TOPEKA — Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach came under fire Tuesday for campaign claims that his grip on the secretary of state’s office budget resulted in spending reductions of millions of dollars annually.
Kobach, elected secretary of state in 2010, said the office’s budget had been slashed 34 percent under his watch.
“We took my budget from $7 million a year when I started to $4.6 million. I’ll take the same approach as governor,” Kobach said.
He said the record of financial efficiency in the secretary of state’s office reflected 18 percent shrinkage in the staff, renegotiation of vendor contracts and the decision to slow spending from the federally funded Help America Vote Act account.
Former state Rep. Mark Hutton, who also is campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor, said HAVA expenditures accounted for nearly all the decline in spending by the secretary of state. Annual HAVA expenditures, typically for purchase of voting equipment or campaigns to inspire people to go to the polls, dropped from $2.6 million in 2010 to $376,000 in 2017.
In Hutton’s view, this suggested 85 cents of every $1 reduction claimed by Kobach was associated with downsizing of HAVA.
“The people of Kansas are tired of the gimmicks and games from the politicians in Topeka, whether it’s budgets that don’t balance from (Sam) Brownback and (Gov. Jeff) Colyer, or Kobach lying about his own budget to claim credit for something he didn’t do,” Hutton said.
Hutton said Kobach should accurately portray evolution of the secretary of state office’s budget, because Kansans “deserve the truth and they deserve a governor that will rebuild our state government and their trust.”
In response, Kobach said Hutton was having difficulty grasping how the HAVA budget was controlled by the secretary of state.
“Hutton does not have a clue,” Kobach said.
The state’s HAVA fund holds more than $3 million, Kobach said. The secretary of state’s office, which is a fee-funded agency, collected $11.7 million in 2017 and spent $4.6 million during the year. More than $7 million was forwarded to the state’s general budget, Kobach said.
Kobach, who last weekend joined Hutton at a gubernatorial debate in Wichita, said he fulfilled a promise to reduce the size of his staff in the secretary of state’s office. He said the number of personnel has been whittled down from approximately 50 people to approximately 40.
“Talk is cheap, but results are something different,” Kobach said. “Kansas doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.”