Sam Brownback, the mythmaker.
The governor was at it again Wednesday, telling happy Republicans at a post-primary election victory party in Topeka that all is well in the state of Kansas.
See his acknowledgment of state Treasurer Ron Estes, as reported in the Lawrence Journal-World:
“When he first came in we had less than a thousand bucks cash on hand at the end of that fiscal year,” Brownback said, referring to Estes. “He had $434 million at the end of this last fiscal year we just had, so he’s got a little more money that he’s working with. The past team didn’t leave us with that.”
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Well, the past team, meaning Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson and Democratic Treasurer Dennis McKinney, were managing the fallout from the worst recession since the Great Depression. And as a matter of fact they did leave Team Brownback with a nice gift — a temporary one-cent sales tax increase signed into law by Parkinson. Brownback liked it so much he made part of it permanent.
Brownback also failed to mention that the $434 million general fund balance that the state had to begin the current fiscal year was quite a bit less than the $687.4 million that forecasters had projected. Or that the state can’t meet expenses in this current fiscal year without draining what little is left in that reserve fund.
In other words, Kansas is about to go broke.
Brownback may be able to lull the party faithful into a cheap high by talking about record private sector employment (although job growth lags behind neighboring states) but he’s not fooling the experts.
Right in the middle of the victory party came news that Standard & Poor’s was lowering Kansas’ bond rating to AA from AA+. An analyst said the downgrade was the result of “a structurally unbalanced budget, following state income tax cuts that have not been matched with offsetting ongoing expenditure cuts in the fiscal 2015 budget.”
That’s ominous, because governors and legislators in Kansas have cut and cut and cut. Education and human services programs, including health care, make up 90 percent of the budget, so guess what is going to get cut next year?
Moody’s Investor Services also cited the tax cuts when downgrading the state’s bond rating, but Brownback brushed all of that off. “We’re putting those dollars back into the economy and the bond rating agencies don’t like you cutting taxes,” he said.
Well, no. Not when cutting taxes impairs your ability to pay your bills.
Democratic legislator Jim Ward, who spoke to the Wichita Eagle, summed up Brownback’s reaction to bad news:
“When presented concrete evidence of a fiscal crisis he denies it exists,” Ward said. “He blames the people who bring the data. You cannot live in a world where you reject all information that doesn’t feed into your ideology.”
Oh, yes you can. Brownback has been living in that world for months. The question is how many voters will follow him down the rabbit hole.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.