Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) made his constituents the subject of a “real live experiment” on the effects of implementing a right-wing economic policy agenda. The experiment by many measures seems to have failed spectacularly, but Brownback continues to claim it is a success.
The governor says his radical anti-choice stances have been—and will continue to be—an economic boon for the state.
Brownback, whose re-election to the governorship was opposed by a cadre of Kansas Republicans, was interviewed during a recent edition of the radio program Washington Watch, hosted by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a prominent anti-gay activist. During the program, Perkins praised the governor for pursuing a “pro-family agenda and at the same time a pro-economic growth agenda,” reports the website Right Wing Watch.
“Well, it’s working,” Brownback responded. “And we’re pretty straightforward here. What we want Kansas to be is the best place in America to do two things: Raise a family, grow a small business.”
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Brownback cited the many anti-choice bills that he has signed as governor, and highlighted a bill that is part of a coordinated effort to ban a medical procedure used for second-trimester abortions and the management of miscarriage. Brownback argued that policies to restrict reproductive rights “tie closely together” with conservative economic policies.
“They really support each other,” Brownback said during the interview. “One of the problems we have in the country is we’re not forming enough families.”
Brownback, in his first few years as governor, instituted radical conservative economic reforms. In 2012 the governor signed into law one of the largest tax cuts in the state’s history, which critics said would cost the state more than $2 billion over five years.
Brownback’s tax cuts have resulted in an 8 percent revenue loss that has had a devastating effect on the state’s ability to meet basic funding levels for public education and has busted the state’s economy, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
The analysis also concluded that the tax cuts disproportionately benefited wealthy households.
The Kansas Supreme Court in 2014 ruled that funding of the state’s public school system was unconstitutional, thanks in large part to Brownback’s tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest residents. Brownback and Republican state lawmakers had argued that funding public education was a political matter, not a constitutional one. Brownback, in a statement released after the ruling, pledged to keep “our schools open.”
When the state’s credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, the credit bureau specifically cited the effect of the tax cuts pushed by Brownback and his conservative allies in Kansas.
Brownback’s massive tax cuts have failed to generate the job growth that was promised. The state was outperformed by other states in the region in 2014, and was far behind the average job growth nationwide, according to a report released this week.
In response to the $648 million budget shortfall the state is projected to have in the 2016 fiscal year, Brownback has proposed huge tax increases on tobacco and liquor, diverting state funds for highway construction to general government programs and delaying a long-term funding gap fix for the state retirement system for teachers and government workers.
Brownback’s policy agenda has included several anti-choice bills, and state lawmakers have introduced several more that did not make it to his desk.
Brownback signed a bill banning abortion at 22 weeks’ gestation based on unsubstantiated findings that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks’ post-fertilization, as well as a bill that requires abortion clinics to be inspected at least twice a year, with at least one of those inspections to be made without prior notice to the facility.
Brownback in 2013 signed a massive anti-choice omnibus bill that stripped tax credits for abortion providers, mandated abortion providers give medically inaccurate information to women seeking abortions, banned sex-selection abortions, and included radical “personhood” language.
The anti-choice legislation that Brownback has signed into law has not only severely restricted access to abortion care in the state, but has come at a significant financial cost. During 2012 and 2013, the state spent nearly $1 million in litigation costs defending anti-choice laws, according to an analysis by Rewire.
Brownback has defended anti-choice laws, despite the many legal challenges. “You can’t know for sure what all comes out of that afterwards, but it was the will of the legislature and the people of the state of Kansas,” said Brownback, according to reporting by the Lawrence Journal-World.
Brownback’s agenda has included other policies besides restricting reproductive rights.
Brownback signed into law a program to test welfare applicants for drug use that only administered 20 drug tests in the first four months of its existence, despite the $2.1 million cost of the program. Brownback also signed an executive order last month that rescinded discrimination protections for state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.