Archive for Sunday, March 20, 2016

GOP lawmakers cite rising frustration, even anger, with Brownback administration

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback waves after delivering his State of the State address to a combined session at the Kansas State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Topeka.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback waves after delivering his State of the State address to a combined session at the Kansas State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Topeka.

March 20, 2016

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— A rift between Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his fellow Republicans in the Kansas Legislature was laid bare for all to see last week when the GOP-dominated Senate voted to override one of the governor’s vetoes and came within a single vote of overriding another.

While those override votes involved relatively obscure issues that don’t directly affect the lives of most Kansans, Republicans in both chambers say the tension goes far beyond that, and the level of frustration, and even anger, toward the Brownback administration has been growing for some time.

Most of that has to do with what GOP lawmakers see as a lack of leadership coming from the governor’s office, particularly on budget and finance issues.

In this file photo from June 3, 2015, Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, left, confers with Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, right, during the chamber's session at the Statehouse in Topeka.

In this file photo from June 3, 2015, Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, left, confers with Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, right, during the chamber's session at the Statehouse in Topeka.

“You know, we’re going into our second legislative session with an unstable budget, no clear path to get out, and we were expecting the governor to give us a budget that balanced, and he hasn’t,” said Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park. “I’ve said it many times. We’re fatigued, we’re angry, we’re mad.”

Rep. John Barker, R-Abilene, said there’s a similar level of frustration in the House.

“I understand that he’s saying the Legislature is the appropriator,” he said. “But he also has to have a plan for us to appropriate, and that’s what we like. I just feel that the House, much like the Senate, feels very frustrated with that, and I think they may show their frustration should those two items come up before the House.”

Brownback’s press secretary, Eileen Hawley, however, said the governor has been consulting with legislative leaders on a daily basis about the budget and, “We feel that it would be inappropriate for the governor to put forward a plan without first consulting with the legislative branch.”

Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, who serves on both the tax and budget committees in the House, also said there are similar feelings among GOP lawmakers in the House.

“I might tend to reclassify it more as frustration than anger,” he said. “I think it gets expressed as anger sometimes. But I think there is a growing frustration (over) how the communication has occurred between the executive branch and the legislative branch. I think that’s fair.

Kansas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle share their views about expanding the state's Medicaid program, known as KanCare, during a forum at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park on Jan. 5, 2016. Those participating included, from left: Sens. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park; Laura Kelly, D-Topeka; and Jeff King, R-Independence; and Reps. Jerry Henry, D-Atchison; and Mark Hutton, R-Wichita.

Kansas lawmakers from both sides of the aisle share their views about expanding the state's Medicaid program, known as KanCare, during a forum at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park on Jan. 5, 2016. Those participating included, from left: Sens. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park; Laura Kelly, D-Topeka; and Jeff King, R-Independence; and Reps. Jerry Henry, D-Atchison; and Mark Hutton, R-Wichita.

“For me, my frustration kind of hit an all-time high when the governor came out and said this session, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem,” he said. “Number one, I’m really sick of hearing that. But number two, this is the same governor that sent us a budget last year that required us to raise taxes to meet his budget.

“And if he really believed that we had a spending problem, why did he send us a budget that required us to raise taxes?” Hutton asked. “It would have made last year a lot easier. We’d have been gone a lot sooner if he would have fulfilled that responsibility. But he didn’t. And I just don’t think he can have it both ways. And that frustrates me.”

Responding to Hutton and Denning, Hawley noted that both of those members have called for repealing, or scaling back, a controversial tax cut enacted in 2012 that exempted nonwage income of more than 330,000 business owners from taxation.

“Representative Hutton and Senator Denning are frustrated the governor will not support a tax increase,” she said. “We understand and respect their position. The governor, however, will continue to work with legislators on options for balancing the budget through a reduction of expenditures rather than an increase in taxes.”

Much of the GOP lawmakers’ frustration might have remained hidden below the surface, but for the controversies that erupted over the two veto items.

Docking building demolition

One of those involved a bill that specifically prohibited the administration from contracting to demolish the Docking State Office Building in Topeka, and blocked the spending of any money to relocate its “power plant,” equipment that sends heating and air conditioning to all the buildings in the Capitol area complex, without legislative approval.

