Barbara Shelly

Gov. Sam Brownback’s ‘American renaissance’ has a nice ring, but …

Updated: 2014-01-16T02:21:12Z

By BARBARA SHELLY

The Kansas City Star

Gov. Sam Brownback claimed a lot of bragging rights in his State of the State address tonight.

Kansas, he said, is leading nothing less than “an American renaissance.”

How so? By creating jobs, cutting government, cutting income taxes and returning “to the virtue and character that built this state and a great nation in the first place.”

By the end of the speech, Brownback had morphed into full preacher mode, suggesting that economic growth in Kansas was leading people to “realize their God-given potential” and that “our dependence is not on Big Government but on a Big God that loves us and lives within us.”

Make what you will of the church-state blending. Brownback probably isn’t counting heavily on the atheist vote.

His speech, leading into an election year, was long on rhetoric and short on news. He rattled some sabers at the Kansas Supreme Court about the upcoming school finance ruling, but Brownback’s dislike of the judges is well known. Except for repeating his wish to finally get full-day kindergarten into all public schools, the governor announced no new initiatives. He basically summed up all the things he’s been saying the last three years.

Paul Davis, the Kansas House minority leader who is likely to challenge Brownback for governor on the Democratic ticket, issued a rebuttal from an elementary school.

His speech was quite a bit newsier than the governor’s. Davis pointed out, for instance, that while Kansas was leading the American renaissance, property taxes went up in 86 of 105 counties. And the sales tax increase that was supposed to be temporary became permanent. And tuition rose at Kansas universities because of budget cuts.

Right there is Davis’ campaign theme. Brownback’s policies, he said, have caused pain for ordinary Kansans while he “gave massive tax breaks to a narrow group who need help the least.”

I don’t think you’ll hear Davis call for higher taxes in his campaign, but you’ll hear a lot of talk about a fairer tax structure.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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