A news report Wednesday said Gov. Sam Brownback could be the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations agencies for food and agriculture in Rome. Getting rid of this destructive, delusional leader would be good news for Kansans.
But would Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer be a strong replacement for Brownback? Or too much of a Brownback clone?
The evidence is not as positive as Kansans deserve to see, given how badly Brownback has wrecked the state budget.
Positively, Colyer shouldn’t be as invested in the reckless, costly income tax cuts that Brownback and the Legislature passed in 2012. Maybe Colyer will allow the Legislature to pass higher taxes to balance the state budget — which Brownback successfully vetoed recently — and to better finance public schools. Colyer’s attempts to reach out to lawmakers in recent months have impressed some who are sick of Brownback’s incompetent governing.
However, take a look at what Colyer has actually said in recent months on a few high-profile issues. Suddenly he looks a lot like a Brownback sycophant. That’s not good news.
— On higher taxes: “There’s a recession going on in the Midwest, and people are hurting,” he said in December. “And we need to make sure that we do all that we can to ensure that essential services are provided and that we’re not taking more money out of people’s pockets.”
— On Medicaid expansion: Saying that Donald Trump intends to repeal Obamacare, Colyer tweeted on Feb. 8, “Expanding Obamacare now would be a huge mistake for Kansas.”
He has pounded that theme in later tweets, such as this one:
I applaud the #ksleg House Health Cmte for not approving Medicaid Expansion. Federal health reform will bring better choices for Kansans.
— Dr. Jeff Colyer (@DrJeffColyer) February 20, 2017
— On a federal report denying Kansas’ bid to extend a waiver allowing it to operate KanCare, its privatized managed care Medicaid system put together under Colyer’s leadership:
— Dr. Jeff Colyer (@DrJeffColyer) January 19, 2017
To his credit, Colyer later softened his tone and said the state would work to improve KanCare, though that’s been a multiyear effort without enough success.
— In late February, Colyer spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (where Brownback also was a presenter) on a “Breaking out of Regulatory Prison” panel to discuss conservative solutions.
— On abortion, Colyer is right in line with Brownback’s ultra-conservative views:
— Dr. Jeff Colyer (@DrJeffColyer) February 11, 2017
— On refugees, Colyer appears to be in lockstep with Brownback’s hard-line feelings:
— Dr. Jeff Colyer (@DrJeffColyer) January 30, 2017
— On school choice/vouchers, Colyer again looks like a Brownback ally:
— Dr. Jeff Colyer (@DrJeffColyer) January 10, 2017
If Brownback leaves Kansas, Colyer will have the opportunity to unhook himself from his predecessor’s points of view.
Alas, so far, Colyer has given little indication he would be willing to do that.