Star: Kansas Govenor Sam Brownback’s Big Agenda

KC Star’s Steve Kraske and Brad Cooper take a look at the big plate of issues Govenor Sam Brownback is serving up to lawmakewrs this session:
Gov. Sam Brownback roared up to the Statehouse last week on his Big Dog motorcycle.
“A real sweet machine,” Brownback said of his Wichita-made bike.
It was a grand entrance for the Republican governor attempting to make a grand impact on Kansas. With just a year under his belt, Brownback has proposed a 2012 legislative agenda that’s already been labeled the nation’s most ambitious for any state.
Some lawmakers are recoiling from it, calling it too much too fast. Others are praising it as a bold, new conservative vision.
Medicaid reform. A new school-finance formula. Pension reform for state workers. Paying down state debt. A new, flatter state tax code aimed at lowering income taxes, but one that wipes out popular deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions.
It’s all happening as lawmakers grapple with the intensely political once-a-decade task of redrawing state House, Senate and congressional boundary lines.
Call it a big, meaty lineup for a governor who insists the state has little choice.
“I don’t know what I’d take out of the agenda,” he told The Kansas City Star during a recent interview in his office. “That’s the problem. Take the school finance out? You’re staring at a monster lawsuit. Take the tax plan? No. Because we’ve not been growing. Growth is what we desperately need.
“It’s a lot,” Brownback conceded. “There’s no question about it. But all of it ties together.”
The sheer magnitude of the package has led to grumbles from members of both parties and may have contributed to weak poll numbers. There’s another risk: The legislative load could wind up crushing lawmakers.
Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican and the chamber’s leading moderate, acknowledged that the Legislature is grappling with so many big topics
Some lawmakers wonder that the entire Brownback agenda could collapse under its own weight.
“There’s always that chance,” Morris said. “No matter what kind of session we have, you could lose the main focus of the big issues and have nothing get done for a year or two. Sometimes you have to work things over for a longer period of time.”

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