buy the whole country at once, buy it state by state."

They've bought Kansas. There is no denying they own this state now. But voters can re-possess the state due to non-payment of its bills, in more ways than one.

Don't re-elect. Re-possess!

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Weird. That was a response to a post that has disappeared. I'm not sure why it vanished. It wasn't offensive or anything.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

Wouldn't have made that post disappear. They were convinced Brownie would still win it.

James Howlette 4 years, 1 month ago

And he got removed for it! I was being sarcastic about the language. He referred to a geographic region.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

I have had posts disappear also. When I have questioned the digital staff, I was told that their "spam catcher" was" malfunctioning". I wonder what sort of criteria is given to their "spam catcher" on this raving Republican rag??

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 1 month ago

If you try to run the government with so called "Christian values" ignoring that there are other religious groups in Kansas, you might be vulnerable.

If you try to make the State of Kansas a possible shooting gallery with your full support of allowing deadly weapons to be carried everywhere in the state, you might be very vulnerable to most more reasonable and concerned persons.

If you try to hide your bigotry and racism against the current president by passing laws that encourage Kansas law enforcement officials to arrest Federal employees who are doing their job enforcing Federal Law, you might be vulnerable to the dust bin of history.

If you try to prevent Kansas residents from the advantages and requirements of the Federal Affordable Care Act, you might be very vulnerable as a foolish throwback to reasonable people in Kansas.

Ned Wolfsosoon 4 years, 1 month ago

The negative press could be the result of partisan politics....the bond rating since it hasn't been long enough to see the results, bad teachers can now be fired so they aren't happy, and the FBI, much like the IRS, is just another strong arm of the Obama dictatorship. So, this article is pretty much bogus and a pipe dream. The democrats putting money into the state is just an effort to gain headlines, to stir the pot.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

The pot's boiling, Ned.

The water in it is low and it'll be on fire soon.

Davis-Docking is going to haul the water in and put that fire out in November.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 1 month ago

Sam Brownback successfully stripped Planned Parenthood of all Title X funding in Kansas. This is despite the fact that PP has no clinic in the state that provides abortions. As a result, PP closed it's clinic in Hays, the only clinic PP has in western Kansas, to protect it's Wichita clinic. This closure will deprive hundreds of rural women from receiving OB-GYN health services, including prenatal care, breast health, pap smears, STD diagnosis and treatment and contraceptive services. PP also provided some general health services, such as BP checks and treatment. They did all of this on a sliding scale fee according to income. This closure will impact many women, leaving some of them without any healthcare at all.
I am firmly convinced that some women will even die because of this.
Bottom line, any woman that votes Republican in the upcoming election should just sock herself in the face now.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 1 month ago

There are women in Kansas who call themselves Christians who think of abortions as murder, and they think mostly poor women have abortions, and they are poor because they're lazy, stupid, and immoral.

They firmly believe that Planned Parenthood is more about abortion than providing medical help to the poor.

This attitude comes straight from the Catholics and the Baptists. The same people who want religious laws on the books.

No need for them to sock themselves in the face. It is becoming more and more obvious that the voters will do that for them in the next presidential election, just as they have in the last two.

Cait McKnelly 4 years, 1 month ago

Western Kansas; the little sister of the Rio Grande Valley where women are already dying thanks to Rick Perry, our "esteemed" Guvnor's mentor.

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