“For $41 million, you built a playoff … You won the exact same number of games that the Yankees won but the Yankees spent $1.4 million per win and you paid $260,000. I know you’re taking it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall - he always gets bloodied - always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but really what it’s threatening is their livelihood… It’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s a government or a way of doing business or whatever it is … the people who are holding the reins … have their hands on the switch … they go bat s—- crazy. I mean, anybody who’s not tearing their team down right now and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs.”
—- 2012 Academy Award Winning Movie Moneyball
Recent weeks have seen an increased level of vitriol from some Kansas editorialists about the common-sense reforms made by Gov.Sam Brownback and the Republican Legislature to get our state moving again.
As the above quote makes clear, such reactions are predictable whenever real change comes to an outdated system. The Left said similar things about Margeret Thatcher, who just went to her reward having never lost an election.
These Kansas editorials are just as wrong as Thatcher’s critics, as the tone of their authors makes clear.
It’s typically those with the weakest arguments who make their cases most hysterically, and some recent Kansas editorial offerings have read more like the rantings of lonely people in a dark basement than the sober reflections of once-respected newspapers.
The fact is, as Kansas newspapers keep moving left, Kansas voters don’t. Kansas isn’t slipping away from its people; an increasingly isolated and out-of-touch editorial class is losing its readership. The Kansas Republican Party is a growth stock. Left-wing Kansas newspapers aren’t.
Here are some publicly available facts, submitted for open review.
In the decade before Gov. Brownback took office, Kansas lost private sector jobs. That is to say, fewer people were working in the private sector in Kansas in January of 2011 than had been in January of 2001. Meanwhile, the public sector grew significantly.
In 2009 and 2010, Kansans saw their real household incomes drop while throughout the decade government spending grew much faster than inflation and taxes were repeatedly raised.
Despite these tax increases, Gov. Brownback and the Legislature faced a $500 million shortfall in their first fiscal year.
On July 1, 2010, Kansas state government reported precisely $876.05 cash on hand—-the lowest total to start a fiscal year in 150 years of state history.
Kansas was bleeding jobs and residents to every surrounding state except Nebraska - the only one of our neighbors to have a higher personal income tax rate at the time. Kansas was gaining residents from high-tax California, and losing them to no-income-tax states like Texas. And on top of all that, Kansas had the second most underfunded public pension system in the country. Only Barack Obama’s Illinois’s was worse.
These are the facts. This is the unsustainable status quo these editorials defend so vituperatively.
Just over two years into the Brownback administration, here is the record.
Kansas added, on average, about 1,000 new private sector jobs net per month between January 2011 and January 2013. Economists at Wichita State University project that job growth nearly to double in 2013.
The Kansas unemployment rate has dropped from 7 percent to 5.5 pecent, one of the lowest rates in the country.
A $500 million projected shortfall was transformed into more than a $500 million cash balance for the state general fund in 18 months.
Kansas has gone from the second highest income tax rate in our region to the second lowest.
In 2012, Kansas had the largest number of new small-business filings in state history – more than 15,000 new businesses.
In 2013, the Kauffman Foundation rated Kansas an “A” for its small business climate. Missouri rated a “C.”
Meanwhile, when all costs such as pensions, special education and buildings are accounted for, Kansas has increased its spending on K-12 education every year of the Brownback administration. The governor appointed a School Efficiency Task Force, which has made more than a dozen specific recommendations to get more of those dollars into the classroom, but state government is no longer walking away from its obligations to state pensions as it had so often in previous decades.
And the fiscal proposals the governor has put before the Legislature in its upcoming wrap-up session will build on this progress - growing the economy, preserving hard-won responsible ending balances and protecting core government services like education, public safety and social services for our most vulnerable Kansans. A growing economy will make it possible to fulfill these obligations in a way the stagnant outdated approach of the last decade did not.
As Gov. Brownback said in his recent GOP weekly address, states compete every day for people and businesses. Thanks to the work of the governor and the Kansas Legislature, the status quo is over in Kansas and our great state is back in the game.
Kelly Arnold is chairman of the Kansas Republican Party