Lawmakers, after consulting with the attorney general’s office and the Department of Administration, concluded that was the cheapest way to get out of contracts that the administration had already signed without their knowledge.

But Brownback vetoed the bill, then canceled the contracts on his own, which resulted in the state paying $2.1 million in penalties and other charges for backing out of the contract.

“In the Department of Corrections, we were looking for about $2 million to give them a raise,” Denning said. “We just spent it unnecessarily. That’s the kind of stuff that’s driving us crazy.”

What was most surprising to senators, though, was that when the Senate first started debating the override, Brownback began issuing statements, and posting messages on Twitter, saying that an override could jeopardize the state’s bond rating.

It was an argument never raised during the original debate on the bill, and it wasn’t mentioned in Brownback’s veto message on March 4.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, listens to testimony during a committee hearing, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Statehouse in Topeka.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, listens to testimony during a committee hearing, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Statehouse in Topeka.

“I can tell you that when (Sen.) Kay (Wolf, R-Prairie Village) stood up to make that motion, I have never seen such an outpouring from the second floor with press releases and texts and phone calls to try and stop an act of the Legislature,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, of Wichita, referring to the governor’s office, which is located on the second floor of the Statehouse.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, accepted responsibility for that, saying he advised the governor not to air the concerns about the state’s bond rating publicly, out of concern that a public discussion by itself could raise concerns in the bond market.

That’s when Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, who was elected to the Senate in 2012 largely with support from Brownback and the Kansas Chamber, erupted.

“But the governor chose to do it on Twitter, did he not?” O’Donnell said. “So if we are not trying to publicly announce this, if this is an issue, do we as a Legislature get advice from our chief executive via Twitter that there’s a problem?”

“This is insane,” O’Donnell said later in the discussion.

In this June 6, 2015 file photo, Sen. Michael O'Donnell, left, R-Wichita, reacts to comments made during negotiations between the Senate and the House on a bill raising the state's tax on HMOs to help balance the state budget, at the Statehouse in Topeka. On the right is Rep. Dan Hawkins, also R-Wichita.

In this June 6, 2015 file photo, Sen. Michael O'Donnell, left, R-Wichita, reacts to comments made during negotiations between the Senate and the House on a bill raising the state's tax on HMOs to help balance the state budget, at the Statehouse in Topeka. On the right is Rep. Dan Hawkins, also R-Wichita.

Hawley said Brownback had tried to resolve that issue with Senate leadership and that he articulated his concerns to Wagle before he announced his veto of the bill.

“However, after a discussion of the bond rating issue had already begun on the Senate floor it became clear that an amicable resolution was not going to be possible,” she said.

That veto override fell one vote short, 26-13, of the two-thirds majority needed. One senator, Jeff Melcher, R-Leawood, was absent.

STAR bonds veto

Denning spearheaded a second override attempt that was successful. It concerned a budget proviso blocking the formation of any new sales tax revenue, or STAR, bond districts in Wyandotte County until new legislation is enacted to reform the STAR bond process.

He said he did so because sales tax revenues from the Village West shopping area in Kansas City are due to start coming back on the tax rolls next year.

But Denning said lawmakers didn’t learn until recently that those revenues were not being counted in the governor’s budget projections because the governor was planning to use that money, more than $42 million a year, to finance new STAR bonds in another district that has not yet been approved.

Rep. Hutton said that deal raised even more questions about the governor’s management of state finances.

“You’re spending $42 million, or committing $42 million of sales tax revenue to something when he’s sitting there telling us we have a spending problem and not a revenue problem,” he said. “It just didn’t make sense to me. And that’s frustrating.”

The House, however, probably will not vote on that veto override because the Senate has since passed a STAR bonds reform bill, and if the House agrees to that bill and the governor signs it, the budget proviso will become a moot point.

Eroding GOP support

At one point during a recent caucus meeting on the veto override, Wagle asked that the media and state agency staff leave the room so the Republican senators could discuss internal strategy in private.

Afterward, Wagle spoke with reporters and said lawmakers have growing concerns about the governor’s management, and that could affect his ability to get future initiatives through the Legislature, such as one being considered to sell off the state’s interest in future tobacco settlement payments.

