Democratic members of the Kansas House and Senate held a news conference Thursday at the Capitol to denounce Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget policies but offered few proposals of their own.
“Kansans are paying, literally, for the mismanagement of this governor,” said House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat.
Brownback on Wednesday outlined his budget proposals to close shortfalls in both the current budget and next year’s budget, partly by moving money from such places as the highway fund and a children’s program fund into the general fund.
Burroughs criticized Brownback for failing to adequately fund public schools and for lackluster job growth compared with nearby states.
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Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, complained that while Brownback in his State of the State address Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama on security issues, he should be addressing public safety in Kansas.
Thirty-six counties have no state trooper assigned to them and 30 counties have just one, Hensley said. Failing to make public safety a priority “isn’t just reckless, it’s dangerous,” he said.
Democrats are vastly outnumbered in the Kansas Legislature, with just eight of 40 members in the Senate and 28 of 125 members in the House. All legislative seats are up for election this year.
Besides public safety, Democrats said their 2016 priorities are to attract jobs, push for transparent government and focus on public schools, particularly on retaining teachers.
Hensley said Democrats are working on specific proposals, including one to address the grocery store sales tax. Kansas taxes groceries at the full 6.5 percent rate plus local sales taxes. Many states exempt groceries from sales taxes or apply a lower rate.
The tax on groceries wasn’t addressed last session when Brownback and his Republican allies pushed for a sales tax increase, Hensley said, which means “they’re satisfied with having the highest sales tax on food in the entire country.”