Kelly: Brownback would leave behind battered legacy



Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State address at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Two years ago this month, Governor Sam Brownback was on hand as Wichita State and KU’s men’s basketball teams squared off in the NCAA Tournament. The camera crew panned to display Brownback on the arena’s video board, sporting a T-shirt with both team’s logos — like a parent who didn’t want to pick sides.

For a moment in the midst of the heated battle for Kansas basketball supremacy, Shocker and Jayhawk fans put aside their differences to acknowledge the governor.

The arena erupted in boos.

Two years later, the governor with the lowest approval rating in the nation may well be on his way out of the state and in fact the country. A former high-ranking government official told Kansas Public Radio that Brownback will be named the next Ambassador to U.N. for Food and Agriculture by President Trump.

The potential appointment, which the governor has neither confirmed nor denied, would relocate Brownback to Rome while Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer steps in to finish out his term.

If he is indeed relieved of his governing duties, Brownback will be remembered as the controversial figure who undertook a bold economic experiment and stood behind it until the bitter end — despite alienating Democrats and Republicans alike.

Over his six years in office, Brownback has turned Kansas into the poster child for trickle-down economics by doing away with the top personal income tax bracket as well as eliminating income taxes for 330,000 small business owners.

He promised an economic boom. The numbers speak for themselves. Last year, Kansas ranked 45th in the nation in job growth.

Boom indeed.

As recently as last month, Brownback was given the opportunity to back down on his signature economic model by signing a state House bill that would attempt to balance the budget by eliminating many of his 2012 tax breaks.

The governor vetoed the bill, and the state House barely failed to override his decision. The trickle-down economic model is alive and well in Kansas.

It’s at least alive.

Since he assumed office in 2011, Brownback has found himself at odds with the public school system on more than one occasion.

A less than potent economy has forced the state to dip into the well of governmental programs and public school funding to balance the budget time after time.

In 2013, a panel of judges ruled that Kansas must increase education spending by $400 million to reach a constitutional level of funding.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas’ public education spending was still unconstitutional.

With newly-elected moderate Republicans in the state legislature ready to eradicate his signature tax model and Supreme Court justices waving the state constitution in his face, Brownback may well be ready to get away from it all.

Better than a vacation, Italy and a federal government title could provide just the cushy landing that Brownback may be looking for after six long years of trial and error as Kansas’ governor.

If this is the end of the line for Sam Brownback in the Sunflower State, he will have left behind quite a legacy for himself.

Addio, Governor Brownback.