“I think when we walked out the door (last year) and we knew that we were bonding KPERS for $1 billion — and we were hesitant on that, but our financial advisers said that would work — and then (the Kansas Department of Transportation) bonded $400-plus million after we left with interest payments only for 10 years, I think we were rather concerned,” Wagle said. “I think most of our legislators are very concerned about being structurally in a deficit situation right now.”

In response, Hawley, Brownback’s press secretary, said: “President Wagle has decided to work with moderates and Democrats to attack conservatives like Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) and Sam Brownback because she is frustrated with them for blocking her efforts to expand Obamacare and raise income taxes, and she knows the media will reward her with positive coverage for doing so.”

In an email, Wagle did not directly respond to that comment but said it’s unquestionable that the state faces a tremendous fiscal challenge.

“More money is being spent by state government than is coming in from taxes and fees. That is just a fact,” Wagle said.

“A number of legislators have proposed and continue to propose solutions to balance the state budget,” she said. “I am certain that the House, the Senate and the Governor will be more supportive of some of the ideas that are being put forth than others and it may be that there are differences in opinion amongst our co-equal branches of government as to how Kansas can best deal with these challenges.”

Meanwhile Denning, the Overland Park senator, said he’s not sure whether the recent controversies will affect Brownback’s ability to push his agenda through the Legislature.

“I think that really depends on what the issue is,” he said.

Comments

Carol Bowen 1 year, 1 month ago

"In response, Hawley, Brownback’s press secretary, said: “President Wagle has decided to work with moderates and Democrats to attack conservatives like Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) and Sam Brownback because she is frustrated with them for blocking her efforts to expand Obamacare and raise income taxes, and she knows the media will reward her with positive coverage for doing so.”"

UhOh. I don't recall senator Wagle ever working with moderates. Such a petty political comment from Brownback's press secretary. Playground politics in Topeka are getting rough.

William Pilgrim 1 year, 1 month ago

Eileen Hawley must be paid a pretty penny to sound like she's lost her mind. Or her moral compass. Or both. Can't wait for her to publicly attack her own husband's department at KU. Probably getting too much positive coverage in the media for Brownback's liking.

Betty Brown 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't like Brownbeck but I think what he is trying to do will work but sounds too much to the left for repubs.

Charles Drew 1 year, 1 month ago

Well, that's the problem. His policies aren't working. Kansas is not prospering. The school system is worsening. No jobs are being created nor are businesses moving there. What's the point of moving so far right. Just for the heck of it?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 1 month ago

What?! Nothing that Brownback is doing is working. And how is any of it to the left?

Cille King 1 year, 1 month ago

Betty Brown is another false name who just created an account to comment on this issue.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Why doesn't the senate design a budget that works instead of approving one more budget from Gov Brownback that does not work?

The financial advisors offering input are more than likely working for Brownback NOT we the taxpayers so why would elected officials listen to them?

Why do elected house and senate people approve whatever Gov Brownback wants when they know they are killing the Kansas economy and the school districts?

Voters do not expect their elected officials to obey a governor that is wrong and fiscally reckless.

The most obvious answer for the state is never vote republican again.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Never Voting Republican Again Eliminates Anti American RINO's .....

Bob Smith 1 year, 1 month ago

Richard, what makes you qualified to decide who is or isn't a true Republican. You're way out in left field.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

You just explained why the most obvious answer for the state is never vote republican again.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

Maybe, Bob, it's because he actually tracks things like, oh, voting records, social policy, economic records, you know, little things like that that knee-jerk regressives like some posters here do not.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 1 month ago

These people aren't frustrated or angry with Brownback. They are trying to distance themselves from him, so they can get reelected. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Which is one more reason why the most obvious answer for the state is never vote republican again.

The destruction has been going on for years now suddenly the Kansas GOP ??? are frustrated. Cmmmmmm.

Timothy Laurent 1 year, 1 month ago

same thing in Louisiana the republicons who supported booby jindal and his financial destruction of the state of Louisiana are running away from what they did like rats off a shinking ship and there are still some who refuse to see the damage they have caused and what more of the same...republicon and their ass kissing grover norquist's ass and ayn rand fantasy world thinking

Dennis Flavin 1 year, 1 month ago

Success has a thousand fathers. Failure is an orphan.

