JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback came to Jefferson City today to address lawmakers in a private event to tout the economic success of Kansas.
Grow Missouri, a conservative think tank and Rex Sinquefield operation, invited Brownback to address more than 100 Missouri lawmakers. The group largely advocates for reduced income taxes, and Brownback has been heavily cited on both sides of the aisle when Missouri has frequently debated new tax cuts. Brownback took the stage for nearly an hour to talk about what he called “what’s right with Kansas.”
“What’s going on in the state of Kansas has been so misrepresented in the public media,” Brownback told The Missouri Times. “Everything has been so vilified, particularly in some of the major media outlets, I think, largely to head off other states perusing a similar tract to Kansas. The headlines are never accurate or about the facts, they are always ‘It’s terrible, everything is falling apart.’”
Brownback says media outlets across the country and “a vast liberal conspiracy,” have been selective about analyzing Kansas economic data.
“I think the biggest way its been misrepresented is that people are expecting everything to happen very quickly,” Brownback said. “I think people want to say that if it doesn’t show that you’re now one of the fastest growing states in America that it’s failed. And what I want to say is, I’ve got 35 years of data that says the model we were on is not working if you want a growth model.”
Brownback said Kansas had some “early, encouraging data” that his tax cuts were beginning to create a growth environment. He gently chided lawmakers in his own state for making deep changes to his original tax cut plan, which aimed to bring Kansas to a flat income tax rate with a “small business accelerator.” Instead, lawmakers sent him a rate cut, which Brownback signed with mild reluctance.
“Look at the trend line,” Brownback said. “If you look at the trend line, we’re already starting to see evidence that this is a pro-growth model.”
In Kansas, lawmakers have spent much of their legislative session scrambling to repair a $300 million deficit in the current budget and an impending $600 million hole. That deficit and the state’s credit downgrading have been cited by plenty of Democrats and liberal groups in both Kansas and Missouri as evidence that Brownback’s strategy doesn’t work.
Sean Nicholson, Executive Director of ProgressMO — a liberal think tank — called Kansas’ current budget pitfalls a “totally predictable crisis,” and blamed following “the lead of Brownback and Rex Sinquefield” for the current state of the Kansas’ economy. Nicholson provided a short answer when asked to respond to Brownback’s speech about “What’s Right With Kansas.”
“I imagine that’s a pretty short talk,” Nicholson said.
Brownback will also be speaking in St. Louis tomorrow, addressing the Show-Me Institute, another conservative economic think tank. Brownback said that, according to the data, states embracing low income tax policies and Right-to-Work have seen the most growth, and encouraged Missouri lawmakers to pursue both policies.
On Medicaid expansion, Brownback voiced a different stance than many Missouri Republicans, who have rejected any expansion outright. Brownback said he was neither for nor against expansion, but that his main concern was improving the system if more citizens would be added to the rolls. Like many states, Brownback says waiting periods for Medicaid recipients is already unreasonable. But he did clarify that if he was presented with a legislative proposal to expand Medicaid that met his own personal financial concerns, he would likely sign the bill into law.
Collin Reischman was the Managing Editor for The Missouri Times, and a graduate of Webster University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.