Former Kansas governors form coalition against statehouse

Angel Tolstikhina

In light of an upcoming election for Kansas representatives, four former Kansas governors have formed a bipartisan alliance, dubbed the “Save Kansas Coalition,” with the purpose of influencing voters’ objections to current policies  passed by Governor Sam Brownback and his allies in the House and Senate.

Consisting of Republicans Bill Graves and Mike Hayden, as well as Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin, the new political group released a fundraising letter highlighting the “destructive policies” of Kansas Legislature under Brownback that nearly lead to bankruptcy of the state.

The main goal of the Save Kansas Coalition is to fix the “serious fiscal crisis” in the state by reducing conservative extremism in the statehouse.

“They have already done [so] much damage to the tax base that the only way Kansas will ever recover is if those extreme conservatives are not in the legislature anymore,” said Steven Cann, professor of political science at Washburn.

Coalition members intend to begin their plans during the 2016 legislative elections, and strongly urge Kansas residents to vote. The political group educates locals on the state’s public policy issues, and will identify candidates who would improve Kansas’ fiscal health, as well as challenge the Rubber Stamp legislators who they believe destroyed the state revenue stream and attacked educational, health care and transportation systems collaboratively with Brownback.

In the letter, the former governors recognized a set of “shared values” that include political aspects such as balanced tax policy and educational opportunities, access to health care and improved public safety, job growth and judicial impartiality.

Shortly after being elected as Governor of Kansas, Brownback passed a package of tax cuts for certain individuals and businesses in 2012 and 2013. The package was meant to support economic prosperity and promote entrepreneurship within the state, but resulted in Kansas’ budget struggling to stay out of deficit.

The intentions of the government fell in a way that devastated not only the overall budget, but also the state’s educational system, support for low-income residents, healthcare and transportation.

In addition, Kansas faces a downgraded credit rating and job growth. Brownback denies all claims that his tax experiment failed, blaming the state’s financial issues on the lack of growth in agriculture, energy production and aircraft manufacturing.

The letter presented by the Save Kansas Coalition has already been criticized by the Kansas Republican Party, which called its formation a “political stunt” from “four former governors who presided over massive and needless growth in the size of state government.”

The former governors, however, are ready to end an era that has diminished the quality of life for Kansans and imposed debts on future generations.

“In the election of 2012, Brownback set up his electoral machinery to challenge every moderate Republican in the primaries and it purged most of them,” Cann said. “Since then he’s gotten everything he wanted.”

In his speeches, former governor Carlin repeatedly urged his audience to vote for moderates and help daily to increase their chances of electoral success. As of today, the group is led by representatives from various local organizations that have already put significant effort into reestablishing the balance of power in the statehouse. By gaining enough seats in the Legislature, moderate Republicans will be able to alter the failing tax policy.

“We have reasonable, moderate people who don’t hate government, and the legislature passing reasonable tax policies [is] the only option that will ever fix this issue,” Cann said.