Remarks as prepared for delivery in response to Gov. Brownback’s State of the State Address
Good evening. I’m Rep. Tom Burroughs the Democratic Leader in the Kansas House of Representatives.
You’ve just heard Governor Brownback’s opinion on the state of our state. Unfortunately, his description doesn’t match with that of the majority of Kansans. It does not match what we see in our everyday lives.
A majority of Kansans believe, not that the state of our state is bright, but that the state of our state is bleak. Or to put it another way: they don’t believe our state is on the right track, but headed in the wrong direction.
From jobs, to schools, to roads, to public safety, Kansans are not satisfied with the path the Governor and the Republican majority in the Legislature has forced our state down.
Whether you’re sitting at your kitchen table, learning in a classroom, heading to work, or shopping at the grocery store, you feel the impact of the Brownback experiment. Your family sees it in your monthly bills, your kid’s classrooms, and in every aspect of your life.
Despite Gov. Brownback’s claim of low unemployment, you don’t see the state’s economy getting better. In fact, you don’t even see it staying the same. No. You know it’s getting worse.
Despite Gov. Brownback’s claim that he is overhauling our schools, you know the state isn’t investing enough in education because your children’s class sizes are getting larger, student performance is eroding, and quality teachers are fleeing the state.
And despite Brownback’s claim that sweeping more than $1 billion from the transportation fund to shore up the state budget won’t affect current projects, you see roads and bridges in disrepair.
Kansans all across our state – no matter their political affiliation – view the Brownback legacy as one of failure. But, we can make a change. Today does not have to dictate tomorrow. What I admire about our state is our sense of optimism. Even in the darkest of days, we believe things will get better.
And things will get better. There is still time to write a new legacy; a legacy of growth, investment, and opportunity.
The economy is the foundation upon which our new legacy will be built, but we need to rebuild from the massive fiscal mismanagement of the Brownback Administration.
You’ll remember in 2012, Gov. Brownback and his conservative Republican allies in the state legislature passed a law exempting more than 300,000 Kansas business owners from paying any state income taxes at all.
They promised job growth, but it has not occurred. What we’ve seen instead is a stagnant economy. All of our neighboring states are growing while Kansas lags behind. Not only that, we have a revenue shortfall greater than what Kansas experienced during the entire Great
And last year – instead of changing course – Gov. Brownback and many of the same conservative Republicans in the state legislature doubled down on this failed experiment. They passed the largest tax increase in state history – forcing every Kansas family to pay more in sales taxes for basics, like food, medicine, and clothes.
We’ve seen where the Brownback agenda has gotten us. The state’s budget is still not balanced, our debt burden has ballooned, and month after month we experience the equivalent of a fiscal free-fall.
To get our state back on track, Kansas Democrats believe in building an economy that works for everyone, not just a wealthy few. And so, we will be focused on growing the economy by creating jobs and bringing new businesses to Kansas.
One proven way to attract jobs is by investing in research and innovation in areas like renewable energy and the biosciences. And we sure as hell want to make sure companies that have state contracts hire Kansas residents first before looking for workers outside the state.
Unlike the Republicans we’re not going to pass tax cuts for big businesses while raising taxes on families. Instead, we’re going to work at reducing or eliminating the sales tax on food and stopping the rise of property taxes, because we know when it comes to tax policy, these are the real ways to help Kansas families.
As we think about economic development, I want to point out that our largest economic development program in Kansas is the investment we make in our public schools. Quality education is not only a primary determinant of our children’s success, but a well-educated workforce also attracts new businesses and employers to Kansas.
Years of slow economic growth and mismanagement of the Kansas budget by the Brownback Administration, has led the legislature to make massive cuts to public education. From early childhood programs, to K-12, to our colleges and universities, no one has been spared.
Each of us wants more for our children than what we had. I was the first in my family to go to college, and today, my daughter is pursuing her PhD. I couldn’t be more proud. And I want the same opportunity for every Kansas child – no matter whom they are or where they live in our great state.
Sadly, the Republican Legislature has been under funding our schools for so long, they have put a whole generation of students at risk. Democrats will work with anyone committed to putting our schools first. We will fight to keep our best and most experienced teachers in Kansas, because we know a great teacher plays an invaluable role in the lives of hundreds if not thousands of students.
As we think about the legacy we wish to create for our children, we invest in education because we know it leads to greater opportunity.
We want our children to have the opportunity to live, work, and play in Kansas – to never consider living anywhere else because of the high quality of life right here at home. We want them to embrace our shared values and commit to reinvesting in our communities because that’s what it will take to build our new legacy.
Our communities depend upon a state government that is financially stable with an ability to invest in roads and public safety.
Unprecedented sweeps from the Kansas Department of Transportation to cover budget shortfalls has meant less money is being spent on our highways and bridges. If our roads crumble, so do our communities and the businesses that create jobs.
Not only that, but if our roads crumble, so does the safety of our fellow Kansans driving on those roads. And this at a time when roughly one third of our state – mostly our western counties – lack a highway patrol presence.
Kansas has been mismanaged for far too long. And that means missed opportunities, and real threats to our public safety.
Tonight, you have heard two very different perspectives on both the present and the future of Kansas.
The governor’s version is more of the same. It’s continued mismanagement of our state budget and economy, leading to further cuts in public education and infrastructure, putting at risk the safety of Kansans and their very future.
We can’t rely on Gov. Brownback and his Republican allies in the legislature to do what is right for Kansas. Kansans continue to suffer while they put their personal political agenda first. In short: Brownback’s legacy can be described in one word: failure.
We’re ready for a new start.
It’s time to move past the failed policies of the Brownback Administration and the Republican majority.
It’s time for a change in leadership and a change in priorities.
It’s time for new ideas and a new direction.
It is time for a new legacy.
Thank you for joining me tonight. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent I ask you to join me in creating a new legacy. Because at the end of the day, we are all simply Kansans.
Good night and may God bless the great state of Kansas.
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