Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to inject $600 million of new funding into schools isn’t sitting well with many, including Republican lawmakers and even a former Brownback staffer.
The angst was apparent even during the State of the State Address. A heckler was removed after twice interrupting Brownback’s speech. He first blurted, “Because of poverty,” when Brownback said money alone wouldn’t improve schools. Minutes later, he shouted,”What about the slavery in our prisons,” as Brownback spoke about fighting human trafficking.
The heckler was removed from the House chamber, but others expressed their frustration with the Governor’s proposals in press statements and on social media after the speech.
One legislator said the Governor’s proposal betrays his allies.
“The Governor has waved the white flag of surrender from the dome and tossed every ally he had left under the bus, then put the bus in reverse, then lit fire to the bus,” Rep. J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican, tweeted.
He didn’t let up when Kansas Budget Director Shawn Sullivan formally presented Brownback’s budget to a House committee. Claeys, chair of the House transportation committee, warned that the state would be taking highway funds in order to add money to education.
“I suppose potholes might slow our kids down as they move to Texas,” he quipped.
The Kansas Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank which often supported the Governor’s proposals to limit taxes and initiate school choice opportunities, issued a blog post saying Brownback’s recommendation fails students.
“Simply spending more money on education never has – and never will – cause achievement to improve,” the post reads. “Hopefully, the Legislature will reject his 2018 State of the State proposal and start holding schools accountable for improving outcomes and making more effective use of record-setting funding already provided. In other words, take action that will actually help students and teachers instead of bowing to the school bureaucracy.”
Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican, tweeted her amazement at Brownback’s proposal.
“Amazing @govsambrownback blasted #ksleg for largest tax increase on ‘backs of working Kansans’ last session and then not only doesn’t remove some of the $200 million in new spending and then adds $600-plus million more, all without raising taxes. Doubtful,” she tweeted.
Ian Fury, a former Brownback staffer, warned in a tweet that the Governor’s budget recommendation can “only worsen the problem of over-expansive government.”
— Ian Fury (@IanTFury) January 10, 2018
“Kansas will never spend its way to prosperity,” he tweeted. “Government can never hope to achieve that. This budget only worsens the problem of over-expansive government.”
Members of Senate leadership announced their disdain for the budget proposal to the media immediately following Brownback’s State of the State Address. Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, called the proposal “insulting.” In a nearly unprecedented move, Denning voted in committee against the introduction of the Governor’s budget bill.
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said it is a “political budget,” and said Brownback’s speech was “disingenuous.”
The Truth Caucus, a group of legislators generally supportive of the Governor, issued a statement thanking Brownback for his commitment to life. However, they expressed alarm at the Governor’s request to add $600 million in new funding for schools over the next five years. It would add a cumulative $2 billion in new state spending.
“Too often, school finance debates in Kansas revolve around a dollar figure and not around the principles of accountability, sustainability and opportunity, particularly for those students who are not performing up to standards. Outcomes matter,” the Truth Caucus statement reads. “…We stand against proposals which further add to the spending burden or blow a hole in the budget.”