Steve King 1 year, 1 month ago

It's an election year. Don't get fooled again.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Perhaps the election year script has been choreographed by the RINO Human Resources Employment Division.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/koch-brothers-candidate-training-recruiting-aegis-strategic

This division have their scouts out and about in search of qualified robots to take over local city councils and school boards. INFILTRATION is key to the success of stealing government services from the taxpayers yet still leaving the cost of operation to the taxpayer.

Which is yet one more reason why the most obvious answer is never vote republican and/or conservative again.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 1 month ago

The Republican dominated Legislature has had ample opportunities to override the Governor with its veto power. Instead the Legislative and Executive branches have chosen to march lockstep. Now that the implosion has begun so has the finger-pointing for who is to blame.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

Please remember that the electorate of Kansas made all this possible, in fact, inevitable, by not listening to the candidates. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see through what are essentially partisan political policies that have nothing to do with the vast majority of Kansans having a better life.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 1 month ago

That and the majority of voters just picking the candidate with (R) next to the name.

Phil Glasgow 1 year, 1 month ago

The Kansas GOP where sure kissing Brownback's backside in the beginning. The man is a nutcase. That was not hard to see! The GOP pandering to Christian conservatives has created a schism in the party finally manifesting itself as Donald Trump! Trump could be out next president! What a deal!

Brian Fitzpatrick 1 year, 1 month ago

Well - the answer is obvious. They just need to pass more tax breaks for the 1 %ers and then watch the good times roll in......................right ?

Betty Brown 1 year, 1 month ago

I think what Brownbeck is trying to do will work but it sounds too much like what a democrat would suggest He's in real doo-doo now.

Anthony Kight 1 year, 1 month ago

Exactly ""WHY"" do you think what Brownback is trying to do will work ??? Its never worked before !!! ANYWHERE !!!! Even just once.....The GOP has tried twice on the federal level last (2) times they held the White House....BOTH TIMES !!! they left office with the nation in a recession.....Name me one GOP led state where this kind of plan is working ...Will save you the time because you cannot....I can tell you where its failing.....Kansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Flordia, South Carolina.....and the list goes on

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

Hi, Kevin! Still stirring the pot (illegally) I see.

Chuck Holder 1 year, 1 month ago

KS the Louisiana of the midwest. It's hard to believe that brownback and jundal were once considered presidential candidates.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 1 month ago

THEY and a handful of supporters considered them presidential material. Both of those boats exploded and went down in flames before even leaving the dock.

Maggie Morse 1 year, 1 month ago

Brownback is a typical red state Republican. Cut, slash and burn anything which truly effects people's lives. Just like South Carolina where I live - the roads throughout the state are falling apart! There have been 11,000 claims against SC for damage, injury and even death but Haley doesn't want to raise taxes, NO MATTER WHAT! Of course, Haley is looking for her next job in Washington!

Anthony Kight 1 year, 1 month ago

No surprise here.....Tell me what else would you expect when you have a Gov. that at no point in time has done anything to help the state in any way known to man and has continuously destroyed the states economy's with his grand "" trickle on"" economics experiment that also at no point in time on the state or federal level has ever come close to working....Even just one single time.....

Jim Hahn 1 year, 1 month ago

This is what happens when Republicans get in charge of government and start cutting taxes before figuring how to replace the revenue they are giving back to the people who don't need it. We all know that trickle down economics doesn't work, but Kansas insisted on running the experiment one more time to prove that it doesn't work unequivocally.

Pretty soon, teachers and other workers in Kansas are going to start leaving Kansas for better educational opportunities elsewhere and then the companies who can't find qualified workers will follow them. A downward spiral to be sure.

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 1 month ago

Whatcha talkin' bout, son? That's ALREADY happening. The school districts are having such a hard time getting teachers the State School Board is talking about doing away with licensing and education requirements and allowing any old Joe to stand up in front of a classroom and point at the blackboard. Given that all they do is teach to a test, how hard can it be?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

not just any ole joe. they will need a ALEC RINO Fundamentalist background as the prerequisite. that is the objective. dismantling and defunding public education is the tool.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

--- Ralph Nader suggests replacing 90% of incumbents every election period.

