Reports circulating Friday provide more evidence that Kansas lawmakers in both parties are tired of waiting for Gov. Sam Brownback to show some spine and leadership on fixing the broken state budget.
Sure, some of the new GOP posturing regarding Brownback is especially political. Lawmakers who helped get Kansas into this mess want to look like they’re finally going to be accountable to taxpayers.
But at least the criticism is rolling in. That’s a start toward pressuring the governor to tell Kansans sooner — not later — how he intends to balance the budget. Lay off workers? Cut programs? Steal more money from highway or children’s funds?
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, sent a somewhat blistering email on the subject Friday to colleagues. The Wichita Eagle reported the email in a comprehensive story on the $350 million budget gap staring Kansas in the face for the current fiscal year.
“I ask that you join me in calling on the governor to lead and use this opportunity to implement necessary cuts this fiscal year,” Wagle wrote. “Trust me; there is talk of bullying the legislature into another one-time fix. We could be asked to buy a bottle of rubber cement and patch-it with one time funds found under a mattress, or we could be pushed into a short sale of future receipts from the tobacco settlement to make ends meet.”
Wagle doesn’t get a pass from me on this topic. She’s a latecomer to the “let’s fix things” war that Democrats and moderate Republicans have been waging the last few years regarding the budget.
But it’s going to take people like Wagle waking up to the truth that Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts — which are costing the state treasury more than $650 million a year — have been a disaster. That’s how real change should be able to occur in the Sunflower State.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, told the Topeka Capital-Journal about Brownback: “He is taking what I would consider the coward’s way out by not proposing cuts even before the session.”
Cowardly is a good description of how Brownback has handled this entire mess, including the fact he remains delusional in claiming the tax cuts are helping move the state forward.
The response to The Eagle on Friday came in an ignorant statement from spokeswoman Melika Willoughby, who said, “It is interesting that legislators who campaigned on protecting core functions of government from spending cuts are now criticizing the governor for refusing to cut K-12, higher education, social services, and public safety.”
Actually, lawmakers and Kansas taxpayers deserve the details of how Brownback will roll out a semblance of a plan to fix the budget gap. There’s no advantage for anybody if he waits almost two months to do it in a budget message in early 2017.
His continued silence will just help spread more rumors around the capital. For example: State workers will be laid off. State services will be slashed. More state pension contributions will be delayed. More one-time fixes will be sought.
The earlier Brownback speaks out, the more legislators of both parties can seriously review his ideas — if he even has any. Now that’s a scary possibility.