Editorial: Frustrating farewell address

Proposal by Brownback for $600 million in school funding irks party leaders

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback waves to the crowd before giving his final State of the State address Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, on the floor of the Kansas House. (Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal)

After Gov. Sam Brownback’s final State of the State address and the release of his budget, many GOP lawmakers are furious with him.

 

During his speech on Tuesday night, he shocked the state when he called for a $600 million increase in K-12 funding — the total amount that school district attorneys are requesting.

Brownback asked the Legislature to spread out the allocations over the next five years and said a tax increase wouldn’t be necessary. Republican leaders characterized the proposal as irresponsible, disingenuous and unworkable.

Their rants are worth repeating.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning says he’s “really pissed off” and argues that Brownback is “giving everybody a sense of false hope that he’s just solved the school issue when he’s made it a hell of a lot worse.” Denning also accused Brownback of “putting the screws to us for next year. That must be his parting gift to us for overturning his tax policy.’’

Also, he attacked Brownback for trying to “lead like he’s in Washington, D.C.”

“His financial acumen as we know is very low,” Denning said. “But this is reckless.”

Senate President Susan Wagle is no less indignant. She contends Brownback is proposing what’s “clearly a very political budget … one that we can’t afford without a major tax increase next year.” After the governor’s address, Wagle explained that Brownback “refused to work with Republicans” on taxes last year and assailed them when they voted for the $1.2 billion tax increase.

“He demeaned them, he ridiculed them, he threw them under the bus,’’ Wagle said. That’s why she says, “it’s very disingenuous of him” to suggest more spending.

Clearly, GOP leaders should be frustrated. While Brownback is calling for $600 million in additional spending for schools, his budget only outlines how a third of that total will be funded.

Brownback wants to have it both ways. After he suggested the substantial increase in education funding, he insisted that “money by itself will not solve the problem.”

That is particularly true if details are not provided for how the state can allocate such funds.

Constant deferrals from the state highway fund only create problems, ahem, down the road in terms of infrastructure. Delaying funding for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System also creates future shortfalls that eventually must be addressed.

These are issues the governor will leave behind for lawmakers. His re-nomination by President Trump to serve as an international ambassador of religious freedom could enable Brownback to leave his seat before the end of the legislative session if he gains the confirmation of what has been a reluctant U.S. Senate.

Finding methods, including potential program cuts, to authorize a $600 million package for public schools is a gift legislators do not want to unwrap and a plan they should not have to unravel.

Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.

 

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