A Great Day for Kansas!

Aug 3, 2016 by

Kansas-Governor-Sam-Brownback-800x430Yesterday in the Kansas primary elections supporters of the Brownback experiment were removed from office. Six incumbent Brownback allies in the Kansas Senate lost their bids for reelection to moderate Republican challengers. Tom Arpke, Terry Bruce, Forrest Knox, Jeff Melcher, Larry Powell, and Greg Smith were all ousted. In addition, two more Brownback allies who were vying for open Senate seats – Virgil Peck wanting to replace Jeff King and Larry Salmans hoping to replace Mitch Holmes – found themselves on the losing end of their challenge with moderate Republicans winning both primaries. Two moderate incumbents who were being challenged by Brownback conservatives – Vicki Schmidt and Carolyn McGinn – both won reelection.

Over in the House, eight Brownback allies lost their bids for reelection. Craig McPherson, Brett Hildabrand, Rob Bruchman, Jerry Lunn, Charles Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Will Carpenter, and Kasha Kelly all went down in defeat. Conservative John Faber lost his comeback attempt out west. Open seats formerly held by Brownback conservatives (Marc Kahrs and Kevin Jones) were won by moderates Roger Elliot and Brenda Dietirch. Moderate incumbents facing conservative challengers – Susie Swanson, Steven Becker, and Greg Lewis – all won their races.

All these moderate Republicans ran on a message of tax fairness and real support for public schools.

Winning from Border to Border

It was very clear that the public was behind the moderate comeback. Over in Johnson County where two incumbent senators and six incumbent house members were defeated by moderates, KNEA members worked like never before. And the teachers were bolstered by an unprecedented level of public support. Kansas Families for Education, Game On for Kansas Schools, and Stand Up Blue Valley – citizens groups formed by angry and frustrated parents – grew in strength and resolve. It was teachers, parents, and concerned citizens who chose to engage in politics and who led the battle on behalf of common sense candidates.

But the turning out of conservatives was not just a Johnson County issue. Statewide voters have had enough of the Brownback experiment.  An experiment that has bankrupted the state leaving our schools, highways, public safety efforts, and social services in jeopardy. It happened in southeast Kansas with the defeat of Virgil Peck and Forrest Knox; it happened in central Kansas with the defeat of Terry Bruce and Tom Arpke; it happened in southern Kansas with defeat of Kasha Kelley; it happened in western Kansas with the defeat of Larry Powell. This is a statewide repudiation of the path Brownback and his allies have set upon Kansas.  Let us not forget that we can send another message to his remaining allies in November. 

Cranking Up the Spin Machines

Brownback’s allies are already putting out their spin, trying to make people believe that the election results have nothing to do with his “road map” for Kansas. You will find their spin in an article in the Wall Street Journal (not known as the “liberal media”). Brownback’s Spokeswoman Eileen Hawley and KPI’s Dave Trabert tried to blame other trends or other issues:

“Kansas is not immune from the widespread anti-incumbency sentiment we have seen across the nation this election season.” Eileen Hawley, Brownback Spokeswoman

From the Wall Street Journal: “It’s not a repudiation of either side but of the legislature in general for not dealing with the core issue,” Mr. Trabert said reducing the cost of state government by 6% to 7% would enable the state to keep its lower taxes and balance the budget going forward.

None of the victorious Republican moderates ever campaigned on the desire to cut state services any more. None of them campaigned on the promise of continuing Brownback’s experiment. They campaigned on returning Kansas to a common sense center; a state with a fair tax system that provides the necessary revenue to maintain the high quality of life for which Kansas is known.

Going Forward

Today is day to savor these victories. We all woke up with a renewed sense of hope for our state. But this is not over. The Governor still holds a veto pen with which to threaten these new legislators. There is still a general election during which the forces that brought us Brownback – the Kansas Chamber, KPI, Americans for Prosperity – will unleash their fury on Democrats, hoping to stop any further losses in their anti-government conservative caucus.

We savor today and we gear up for tomorrow. We must carry our efforts forward to November to protect our Democrats. We must seek to replace more of the Brownback allies now with Democrats. We helped the moderate Republicans defeat Brownback conservatives in August. Let’s help the Democrats defeat some more of them in November.

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Governor to Call for Special Session!

Jun 7, 2016 by

Tell your representatives to support equitable and adequate funding according to the Constitution of Kansas. Topeka- Governor Brownback has announced that he will call a special session of the legislature sometime this month. While he announced that “I will do everythin read more

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Less Health Care, More KPERS Delays, and Increased Student Debt

May 19, 2016 by

BrownbackLaughHow do you protect irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Kansans?

You make the poor, children, public employees, and college students pay for them.

That’s what Governor Brownback has done with his latest move to balance a budget destroyed by his reckless tax cuts.

As state revenue continues to crater, the Legislature caved in to Brownback and refused to even talk about an “option 4” – restoring the income tax. Instead they punted to Brownback allowing him to decide what was important in Kansas. And what is important? Protecting his failed tax policy.

Most alarming to educators is Brownback’s $30 million cut to university funding. The bulk of the cut comes directly out of university budgets ($23 million) with another $7 million coming from the Board of Regents budget.

Making up for the cuts, universities will likely have to increase tuition rates. It’s not lost on those of us who have followed the budget debate this year that the legislature repealed a tuition increase cap they enacted just a year earlier specifically to allow bigger tuition hikes.

So, in order to protect a failed “march to zero” income tax policy, our students will either be priced out of a university education or saddled with additional debt.

