Will “traditional,” “reasonable,” “moderate” Kansan Republicans be defeated in the August 7, 2012 Kansas primary? Would that defeat be good or bad for Kansas?
Kansas newspapers have featured an op-ed by H. Edward Flentje of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University. (A referendum on Brownback, July 27 Winfield Courier.) His tone, as is that of many newspaper editorials appearing through the state, is that it is vital to preserve the “traditional” moderate Republican approach to Kansas government, as it is those who “believe government has a more affirmative role in assuring a high quality of life for Kansans.” The implication, made explicit later on, is that the rise of a conservative majority in the Kansas Senate would be bad.
Here’s one area in which Flentje is incorrect. He characterizes the moderates as “Republican legislators who may exercise independent judgment on alliance issues.” He and others use the phrase “march in lockstep with [Kansas Governor Sam] Brownback” as criticism of conservative challengers, who they say will be merely puppets of Brownback, incapable of independent thought.
But when we look at the record of “moderate Republican” legislators, we usually see them “marching in lockstep” with the Kansas National Education Association, labor unions — especially public employee unions, trial lawyers, and other assorted special interest groups.
Following are the areas in which Flentje says Brownback wants legislators to “march in lockstep” and whether it would be good to maintain these policies that Flentje prefers.
“Eliminating state income taxes and seeking higher sales and property taxes to address state obligations, consequently shifting the state tax burden to lower-income residents.” I’m not aware that conservatives are pressing for higher sales and property taxes. There has been some difference of opinion over ending the temporary statewide sales tax increase, and that may play out in the next legislative session. The best way we can address state spending — living up to the obligations Flentje alludes to — is to streamline Kansas government. But moderates oppose this. See Kansas reasonable: Government reform.
The best way to pay for government services is to grow the economy and create jobs. But Kansas has performed poorly during the past decade under the reign of “traditional” moderate Republicans (and their coalition with Democrats) in the House and Senate. Just a few years ago, after a decade of moderate policies, Kansas was the only state to have a loss in private sector jobs over the past year.
“Restraining state spending on public schools and shifting school funding to property taxes at the local level.” Moderates oppose one way we can save on schools: school choice through charter schools, vouchers, or scholarship tax credits. All these programs reduce the burden of school spending on both the state and school districts. Other than this, moderates “march in lockstep” with those who constantly call for more school spending, even to the point of suing the state’s taxpayers for more money. They join with the special interests who fight against accountability measures. They also fight against an honest assessment of the condition of public schools in Kansas, and when you look under the covers, it’s not the pretty picture that education bureaucrats paint. See Kansas reasonable: The education candidates.
“Cutting funding for the arts and public broadcasting.” Those who seek money from government for arts are a special interest group. They make an economic case that government spending on the arts is good for the economy, but there’s no evidence that this form of government spending is different from any other. Instead, it takes tax money from people and forces them to spend it on things they may not want. Instead, government bureaucrats — listening to narrow special interest groups — decide how to spend money.
“Shifting the funding of state universities to students and their families through higher tuition and fees.” What a novel idea! Expecting those who use a service to pay for it!
“Challenging judicial independence and enacting measures that make state judges more susceptible to outside political influence.” Kansas judicial selection is highly politicized and undemocratic, with out-sized power concentrated in a special interest group: lawyers. Among the fifty states, Kansas is at the undemocratic extreme in the way we select judges, and moderates support this. See Kansas reasonable: Judicial selection.
“Placing out-of-state, for-profit insurance companies in charge of managing aid to elderly, disabled and vulnerable residents.” Outsourcing is one way that governments can increase quality of service and reduce cost. There’s no reason to think that just because a service is presently provided by the state, that is the best way to provide it. In fact, waste and inefficiency are characteristic of government. Far from being a rip-off or waste of taxpayer monies, the profit motive — found only in the private sector — is a reliable motivator. The challenge of the state will be to make sure that companies profit when they provide good service, efficiently.
“Spending more time finding ways to limit a woman’s access to abortion and targeting with legal action any group that supports such access.” My focus is primarily on issues of economic freedom. Others will have to weigh in on this issue.
“Punishing party members who dare to cooperate with Democrats on legislation.” Both parties do this. Ask Senator Chris Steineger how the Kansas Democratic Party feels about those who don’t toe the party line.
Whether the election is or is not a referendum on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Kansans need to reflect on the legacy of traditional Republican leadership and governance and realize this has not been the path to jobs and prosperity.