Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): BETTER Kansas Or a Vague List of Priorities

Thursday, October 6, 2016

BETTER Kansas Or a Vague List of Priorities

Sen. Susan Wagle announced her BETTER Kansas plan yesterday, surrounded by a handful of the Kansas Republican Senatorial candidates who signed onto the plan.

Despite leaks that the plan would include specific policy recommendations like Medicaid expansion and tax increases, those were largely left on the cutting room floor--likely because with those specifics, some Senators would refuse to buy in. The plan calls for greater transparency in government. Perhaps, constituents could get a peak at earlier drafts of the plan? (Legislators are exempt from many parts of the Kansas Open Records Act, meaning those emails are beyond our reach unless someone decides to release them. But go ask your for some city council emails. They are statutorily required to hand those over. Removing legislators' KORA exemptions is NOT part of the BETTER Kansas Plan.)

Not every Kansas Republican Senator or GOP Senate candidate signed onto Wagle's initiatives, but two notables, Sen. Jeff Longbine and Sen. Ty Masterson signed on. Both were rumored to be considering runs against Wagle for Senate President. With their signatures, I think we can assume neither intends to vie for the role.

The plan is brilliant in its hope-y, change-i-ness. That's to say, in many of the points, the plan can mean whatever you want it to mean. 

For example, one plan is to "educate the next generation," by fixing the school finance formula. The plan makes a nod to local control, but gives no indication on what that looks like.  

The plan:

  • B -- Balance the budget
  • E -- Educate the next generation
  • T -- Treat taxpayers fairly
  • T -- Transparency in government
  • E -- Economic stability and jobs
  • R -- Rein in federal regulations
Obviously, there's more to each part than that. You can read more about it on the Better Kansas Plan website, and I'll be writing more about it in the next few days. And I'm sure the mainstream media will run it through the meat grinder as well.

I'm glad many of the most liberal parts of the plan weren't included, though there is much conservatives should find troubling. The website and the plan announcement read, "Kansas is on the wrong track." I think this is a horrible choice of wording and I don't think it's true. It's politically unwise for Republicans to say such a thing when we run it, and we have been running it for quite some time. Wagle is currently the Senate President. Let that sink in. She's the current Senate President--not some theoretical, could become leader of the Senate. She has had the role since 2012. Politically, if you've been in charge of the highest body of the Kansas Legislature for the last 4 years, you probably shouldn't lead with: Welp, someone messed up, but it wasn't me.

If the goal of BETTER Kansas was to ensure Wagle keeps the top job in the Senate, it appears it worked.  I understand why so many signed onto this plan; I'm sure promises were made, and there's nothing inherently wrong with going along to get along.

If the goal, however, is to get Republicans elected to the Senate, I don't really see how this helps. The safest and the most endangered Republican Senate candidates didn't sign on, likely recognizing there's little to gain by putting your name on a vague list of priorities. Those who didn't sign on are from both ends of the Republican spectrum. Notably in Johnson County, Barbara Bollier, Mary Pilcher-Cook, John Skubal, Dinah Sykes, and Molly Baumgardner didn't sign on to the plan.


  1. "Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said she appreciated Brownback’s leadership, including on tax policy. “I am proud to say I was one of the people that voted for that bill,” Wagle said, “and I thank God that Sam proposed lowering income taxes, because I wonder where we would be today if he had not come into office with some grand reform ideas.”"

  2. FYI, Meredith Richey, Echo Van Meetern, and Zach Haney also did not sign.