Prepare to be flabbergasted. Apparently, Gov. Sam Brownback isn't the only Governor in Kansas history to face budget shortfalls.
Knock me over with a feather. I thought the sun eternally shined on the Sunflower State from January 29, 1861, until January 10, 2011. That's the day Gov. Brownback was sworn into office, at which point the sun turned as black as a sackcloth of goat hair, and the moon turned to blood. Kansas was cast into a pit of darkness and despair where children suffer and old people are ripped from their wheelchairs and thrown into the Marais des Cygnes, at least that's the narrative the media has been spinning until today.
Today, we learn from media that Gov. Brownback ISN'T the first Kansas Governor to have budget shortfalls. Turns out, those vaunted team of former Governors John Carlin, Bill Graves, Mark Parkinson and even the liberals' beloved Kathleen Sebelius cut the budget. By the way, Sebelius saved her deepest cuts for public education and healthcare. Guys, I am GASPING here. Gasping. This isn't the story we've been told just about every day circa 2011.
So you're wondering why a member of the media arose from his turkey-induced slumber to supply us with the information about previous Governors making cuts. Allow me to explain.
The media has deigned to offer these facts, because they are once again attempting to beat Brownback over the head for not making the cuts himself in advance of the legislature returning to Topeka. Sigh.
Kansas has budgeted to spend more than its likely to bring in. To keep the lights on, someone is going to have to make cuts or raise taxes--both deeply unpopular. The legislature--the branch of our government supposedly responsible for the budget--doesn't want to have to make those political decisions, and so they're stompy mad the Governor won't do it for them in advance. Brownback announced a few weeks ago that he will wait on legislators to do the heavy lifting on this one.
Honestly, I don't really care who makes cuts as long as they happen, but I can and have explained why the Governor is reluctant to fall on his sword for legislators in this instance. Here's what I wrote on Nov. 14:
Brownback's decision to wait until January and let lawmakers handle necessary cuts is one I completely understand. First, legislators should be in control of the purse strings. The current budget that everyone is raging about isn't really the Governor's. The legislature passed it. They compromised in 2012, removing all of the pay-fors from Brownback's proposal. He didn't craft the budget the legislature passed, but he's certainly hanging for it. The Governor has made some unilateral cuts in the face of budget shortfalls, but with a new legislature and likely a hostile one, it doesn't make much sense to give this batch of lawmakers political cover.
Second, if polls and the recent primary and general election are to be believed, it appears voters don't actually want the Governor making the decision. Democrats, moderates and even some conservatives worked awfully hard at telling voters that they aren't Brownback allies. Some of it was political expedience, but the end result is that anyone who won using such a campaign tactic has an unrealistic expectation if they expect the Governor to fall on his sword for them now.
Finally, this next legislative session is going to be a nasty one, and the Governor is a lame duck. Brownback will have limited leverage to accomplish anything or even to save some of his initiatives. If the Governor is still around through the 2017 legislative session, any tiny scrap of leverage will help. The Governor has already magnanimously said repeatedly that he doesn't like the word "veto" and that he refuses to say whether there are any policies he would reject right now. This means the Governor isn't much for playing offense. And if he's going to only use defense to advance his causes, he's going to need some bargaining chips. By not making cuts himself, he retains a few in his arsenal.