Local Columnists

Steve Kraske: You say you want a revolution in Kansas? Don’t ‘overexpect’

Rep. Mark Hutton of Wichita (left) and Rep. Daniel Hawkins (right) joined other Kansas House members as votes on a tax increase were tallied early Friday.
Rep. Mark Hutton of Wichita (left) and Rep. Daniel Hawkins (right) joined other Kansas House members as votes on a tax increase were tallied early Friday. TNS

One of those weary, downtrodden Kansas Democrats called Friday with a question that was more like a plea.

“This session of the Legislature has got to be the turning point,” she said. “Republicans have gone too far. They’re done, right?”

Don’t shoot the messenger, Tammy. It won’t be that simple.

The 2015 session will go down as a train wreck, a debacle of the highest magnitude. When lawmakers are dealing with massive bills they haven’t read, when meaty decisions are getting decided at 4 a.m., when the governor is making teary-eyed pleas to members of his own party, that’s when you’ve got problems.

But if you’re hoping that a mess like this translates into dramatic change, well, don’t overexpect, as Andy Griffith once said.

Republicans who lead the Legislature hold one very valuable ace, and that’s the indisputable fact that we live in an odd-numbered year. Elections are in even-numbered years, meaning that the next go-round for voters will be in 2016. That’s a full year and some change away.

One inescapable fact of modern-day politics is that voters have very short memories. The year 2016 is to today as Jupiter is to Kansas City — so distant as to be irrelevant.

What happens next session will have far more impact on the politics of 2016. Count on the boys and girls of the Legislature to be far more disciplined when balloting is just around the corner.

That said, Republicans in this deeply red state already are braced for the loss of a few seats. They hold historic majorities — 97 of 125 in the House and 32 of 40 senators. Maintaining those margins is unrealistic given all the tumult. Party leaders anticipate another intense round of primaries, which won’t help.

One of those primaries developed Friday when Lenexa’s Dinah Sykes filed to run against Republican Sen. Greg Smith. Sykes’ beef: Smith cut taxes on businesses but raised them on the middle class.

The last time Kansas flipped control of a legislative chamber from Republican to Democratic was in 1990. GOP Gov. Mike Hayden got tangled up in reclassifying property values, which led to higher property taxes, and that was the end of Hayden.

In a sense, Gov. Sam Brownback is walking down the same road by raising sales taxes, affecting every consumer. But unless you’re buying a car, most people won’t notice a boost of a few tenths of a percent. Brownback won’t even be on the ballot next year.

A 2016 revolution? Just not seeing it.

To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to skraske@kcstar.com.