Reporters who cover government and politics are guilty of a lot of things. One of them is hyping otherwise ordinary events as “crucial,” “critical” or “pivotal.”
Take the runup to every primary in this year’s GOP presidential race. You’ve never seen so many “crucials” and “pivotals.”
But I’m borrowing those adjectives for what will transpire next week in Topeka — for it is crucial and pivotal.
One week from now, we should have not only a clearer idea of the success, or failure, of the 2012 legislative session, we’ll know a lot more about the trajectory of Gov. Sam Brownback’s term and — seriously — the trajectory of the state of Kansas as a whole.
We truly stand at a fork in the road that will determine the shape of public education and tax policy and the level of services the state will supply for years, and maybe decades, to come.
In a week, we’ll know if the conservative, low-income tax philosophy Brownback has espoused since he won office in 2010 is the path Kansas takes. Or will it be the traditional, balanced approach that relies on property, sales and income taxes?
Brownback argues that slashing income taxes is the road to more jobs and a more prosperous state. Moderate Republicans say that supply side economics was discredited during Ronald Reagan’s time. They also point out that schools are vastly underfunded and insist that conservatives have provided no evidence that they’ll boost school funding even if state revenues grow.
On the line: Kansas’ reputation as a state with solid, above-average public schools.
Next week, lawmakers will grapple with taxes, redistricting and spending. In theory, there’s no way they can complete all that work by Friday, the session’s 90th day, when funding for paying lawmakers ends. Some senators already are saying they’re going home that day, no matter what.
Bottom line: If there ever was a time to speak out on all things Topeka, this is it. Call your legislators.
A group of former Kansas lawmakers just spoke up and were harshly critical of Brownback’s push to lower income taxes and his refusal to more fully fund public schools.
What made the group’s pitch interesting is that all 50 are former Republican lawmakers, although they clearly fall within the moderate camp. Still, they were taking on a governor from their own party.
In the group were former lieutenant governors, House speakers, a Senate president and a former U.S. senator. In all, they represented more than 500 years of statehouse experience.
Was it tough to stand up to the governor? Apparently not.
“You believe what’s right,” said former state lawmaker Rochelle Chronister, the group’s spokeswoman. “Some days you’ve just got to stand up and say it.”