Brownback also cut another $3 million from the Children’s Cabinet and delayed an additional $100 million in contributions to KPERS. $38 million was taken from KanCare – the state’s Medicaid program which serves the poor.

The Topeka Capitol-Journal reported that the Governor, in announcing the cuts, said, “The three main drivers of budget growth continue to be education, Medicaid and KPERS.” And so, this time around, he took money away from those three areas. He is also quick to assert that he has “protected” K-12 funding at a time when the Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on K-12 funding equity and then take up adequacy.

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Oops! They Did It Again!

May 3, 2016 by

Yes, Governor Sam Brownback and his legislative allies have delivered another budget bill that has resulted in another credit downgrade for the State of Kansas.

In response to a budget bill that takes another $185 million out of funds earmarked for the Kansas Department of Transportation, credit rating service Moody’s have moved the outlook on Kansas highway revenue bonds from “stable” to “negative.” This the fourth credit downgrade Brownback has earned for the state.

Essentially Moody’s is saying that if you are thinking of buying Kansas highway revenue bonds, you might want to think twice because the state has made a habit of taking highway funds to fill holes in the state general fund.

The Governor and some legislators – Senator Forrest Knox, in particular – have been touting the small increase in revenues collected over estimates in April as proof that the “sun is shining in Kansas.” Yes, April revenues came in $2.6 million above estimates but one must not lose sight of the fact that the estimates have been lowered repeatedly since the Brownback tax cuts took effect.

It’s like this…If I estimate that my monthly paycheck will be $1000 and I actually get $900, I might lower the expectations for next month. Now I expect $900 and I get $850. Eventually I can lower my expectations to the point where my income might actually exceed my expectations. I’m still earning less than I need to pay my bills, but at least I’m making more than I thought I would.

And as for that $2.6 million, under the budget passed this weekend the Governor will need to come up with more than $100 million in sweeps and cuts. It’s really not time to celebrate.


Watch a video interview with KNEA Director of Legislative and Political Advocacy, Mark Desetti answering some of your questions about the state budget bill, KPERS, and the LLC tax holiday.

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Conference Committee Actions

Apr 30, 2016 by

CCR SB 63: Repealing the business tax loophole

This bill would repeal the loophole in the tax code supported by Gov. Brownback that allowed more than 330,000 Kansans to pay no income tax at all.

Most of Kansas supports this repeal but this bill proved problematic. While the bill would have repealed the loophole, it was being sold as a solution to the state’s fiscal woes. Unfortunately, it was not. The bill would have provided an estimated $61 million in 2017 and something over $200 million in 2018. Passage of the bill would have given some legislators the opportunity to say they voted to reverse the damage done to the state, we would actually have faced the same disastrous issues we are facing now. This bill would not have funding our schools, fixed our highways, or protected our pensions, universities, and pre-school programs from the Governor’s cuts, sweeps, and delays.

The legislature needs to face up to the fact that “option four” is the only way out of this fiscal mess. Yes, the business income loophole needs to be reversed, but it needs to be done as part of a complete package that reverses the disastrous “march to zero” advocated by Gov. Brownback and his extreme allies in the legislature.

CCR SB 63 was an election year gimmick intended to some who support the Governor’s plan the cover necessary to survive their re-election campaigns. By voting for this bill, they could claim to have “broken with Brownback” to solve the problem while actually doing little to help.

We can guarantee that those who voted yes on this bill will be tagged as “tax raisers” by the radical right elements of the Kansas Chamber, Kansas Policy Institute, and Americans for Prosperity. And yes, they would have done a good deed in making the tax system more fair but they would have done almost nothing to solve the fundamental revenue problems caused by the Governor’s comprehensive and reckless tax cuts passed in 2012 and 2013.

Now that CCR SB 63 has been done away with, let’s hope that the legislature will actually stand up for Kansas and put together a bill supporting option four – reversing the reckless and irresponsible Brownback tax cuts.

No votes are a mixed bag of legislators containing many Democrats and moderate Republicans along with hard right anti-government ideologues. Democrats and Moderates who voted no want to fix the system so that schools, highways, public safety and other vital state services are funded. The hard right wants to continue the “march to zero” and the gutting of those same services.

The report failed on a vote of 45 to 74.

CCR SB 323: The education report

This conference committee was adopted easily. It contains three bills heard in committees and voted on by the legislature.

The first bill, the Jason Flatt Act, requires 1 hour of annual suicide prevention training for school employees,
The second bill establishes a program to track the language development of deaf and hearing impaired students,
The third bill changes the rules for capital improvement state aid, establishing a 6 year rolling average cap on expenditures and allowing the State Board of Education to prioritize projects based on certain criteria.

KNEA supports all three bills. The report was adopted 118 to 0. It now goes to the Senate.

CCR SB 168, KPERS, Working after retirement

This bill does a number of things but those impacting teachers include the following three:

Prohibits pre-arranged working after retirement agreements,
Extends current provisions for three years, until 2020,
Makes certain changes in how to extend employment under the exceptions in current law.

The bill was adopted on a vote of 117 to 1. Only Rep. Jerry Lunn voted now. We imagine this is because he wanted the bill to include his study of retirement “spiking” via deferred compensation. But we’ll let him explain his rationale.

We’re back for the weekend!

Or at least Saturday. The House has now adjourned until 8:30 am tomorrow (yes, that’s Saturday). The Senate has not yet adjourned for the day.

Keep alert tomorrow! Follow us at underthedomeks.org or by using the KNEA app on your smart phone. We may need your help!

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