Brownback focuses on ‘crisis of the family’ in second inaugural

? Gov. Sam Brownback used his second inaugural address Monday to focus on social and religious issues, declaring that America suffers from a “crisis of the family.”

“If we are honest, we have to admit there is a crisis of the family in our country. In my view this is a principle issue that must be addressed for us to move forward,” Brownback wrote in a prepared version of the speech, which was released to the media before his address.

The speech came on the opening day of the 2015 legislative session, which is likely to be dominated by discussion of the state’s massive looming budget deficit. That’s the issue lawmakers expect Brownback to discuss in his State of the State address Thursday night.

In his speech Monday, the governor acknowledged that the state faces economic challenges, saying, “Too many people have not progressed in recent years, in many cases held back by an economy that is growing too slowly or an overly paternalistic big government.”

But he said the biggest challenges facing the state and nation are moral and cultural in nature, saying the nation needs to “renew our culture around our Founder’s principles of love of God, love of country and love of family.”

“That starts by recognizing that everybody is a beautiful somebody,” Brownback said. “Our culture is at its best when we protect and encourage the weakest. Every life, at every stage, in every place has a dignity beyond our imagining.”

“Every human — especially the most vulnerable, the unborn, the infirm, those ravaged by age and those desperate in despair — should be protected in law, loved, and told repeatedly of their incredible beauty and worth,” he continued. “The equal and immense dignity of every person all the time is the foundation of our society. Kansas is great, and great for America, when more and more we honor every human life everywhere.”

It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the speech was a prelude to policies that Brownback intends to pursue this year. During an impromptu news conference following the speech, Brownback suggested it was more of a philosophical statement.

“I worked with (Democrat) Pat Moynihan in the Senate. He’s deceased now, but he was the original culture commentator,” Brownback said. “He had said the key thing you need to watch are those things that help build the next generation. And at it’s core, that’s building up the family. And a lot of that’s a discussion in the country. It’s not mandates. And that’s what I said in the speech. You can never get a government big enough to take over for the family, nor should one ever be.”

But Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said he does expect the governor to offer social policy legislation addressing children and families.

“I do believe, and I’ve heard some comments, that child poverty issues will be addressed, or at least pushed by the governor’s office,” Bruce said. “I don’t know the specifics of what that entails, but I believe come Thursday night (during the State of the State address) that we’ll learn a lot more about it.”

Democrats, on the other hand, argued that Brownback’s own policies have been the source of the economic hardships many Kansas families are facing.

“When you talk about the breakdown of the family, I’m more concerned about the economic breakdown of the family,” Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley said. “That’s why I feel like we need to raise the state’s minimum wage. And we’ve got to do things to get children out of poverty. That was one of his Roadmap goals when he ran the first time. And the poverty rate today among children is probably the highest it’s been in years and years.”

House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, agreed.

“While I believe the crisis that Kansas families are feeling has been contributed by this administration, I also believe that moving forward we need to talk about those budget issues that address the opportunity for Kansas families to prosper,” Burroughs said. “And that’s a solid, well-funded public education, access to higher education, a livable wage for Kansas workers and respect for Kansas workers.”

But House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said the governor’s inaugural speech wasn’t about specific economic or budget issues.

“I think you’re going to hear that Thursday night,” Merrick said. “This wasn’t the occasion for that. The State of the State is where you do that stuff.”

Related:Full text of Gov. Brownback’s inaugural address