How’s this for chutzpah from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback?
Last Wednesday, his administration announced the latest in a series of devastating budget cuts made necessary by his fiscally disastrous 2012 income tax cuts.
On Thursday, Brownback sent out a letter in which he asked donors to send “your most generous contribution” to “Brownback for Governor, Inc.” to help him pay off 2014 campaign debts.
The opening sentence: “The liberal media continues to unleash a daily barrage of false and misleading attacks against our state and our values.”
Then in bold-faced type: “The liberals and their allies in the media will stop at nothing to undermine the conservative reforms we are making in Kansas.”
The letter, by the way, does not mention the state government’s tremendous economic woes, which he helped create.
Or the fact that the Legislature returns Wednesday to try to balance the shaky Sunflower State budget.
Or that even some Republican lawmakers are pressing Brownback to end the costly tax cuts for businesses and farmers, which sap more than $200 million a year away from public services.
However, the Brownback letter does seem to know what will play with the ultra-conservative, starve government crowd.
The missive includes attacks on “media elitists,” “leftists in the media,” Democrats and “their friends in the liberal media,” “liberals in the media” and “liberal outside groups.”
Plus this one in boldfaced type: “Some at the local Missouri-based paper in Kansas have even taken to openly rooting for the Kansas economy to fail.” Wonder which media property he’s talking about?
His critics, the governor said, “can’t stand a conservative governor who leads with honesty and integrity.”
Brownback makes the point that the media are ignoring positive things happening in the state.
His top example: “Cut income taxes by over 30% for all Kansans while eliminating the income tax for 388,000 of the poorest Kansans.”
Others include creating more jobs, lowering the unemployment rate, supporting gun rights, funding schools “at historic levels of over $4 billion per year,” enacting a property tax lid for local governments, holding the line on expansion of Obamacare and championing welfare-to-work reforms.
Kansas critics of the governor could nitpick this list all day. For instance, he does not mention any of the court-ordered issues with school funding.
But a few things are plainly missing from that list.
Here are some of the sobering realities.
Just last Wednesday, the day before this letter went out, Brownback announced that road funds would be cut by $185 million and higher education by $17 million for next year.
Because that won’t balance the budget, the governor has asked the Legislature to look at other ideas, all of them bad. They include not making a payment of almost $100 million for now into the state pension fund and slashing K-12 funding by around $57 million.
The governor’s letter also doesn’t mention the more than $1 billion already swept out of road funds in the last few years to balance the budget as well as a number of other financial tricks he’s had to employ to keep the state out of red ink.
The letter neglects the fact that the state’s own labor officials say Kansas did not gain a single job in the 12 months between March 2015 and March 2016.
Brownback’s letter says he needs the money because his 2014 campaign took on “hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.”
“I am writing to you today to ask that you continue to stand with me in the effort to move Kansas and America in the right direction. Your contribution of $2,000, $1,000, $500, $250, $50 or even $25 will show the Democrats and the liberals in the media that you support me in this effort.”
Finally, before signing off with “Best regards,” Brownback writes:
“Together, we are building a better Kansas and a better America.”
Updated Tuesday afternoon:
“The letter is intended to retire 2014 campaign debt and any funds raised will be used for that purpose,” Eileen Hawley, the governor’s communications director/press secretary, wrote to me in an email. “Money raised by the campaign cannot be used to directly support other candidates.”
Oh, one final note:
On Monday, Standard & Poor’s Rating Agencies put Kansas on its “Credit Negative” list after the revenue shortfalls were announced, bringing with them the “likelihood of structural budget deficit.”