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Gov. Sam Brownback answered a question about one of his top policy objectives during a political forum in New York City.

His response triggered controversy, but Brownback pointed to research that established his statement as true. There is a caveat. His skeptics offered reputable information pointing to a different conclusion.

The question about childhood poverty in Kansas was posed by an audience member at The New York Meeting, a monthly gathering hosted by author Mallory Factor that features conservative politicians and journalists. It is an important topic to Brownback because he urged Kansas voters to assess his first term based on five factors outlined during his 2010 campaign, including his goal of reducing the percentage of Kansas kids in poverty.

The inquiry: "You talk a lot about lowering the taxes and raising all the revenue. How did that effect the poverty level of your state?"

The Republican governor's reply: "It’s been flat. That’s one of my five measurables that I’ve been running on — is to get childhood poverty down in the state of Kansas."

His assertion the rate stagnated in Kansas was challenged as inaccurate by Democrats who believe childhood poverty to be on the rise since Brownback took office in 2011. Chris Pumpelly, spokesman for Democratic governor candidate Paul Davis, said Brownback's policies were "failing to help our poorest, most vulnerable kids."

The governor's office stands by Brownback's statement.

The U.S. Census Bureau collects data useful in determining trends in child poverty. Depending upon the source, however, both the governor and his critics have research to back up their perspectives on Kansas. While both sides rely on material collected by the Census Bureau, they use different reports to prove their point.

Kansas Action for Children, a leading advocacy organization in Topeka, revealed in its Kansas KIDS COUNT report the child poverty rate in Kansas stood at 17.3 percent in 2009 and 19.4 percent in 2010. The organization documented an escalation in 2011 to 21 percent and to 23.1 percent in 2012. The KIDS COUNT analysis for 2013 hasn’t been released.

The Davis campaign latched onto this summary as evidence Brownback downplayed extent of poverty among children in Kansas.

KAC spokeswoman Lauren Beatty said the organization relied upon statistics from the Current Population Survey. The CPS focuses on children through age 18 in households under the federal poverty threshold. - Topeka Capitol-Journal, 7/19/14

It's not that shocking considering Brownback's economic policies are severely hurting Kansas:

Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas, doesn't just believe in whistling past the graveyard--he's willing to stroll past it in full-throated song.

The graveyard is where the economy of Kansas has been buried since 2012, when Brownback and his Republican state legislature enacted a slew of deep tax cuts in a tea party-esque quest for economic "freedom."

"Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy," he promised then. Brownback's tax consultant, the supply-side guru Art Laffer, promised Kansans that the cuts would pay for themselves in supercharged economic growth.

Instead, job growth in Kansas trails the nation. The state's rainy-day fund is dwindling to zero. Month after month, revenue comes in even lower than fiscal officials' most dire expectations.

In the rest of the country, school budgets are finally beginning to recover from the toll of the last recession; in Kansas, they're still falling. Healthcare, assistance for the poor, courts, and other state services are being eviscerated.

Who's benefiting? The rich, including those proud offspring of Wichita, Kan.: the Koch brothers.

Despite all this, Brownback resorted to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago to declare that "the early results are impressive." Among other statistics he cited, "In the past year, a record number of small businesses — more than 15,000 — were formed."

Yes, but as shown by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington economic think tank, 16,000 disappeared. And many of those businesses that Brownback crowed about were surely created to take advantage of one of the tax-cut quirks Brownback enacted. This is the elimination of all taxes on partnerships, sole proprietorships, and LLCs that pass through their tax liabilities to their owners. That allows everyone from freelancers and petty contractors to huge partnerships to avoid any state income tax at all, as long as they're organized as a certain type of "small business."

Brownback's policy, and his claims about its outcome, define the term "ideological" -- the imposition of preconceived notions on a contradictory reality. - Los Angeles Times, 7/10/14

And this is why Brownback's in serious trouble for re-election:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback should be coasting to re-election this fall.  The soft-spoken son of a Kansas pig farmer is the conservative governor of a deep red state, and he’s running in a year when Republicans will likely have a national advantage over Democrats. Instead, Brownback is now fighting for political survival in what his detractors call the theocratic dictatorship of “Brownbackistan.”

If Brownbackistan were running surpluses with essential services humming along, the governor would probably be fending off rumors of a 2016 presidential run. Instead, he is locked in a tight race with the House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who led Brownback by 6 points in a recent SurveyUSA poll and has been endorsed by more than 100 current and former Republican officials. Last week, the Cook Political Report moved the November contest from a likely Republican win to a pure toss-up.

