By now, most Kansans with any common sense don’t expect much out of Gov. Sam Brownback.
He’s ruined the state budget with reckless tax cuts. He couldn’t keep his promise to create more jobs with those tax reductions.
In recent weeks he vetoed two measures passed by a near-super majority of the Legislature, then was narrowly sustained by a group of his remaining irresponsible, ultra-conservative Republican followers.
One bill would have provided enough new tax revenue to deliver better public services to Kansans. The other would have expanded Medicaid and provided more poor people with health care.
But then last week happened, leading to this tweet Friday morning from Bryan Lowry, The Kansas City Star’s lead political reporter.
— Bryan Lowry (@BryanLowry3) April 21, 2017
The tweet caught my eye because, yes, two positive things indeed had happened in that time stretch for the governor.
— The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday morning that the state had gained 1,400 total nonfarm jobs in March 2017. And the state had added 3,600 total jobs since March 2016.
— Officials predicted Thursday that tax collections would be about $100 million higher than originally projected in fiscal year 2018 (which starts July 1) and fiscal year 2019.
However, upon closer inspection, neither piece of good news is worth getting too excited about in a state where Kansans rightly have such low expectations of their governor.
The growth of 3,600 jobs was a puny 0.3 percent over the last 12 months, which was the ninth worst rate in the nation over that time span. That continues Kansas’ streak of being in or near the bottom 10 for many months.
Also, the total of 1,414,000 nonfarm jobs in March was 1,600 jobs fewer than Kansas had six months ago, in September 2016.
Overall, the employment picture in Kansas remains quite cloudy, with no positive, sustained surge in sight.
Regarding tax revenues, the estimated extra $100 million in revenues drops the expected deficit from $1 billion to a still-huge $900 million over the next two fiscal years.
It will require large tax increases, budget cuts or a combination to balance the budget.
Notably, that projected deficit does not include the fact that Kansas’ K-12 funding will have to increase to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court ruling. If the figure is close to $500 million annually — which has been discussed by some education leaders — that could boost the projected deficit over two fiscal years to $1.9 billion.
The recent pieces of good news for Brownback are minor triumphs for a governor who has given Kansans little reason to think he’s going to lead the state in the right direction in his remaining time in office.