October 25, 2016
We are just days out from what may be the most important election of our life time. Elections are fundamentally about holding the Party in power accountable. In the case of Kansas, there is an appalling litany of promises and policies for which Governor Brownback and his allies in the Legislature should be held accountable. Only a few will be mentioned here.
First, the promise that his tax cuts for the wealthy would act “as a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.” Second, his tax policies would produce 25,000 new jobs each year during his second term.
Rather than produce the kind of economic Renaissance predicted, Kansas has experienced month after month of revenue short falls followed by spending down the state’s budget reserve, sweeping more than $1 billon from the highway fund into the state’s general fund in order to cover budget short falls, draconian cuts to the budgets of our public schools and universities, cuts to Medicaid providers and social programs for our most vulnerable citizens, delayed pension payments, decertification of a state hospital costing the state $1 million a month in lost federal funds, and culminating in repeated downgrades of the state’s credit rating and the largest tax increase in the state’s history which falls disproportionately on poor and medium income Kansans.
The issue of the expansion of Medicaid coverage for 150,000 poor and disabled Kansans is perhaps the issue which best illustrates the callous indifference of Brownback and his allies to the plight of the disadvantaged. The Governor believes that support for expansion of Medicaid coverage is “morally reprehensible”. The scope of the Governor’s indictment is, to be charitable, breathtaking inasmuch as 64 percent of Kansans and 58 percent of Kansas Republicans, according to a recent poll, support the expansion of Medicaid. Moreover, approximately 30 Governors including, most notably, Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence, also support expansion.
The Kansas Hospital Association predicts that by 2020 Medicaid expansion would create more than 4,000 new jobs and add more than $300 million in personal income annually to the Kansas economy. Moreover, the Federal Government is legally bound to pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion through the end of 2016 and 90 percent of the cost thereafter.
The Governor and his allies are right about one thing: the question of expansion of Medicaid is a moral issue. The uninsured are suffering and literally dying due to their inability to access affordable healthcare.
The refusal of Brownback and his radical conservative allies to expand Medicaid coverage is the product of their fear of political retribution by the Koch Empire and an ideology that will not yield to reason.
Turning finally to the issue of job growth, the Governor’s promise of 25,000 new jobs a year during his second term is pure fantasy. According to the Kansas Department of Labor, Kansas had 600 fewer seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in September than the previous month. Moreover, the state had 5,900 fewer jobs in September than it had the previous year.
That represents an annual growth rate of -0.4 percent, the sixth worst in the nation. In terms of private-sector jobs, Kansas has 6,300 fewer jobs this year than last year for a -0.6 percent growth rate, one of the worst in the nation. Finally, rather than having created 50,000 jobs during the first two years of his second term, the policies of Brownback and his allies have created a pathetic 500 jobs.
Large majorities of Kansas voters reject these delusional and disastrous policies which threaten to turn our state into a dystopia. While Governor Brownback is not on the ballot this election, many of his allies are. Democrats committed to reversing the failed policies of Brownback are running against these radical conservatives. If voters wish to restore fiscal sanity and fundamental fairness to our great state, they should vote Democratic on November 8.
E.L. Lee Kinch
Kansas Democratic Party