Kelly and Schmidt: history

Valley Voice

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At a debate earlier this month at the Kansas State Fair, the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor made clear that their campaigns were about history. As tradition commands, they run on their records and top them with pledges for the future.
The incumbent, Democrat Laura Kelly, wants a second four-year term. Since her election in 2018, the state budget is balanced at last, pulled from the abyss of bankruptcy brought on by a deranged predecessor, Republican Sam Brownback. And the state budget surplus is revived, now at roughly $1 billion.
Kelly said state aid for local schools is again fully funded, the state’s unemployment rate is at a record low, and that she helped incubate contracts and bipartisan support for a $4 billion battery plant at DeSoto, the state’s largest economic development project. There are other achievements, including reforms at ruined state hospitals, the foster care program, KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program, and more.
Essentially, Kelly has set about restoring and invigorating the many institutions and programs laid waste by her Republican predecessors.
Schmidt is a Republican, serving his third term as Kansas Attorney General. He painted Kelly a Biden acolyte who wildly spent billions in Covid Relief funds promoted by Democratic President Joe Biden.
Kelly’s policies, said Schmidt, would try to “turn Kansas into “California.” He said many Kansans are anxious about their freedoms, their future, their “shared values.” He deplored the menace of “big-government socialism that stamps out opportunity and self-sufficiency.”
Kelly wants Kansas to be Kansas, a place of civility, decency, opportunity.
Schmidt wants Kansas to be Florida. He appeared with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a recent campaign rally in Olathe, and said, “I want a future for our great state of Kansas that looks a whole lot more like Ron DeSantis has in Florida.” No immigrants.
No abortion. Schmidt endorsed a state constitutional amendment to sidestep the state Supreme Court and allow the Legislature to ban abortion in Kansas. Kelly opposed the amendment. On August 2, voters statewide rejected the measure, 59 – 41 percent. Schmidt persists, supporting the idea.
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History fuels this campaign and Schmidt carries a dark one, ever linked to the nefarious Brownback. Among the bleak chapters, a frontal assault on public education. In 2015, Brownback and Republican legislators junked the state’s school finance formula. They claimed that the formula, stable since 1992, was “too difficult to understand.”
It wasn’t. That law embraced two chief principles: A statewide uniform property tax for schools and a central funding pool with aid based on enrollment, not district wealth. There were standards to measure student achievement.
Nonetheless, Republicans buried the old law, a national model. School funding was cut by $100 million. The remainder was divvied among the 286 local districts in block grants based on previous spending – no allowance for shifts in population or enrollment, local economies, needs for repair or maintenance.
Those who felt short-changed were invited to come to Topeka and beg (grovel) for more. A lot did. They found themselves appealing to a panel of those who had created the new law. At times they faced stern lectures on frugal living, or pointed questions about spending habits – an odd scene because the panel was composed of a governor and legislators who were spending the state into a sea of red ink.
Under Brownback, things quickly soured. Local taxes increased; taxes on corporations and the rich were dissolved. State revenues plummeted; budget deficits approached $1 billion. Sales taxes and user fees increased by $300 million. Assaults on Medicaid and state hospitals and ceaseless raids on state highway funds were needed to backfill deficit spending.
A multi-billion dollar bond sale was to shore up a looted public employees retirement fund. The state’s bond ratings were downgraded three times.
At each stage, Schmidt stood with Brownback, complicit, arguing for the education cuts, the tax cuts, giving tacit endorsement to raiding the highway fund and to Brownback’s deficit spending.
The courts stepped in, then the voters and Laura Kelly, putting a halt to the assault on schools, the deficit spending, the lootings at the treasury.
Then came Trump. In Kansas, Schmidt stood compliant, a man yielding, never questioning the Trump model and later, Trump’s election denial.
On Dec. 9, a month after the 2020 election, Schmidt was among 16 state attorneys general who filed suit asking the Supreme Court to overturn Trump’s loss. The action was filed by the Missouri Attorney General; Schmidt and 14 others signed on.
Now DeSantis, Trump’s understudy and Schmidt’s latest Florida hero. History tells a lot about candidates, who they were – and are. It will tell more before November 8.

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