Departure of Kansas budget director not seen as having big policy impact

08/16/2013 9:40 PM

08/16/2013 9:40 PM

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration lost a pivotal player Friday when the budget director announced that he is stepping down.

Steve Anderson, who joined the Brownback team in 2010, said in a prepared statement that he plans to spend more time with his family.

He will leave his post at the end of August. His interim replacement will be Jon Hummel, the governor’s policy director.

“My family has supported me without question as I spent the majority of time away from them,” said Anderson, the managing director of the accounting firm Anderson Reichert Anderson, which has offices in Kansas and Oklahoma.

“It is time for me to be with my wife and our boys and enjoy our time as a family.”

Anderson, 59, is the fourth major player Brownback has lost since taking office in 2011. The heads of three agencies — social services, labor and juvenile justice — resigned or were fired after undisclosed disputes.

Brownback sent Anderson off with praise.

“I am grateful to Steve for his commitment to this state,” Brownback said in a prepared statement. “His hard work has helped set the stage for Kansas to compete in a global economy.”

Anderson joined the Brownback administration with a conservative pedigree that included work for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative think tank founded and partly funded by billionaires David and Charles Koch.

Anderson worked in the Oklahoma Office of State Finance under Gov. Frank Keating, a conservative Republican who successfully pushed to cut that state’s income taxes. In his time working for Americans for Prosperity, Anderson authored a model budget for Kansas that called for lower taxes, reduced spending and privatization of more state services.

Some of those ideas surfaced later in Brownback’s agenda, including attempts to abolish the arts commission and merge the human rights commission with the attorney general’s office. Anderson’s report also urged the increased use of toll roads in the Kansas City area, something that’s now being studied.

Anderson made headlines earlier this year when he apologized for an erroneous statistic that Brownback had been using to claim spending cuts that didn’t happen.

The error was in a chart that showed spending at $16 billion in 2010, the final year of Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson. The correct figure was $14.04 billion.

Rep. Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican on the House budget committee, said Anderson had been talking about leaving public life for a while.

“He’s not being forced out,” Kleeb said.

Kleeb said he didn’t see Anderson involved in developing policy as much as he was riding herd on state agencies to limit spending and find efficiencies.

“He has been a really good person to keep that at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” Kleeb said.

Former state senator John Vratil, who was a key player in budget talks before leaving office last year, said he didn’t think Anderson had a significant influence. He said policy is still in the hands of the governor and his top political lieutenant, David Kensinger.

“I think David Kensinger has more than influence than Steve did,” said Vratil, a Leawood Republican. “I think he just did the budget the way he was told to do it.”

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