Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Brownback gives a speech, and I don't lose my lunch

Friday, January 16, 2015

Brownback gives a speech, and I don't lose my lunch

Sam Brownback gave a perfectly tolerable speech last night. For that, I offer my congratulations. I have a few critiques, but far, far fewer than in previous years. I am so, so grateful that Brownback didn't apologize for anything in this speech and he kept the complete pandering at a bare minimum. Good job, Governor!

Brownback deserves much credit for bold ideas. I was beginning to think the Governor didn't have it in him. He just might.

Among his ballsy suggestions:

• Two Constitutional Amendments -- one to change the way Kansas selects Supreme Court Justices. 

"With the Court involving itself in so many public policy issues, it is time the selection process be more democratic," Brownback said.

Sing it, brother Sam. This change is so desperately needed. Brownback has made this suggestion before. I just hope this wasn't just words. I hope Brownback aggressively takes action to make it happen.

My feelings won't be hurt if Brownback's other Constitutional Amendment was just hyperbole. The Governor suggested an amendment that says, "debt of the state is a general obligation of the state and we will pay it first."

I'm going to need more information before I say I hate the idea. BUT at first glance, I certainly don't love it. To me, that means we'll pay debts above and beyond all else, and I'm not sure that's wise. In theory, I agree with it whole-heartedly, but in reality necessities should be top priority. It's probably stupid for me to Dave Ramsey this one, but in a family budget, you pay for food and shelter first and THEN put funds to debt. I'm just not sure codifying the state Constitution to suggest we do otherwise is smart. (Again, I totally reserve the right to change my mind on this one! I need to hear more about it first!)

• A truce in the school finance wars and a re-write of the financing formula. 

Brownback had mentioned re-working the school finance formula before the State of the State Address. He fleshed it out a little bit, suggesting a way to have a truce while giving the Kansas Legislature time to work out the details. I think his plan to fund schools temporarily through a block grant process is a good one.

And clearly, obviously, the school finance formula is a hot mess if it requires litigation every other week. Sadly, the good guys aren't the ones dragging the Legislature to court every other week over it. The good guys have called for a truce. We'll see what the other side does. Judging from my teacher-y Facebook feed, I don't see it happen. (Aside for teachers: Change is scary. That doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, if the formula is re-worked in a way that funnels more money to classrooms, instead of administrators, you may be seeing better raises. So chill out for five minutes would you, KNEA and friends?)

Strangely missing from his bold suggestions: The obvious solution to the funding crisis, school choice.

• Continuing the move to 0 percent income tax rate. 

YAY! I figured with the budget shortfall, Brownback wouldn't have the nerve to suggest we continue in that direction. I'm glad he has the spine, and hopefully, the conviction to stay that course.

•   Moving spring elections to the fall. 

This should have been done a million years ago, but later is better than never. I hope the Governor leads on this one and makes it happen. There really is no good reason it shouldn't.

So now with the praise out of the way, I didn't love everything about the speech.

I will say, I feel like he took some of my advice. In last year's speech, he introduced military guests in the middle of the speech. It was just ick. This year, he intro-ed most guests at the start. 

This was refreshing and appropriate. 

That said, if you're going to introduce Valerie and her son, I think it would be wise to give a little more information about exactly how the state assisted them in moving from the welfare rolls and into a job.

I appreciated the personalization of a policy. (You'll recall I suggested he do that in his campaign commercials.) BUT, I don't think this is his strong suit. Either that, or it's not the strong suit of his speech writer. I would have appreciated more about Valerie and the successful program that assisted her. As an added bonus, it would have made the speech a little less boring.

Finally, a quick word about his actual stage presence. I am not all that impressed. I don't know how he fixes that. Better language choices? More emotion in tone and delivery? Less? I'm not sure, but the man bores me to near tears. And I can say, other than the section about water resources (important, but meh.), it's not the subject matter. It's the speaker.

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