--- Because we cannot decipher who is republican and who is RINO NEVER VOTE REPUBLICAN AGAIN BECAUSE NEVER VOTING REPUBLICAN AGAIN ELIMINATES THE RADICAL ANTI AMERICAN RIGHT WING RINOS THAT HAVE SUBVERTED OUR DEMOCRACY.

Gov Sam Brownback is definitely RINO through and through.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Why is a Jan 15th photo in the paper of Gov Brownback instead of a March 18th or 19th photo?

Is Gov Brownback somewhere meeting with the ALEC leadership? Which of course forbids members of the press.

Shane Cheung 1 year, 1 month ago

This is the effects of Gov.Sam Turdback's Grand Experiment approved by Republicans. Now that they see the results of tax cuts and the lack of job creation, only now are the Republicans showing any signs of oversight. This all you Kansans is what you voted for, "more pain" in voting Republican up and down the line.

Neil Sims 1 year, 1 month ago

The people of Kansas re-elected him, they deserve what they get. Yes, even the ones who voted against him failed to do enough.

Steve King 1 year, 1 month ago

No, no, no Neil. It was voter fraud. Why else won't they look into it? There's several court testimonies back east machines were manipulated. That it can be done from the parking lot with a cell phone. No firewalls on the network.

They plan to pass an unbalanced budget giving Sam authority to make cuts as he sees fit. That provides them insulation in the fall elections. Don't fall for it. Vote out everyone who signed on to our state's ruin from the beginning.

Christine Livingston 1 year, 1 month ago

The voting machines in Kansas are the same kind that were rigged in Kentucky and North Carolina. That is why they don't want them checked.

Michael Dennis 1 year, 1 month ago

How big a fruit basket is Sammy B Jeezy sending to Rick Snyder in Michigan for taking the heat as the most incompetent Governor of all time?

I recently sat behind Sammy B on a Southwest flight to Las Vegas where I was attending an academic conference and he was going to make sure all Republican governors reject Syrian refugees. I did and said nothing and I am so proud of my restraint.

Richard Crank 1 year, 1 month ago

Lemme get this straight ... President Obama is providing leadership and the congressional GOP, including the ultra-radical-right Kansas office holders in DC, are screaming right and right. Gov bb is eschewing leadership and the ultra-radical-right state GOP office holders in Topeka are also screaming right and right. Oops, there I go again, wanting logical consistency from the Kansas Republican party.

Mark Pickerel 1 year, 1 month ago

The Governor and the Legislature know exactly what they are doing. This is all kabuki theatre. Cut taxes, starve the budget, cut services, clean out highway and retirement funds, and feign surprise that you've created a disaster and blame everyone else (including Obama).

Dennis Flavin 1 year, 1 month ago

Hey Billy, Give us a break. A bunch of us did not vote Republican, and are too busy using our pitchforks to feed cattle to carry them to Topeka. Give us a break man!

Dennis Flavin 1 year, 1 month ago

And also, I think my grandchildren will get this turned around.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

Another fake name used only to spew vitriol. How's it goin', Kevin?

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

In response to the now-removed Billy, not you, Dennis.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Never vote republican again. These spineless RINO's do not have the guts to tell Gov Brownback he is not in charge.

Kansas needs a new legislature more than a new governor. Kansas needs a legislature that realizes the man who wants to be a dictator is wrong and has been wrong for several years.

Why do members of the legislature allow themselves to be humiliated by a governor for his own personal political and monetary gain?

This governor and his admin do not give a hoot about any legislator so what is the logic behind getting used?

Never vote republican again it's that simple.

Mike Caddell 1 year, 1 month ago

"Minimum wages kill jobs," said Rep. Mike Kiegerl (R-Olathe). Last year this week he was issuing inflammatory statements (threatening) the life of a Kansas abortion doctor. He must think we need to breed more wage-slaves. See: https://archive.org/details/KsRepKiegerl25March2015

Joe Cheray 1 year, 1 month ago

Help us get the feds involved and take away Brownback's powers and his administrations powers. By getting the feds involved they appoint who will run Kansas until such time Kansas can restore itself back to a normal functioning government and ask to be re-instated back into the union.

Here is how you can help.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/revoke-kansas-statehood-under-article-4-section-4-failure-guarantee-republican-form-government

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