Last week, Governor Sam Brownback gave his State of the State speech. You may have listened to it, though you couldn't have watched it on television, nor on the State's promised streaming service (it never quite took off there).
Some enterprising reporters took it on themselves to stream it live from their mobile devices, and the Topeka Capital Journal has a version you can watch now (as well as a transcript).
There are no surprises here. But there is plenty to anger any hard-working Kansan looking for leadership in a time of economic trouble, moral crisis, and foundering state fortunes. We don't have the space to address every half-truth and mean spirited jab, but here are a few that stood out.
His own facts and half truths
The Governor's speech was full of facts, but none of them were the full facts.
In them most egregious example, he touted 388,000 low income Kansans are now paying no income tax, thanks to his policies. He did not think to mention that 100,000 of them had already paid no income tax, and the rest will save an average of $49 a year. He failed to mention that all Kansans, including those low income Kansans, are now paying a much higher sales tax, estimated to eliminate any "savings" from this scheme. And he failed to point out that another 330,000 high income Kansans, business owners, are also paying no income tax thanks to him, costing the state $200 million in lost revenue every year.
In another half truth, he claimed the Federal Affordable Care Act had hurt rural hospitals and rural Kansans, without mentioning that his petulant refusal to accept expanded Medicaid funds is what has raised costs in rural areas. The leadership in the Kansas Legislature has removed lawmakers with experience in pharmacy, medicine, and rural health care from health committees because they believe that expanding Medicaid is the best way to improve the health of Kansans.
And he had the gall to extol the reduced number of Kansans on welfare under his watch, without recognizing that they have been forced off by new requirements from the state. They are not better off, they are just don't meet the lowered standards anymore. A family of three has to make less than $6,000 a year to qualify for welfare in Kansas. The Kansas poverty rate remains high, growing in the last decade, under his watch.
His own morality without compassion
Our Governor is fond of being seen as a compassionate conservative. The Governor made special mention of Planned Parenthood in his speech, decrying their "trafficking in baby parts" and calling on the state to refuse Medicaid payments for Planned Parenthood services. He knowingly lied, as just a few days later, the state's own Medical Board investigation cleared the organization of any wrongdoing. How much money will Kansas save by refusing these funds? $61,000 annually, according to PP. And what will this prevent? Not the heinous acts he claimed. Not even needed or lifesaving abortions. No, his actions will keep low income and minority Kansas women and families from receiving critical preventive care, cancer screenings, and birth control.
This week we heard horrific stories from Syria, of entire towns cut off from food, children starving in the streets. And yet the Governor declared Kansas closed to refugees, first from Syria, then from any "terroristic" nation. He declared Kansas closed to the women, children and families fleeing that terror, escaping the clutches of war, looking for help, compassion, and safety. The people of Kansas have petitioned him to bring refugees here, but he prefers the politics of fear.
His compassion is bounded firmly by his fundamentalist conservatism.
Any accountability was missing
Finally, his speech was disingenuously blind to his own failings. In his speech, the Governor attacked President Obama for his perceived failures. But the Governor ignored his own. Missing entirely from the speech was any mention of the state's financial straits. In fact, he talked about how strong KPERS was, despite adding a risky $1 billion bond to KPERS in a soft financial market last year. The next day, the Governor's budget director came to the statehouse with a list of cuts to balance the budget, including the elimination of the Children's Initiative Fund, sweeping all of it into the General Fund instead.
And the legislative leadership stood and clapped, cheered and extolled his leadership afterwards. Don't worry about the budget, Sen. Jeff Melcher said, it'll work itself out. They are complicit in the mess into which we are sliding.
The Governor opened his speech with the phrase, "Here the people rule."
From his lips to the voting booth. Remember to register to vote, to vote, and to do more than vote.