Sam Brownback. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
For the last four years, we’ve been watching an interesting (yet totally predictable) political and economic experiment play out in Kansas. After the 2010 elections, which saw Republicans win super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s race, Governor Sam Brownback put into place the economic and social policies promoted by the evangelical conservative and/or Tea Party movements.
As anybody with half a brain could have predicted, this hasn’t turned out so well. Over just one three month period (from April through June of this year), tax revenues were $334 million short of expectations. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the state’s credit rating. The Kansas Supreme Court found the level of funding for education unconstitutional. This is not a good place for Brownback to be, considering that the Kansas Constitution requires a balanced budget.
How are they addressing this problem of insufficient funds? On Thursday, the Brownback administration claimed to have found an estimated $101 million in savings. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the savings include lower costs in healthcare expenses for state employees than was projected and standardizing computer systems across the state government. The Kansas Division of Budget told seven state agencies to evaluate whether they can operate more efficiently; it’s funny how the agencies singled out for this include the Department for Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Health and Environment, the Department for Children and Families and the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. They’re also having a sex toy auction – a what?
Yes- you heard us correctly. Earlier this week, a Kansas state official said that thousands of sex toys seized by the revenue department would be auctioned off. The items were seized in a four-county raid on a Kansas company known as United Outlets LLC. Why the raid? Because the owner, Larry Minkoff, owed $164,000 in unpaid income and sales taxes.
Kansas Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley said about the news: “Brownback is so desperate to fill the massive hole in the state budget caused by his reckless income tax cuts that the state of Kansas is now in the porn business.” The double entendre was probably unintentional, but we digress…
Four years ago, Sam Brownback was hailed as a shining star in conservative circles; the poster child of the evangelical right. With his implementation of a God, guns and unfettered free market agenda, he would show the rest of the nation how a state run by those principles was bound to succeed beyond everybody’s wildest dreams, or so the conservative talking heads would lead us to believe.
Instead, Kansas these days is running budget shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and needs to sell sex toys to help pay down its debt. The irony is staggering.