The king of Kansas
Although Kansas is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, Gov. Sam Brownback found this year's State of the State Address the perfect venue to reference God. Seven times.
We don't have a problem with that, per se. If that's where the governor derives his strength and courage -- fine.
But if the state's chief executive was attempting to resonate with the good people of Kansas via religious beliefs in order to gloss over his administration's record ... we do have a problem with that. Divine inspiration does not always translate into state workers providing the best services possible.
And the governor has to remember only 51 percent of Kansans self-identify as religious. Being in charge of a government of the people means tending to 100 percent.
We are not convinced Brownback grasps that notion or, worse, believes he needs to get all Kansans on the same religious path so he can serve all 100 percent.
In his speech Wednesday night, the governor said Kansans should depend "not on big government but on a big god that loves us and lives within us." He referenced the anti-abortion movement's Summer of Mercy in Wichita as an example of Kansas' "virtue and character" that has us "leading an American renaissance." That renaissance will be "assured if we move from dithering to action ... if we listen to our own better angels and the still, small voice that calls us onward."
Again, such a sermon has its place -- at a chapel on a Sunday morning, but not at the Statehouse on live television.
Brownback did make mention of more mortal things in the annual address. For instance, he said: "No government can be more prosperous than its people for long" and "finally, the personal income of Kansas families is rising faster than government spending." Both are true, but not because the governor pushed through any policies elevating Kansas workers -- as was implied. Rather, the effect is being caused by a dramatic self-inflicting starving of state government.
Statisticians will tell you that you can make numbers say anything you want. Lay off half of a company's work force, for example, and you double the productivity overnight. Topeka is proving adept at congratulating itself for all of the income tax cuts signed into law that will allow approximately $4 billion in the next five years to remain in the pockets of Kansans. Brownback is counting on that money to be reinvested in ways that grow the state economy. If his prayers are answered, the state will be able to afford paying for everything conservative Republicans believe appropriate. If individuals pocket the money in an attempt to recoup retirement money lost during the financial meltdown, or if businesses look to balance out five years of dwindling profits from the same recession, Kansas will not have enough money to do much of anything.
Still, Brownback is keeping the faith.
Regarding financial support of the K-12 public education system, the governor boasted of how large the percentage of the state budget is spent on schools. And he gave notice it is not up to the judicial branch to close schools. Ignored in this part of the speech is that the Kansas Supreme Court will rule on the funding using the legislative branch's own figures. Lawmakers are at least $440 million short in agreed-upon funding each year. Brownback will attempt to blame the "activist" courts for his own bad decisions, but citizens will have to live with the results.
The governor quoted the Kansas Constitution at one point, saying: "All political power is inherent in the people." While that might be true, the current state of the state is more accurately described as "All political power is in the hands of the governor." After personally helping rid the Legislature of most moderate Republicans, Brownback has positioned himself as the ultimate arbiter of the state. If he is successful in revamping how Supreme Court justices are selected, there will be no check or balance left other than a citizenry that instead will blindly re-elect him.
Brownback boasted there are no kings and queens in America ... "no titles of nobility." Yet the renaissance we've embarked on will leave Kansas with the next closest thing. If we don't utilize our power of the ballot, prayer might be the only thing left.
Heaven, help us.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry