Steve Rose

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s blather: Is it denial or spin?

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback dismisses the notion that the budget shortfalls in the Sunflower State and steep cuts in services are what cost his legislative allies their seats.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback dismisses the notion that the budget shortfalls in the Sunflower State and steep cuts in services are what cost his legislative allies their seats. The Kansas City Star

If you’re sick and tired of reading about the woes of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, just imagine how we journalists feel about continually covering his gloomy performance and editorializing about him. In fact, I, for one, had decided to take a break from writing about the governor.

But I was recently in the studios of Kansas City Public Television, getting ready to tape “Ruckus” when, prior to taping, the panelists were shown a clip from a just-conducted interview with Brownback and host Mike Shanin.

Brownback was asked several times in several different ways about his unpopularity in Kansas and whether he thought the recent sweeping successes by Republican moderates were a repudiation of his tax policies.

Brownback smiled broadly and explained that they were not repudiation and, no, he didn’t think his extremely low approval ratings were justified.

It was the media’s fault for beating the drums with false information, and also he had not done a very good job of getting the real story out to the public.

The governor is either in total denial, or he could be the master of spin, knowing deep down what he is saying is a crock.

In the 10-minute interview, Brownback did not get around to mentioning his controversial tax policies at all. Brownback takes zero responsibility for the plummeting tax revenues, which happened immediately after he cut income tax rates and allowed 330,000 businesses to pay no taxes.

In fact, he blamed the revenue shortfalls on downturns in certain industries. Economists in Kansas have generally dismissed those downturns as major factors in the state’s revenue crisis.

Brownback dismisses the notion that budget shortfalls and steep cuts in services are what cost his legislative allies their seats.

Rather, he believes the real issue with the voters is the misperception that kindergarten- through 12th-grade education funding has been cut.

Brownback said in the interview that the real story is that spending on education has gone up 8 percent during his time in office.

There are two huge problems with Brownback’s comments.

First, moderate Republicans who knocked off incumbents allied with Brownback are saying it was tax policies, not public education, that the voters seemed to care most about.

But the bigger issue is that public education funding for classrooms has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars under Brownback’s tenure, and that is no misperception. Brownback’s 8 percent increase has to do with allocations to the teachers’ retirement fund.

That does not help schools pay their teachers or keep classroom sizes from increasing.

Speaking on behalf of myself, I do indeed blast Brownback and the Legislature on a regular basis and I offer no apologies. What is happening in Kansas is nothing less than historic.

What will be remembered from these dark ages is that a high-functioning, progressive state was dismantled over two terms of a Sam Brownback administration.

The argument was that slashing taxes would cause revenues to grow, not plummet.

This experiment will go down in history as final proof that supply-side economics, promoted by economist Arthur Laffer, is a terribly flawed concept and has almost destroyed a state.

I just cannot sit idly by and allow Brownback’s blather to go out over the airwaves without clearing the dismal record one more time.

And now, I will take that much needed Brownback break.

Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist: srose@kc.rr.com.

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