Wint Winter, a former state senator who has known Brownback since he was 14, is one of the Republicans backing Davis.

“I had hoped that it wouldn’t be as extreme as it’s been,” Winter told The Daily Beast of Brownback’s tenure. “I knew from Sam’s time in the Senate that he had a passionate affection for social issues, but what we didn't know was that Sam would use this state as crash test dummies for his own fiscal experiments.  We have people in our group who are moved by different issues, but all of them come back to the fact that Sam did not have the right to use Kansas as an experiment.”

The experiment that Winter referred to is a sweeping income tax cut plan that Brownback enacted in 2011, which eliminated income taxes for small businesses, cut the highest income tax rates by 25 percent, and made smaller cuts for people with lower rates.  Brownback has also signed bills cutting state budgets, declared that life begins “at fertilization,” and created an “Office of the Repealer” to eliminate state laws, regulations and agencies. He’s also ended guaranteed teacher tenure, and narrowed eligibility for welfare and Medicaid.

The tax cuts have come at a particularly steep price. The Wall Street Journal reported that tax collections fell by $685 million in the first 11 months of the fiscal year, putting Kansas on track to blow through its $700 million reserve fund by the middle of next year.

Brownback has insisted that he’ll make up future shortfalls with economic growth, but with 40 percent of state revenue traditionally coming from those taxes and no specific plan to make up the shortfall, Moody’s Investor Service recently downgraded the state’s debt rating. In their decision, Moody’s cited both the tax cuts and a state Supreme Court decision that found that Brownback and the legislature had cut funding for schools unfairly and too deeply in 2011, and would have to find budget savings elsewhere. - Daily Beast, 7/20/14

Some people see a silver lining in Brownback's economic policies:

Weed legalization proponents may have an unlikely ally: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback

You don’t have to be high to say that Brownback and most of Kansas’ elected officials in the state are conservative. So, how could one of the most conservative states in the nation actually be advancing the marijuana legalization movement? Short answer: the law of unintended consequences.

Brownback’s sweeping tax cuts were supposed to make the state a model for growth using conservative policies. But early analysis shows declines instead growth.

Moody’s cut the state’s credit rating in April, and Kansas ended the 2014 fiscal year with a $338 million shortfall at the same time other states are seeing increases. Now comes news that even many Republicans are displeased with Kansas’ new direction: More than 100 former GOP office holders are endorsing Brownback’s Democratic challenger, Paul Davis.

Brownback may be forced to either reverse directions on his dream of growth through cuts or find new revenue streams. Given the likelihood that the second option wins, one very unlikely but nearly surefire way to generate new revenue is to look West, where Colorado’s model for marijuana legalization is proving to be a rousing success for state coffers.

A recent report from the Colorado Department of Revenue reveals that demand for marijuana has far exceeded earlier estimates, checking in at 121,412,000 grams a year. This tremendous demand doesn’t appear to be hurting the state’s growth. In June, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said real gross domestic product grew in Kansas at 1.9 percent in 2013, exactly half the 3.8 percent growth Colorado experienced in the same time period. - Kansas City Business Journal, 7/18/14

It's doubtful that Brownback would legalize marijuana but is has sparked a primary challenger:

Jennifer Winn is running a shoestring Republican primary race against Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on a platform that includes legalizing marijuana, and both he and his Democratic challenger have ignored her for months.

But Brownback's foes now see the Aug. 5 election fortunes of Winn, who owns a Wichita-area property management company, as a barometer of the governor's vulnerability in November. Democratic challenger Paul Davis is aggressively courting GOP moderates who are unhappy with Brownback's conservative fiscal policies, and Winn represents a chance for early protest votes.

Winn, 44, isn't interested in being someone's symbol. She entered the race out of anger over a first-degree murder charge against her son over what authorities say was his involvement in a marijuana deal gone bad last year that left a man dead. She touts herself as a champion of the working class and as someone who built a company from a $100 start.

"It's very comfortable for me to go out and just talk to people," she said. "Once they learn their options, usually their first response is, `Why didn't we know about you?"'

At a recent forum in Junction City, Winn drew a few smirks from the audience when she discussed legalizing marijuana and promoting industrial hemp production. But she also combines a populist frustration over corporate tax breaks with core conservative GOP views for gun rights and against Common Core multistate math and reading standards.

Brownback has riled his opponents and gained national attention by engineering massive personal income tax cuts to stimulate the economy. He's seeking re-election amid an intense debate over whether the reductions are producing the promised growth or wrecking the state's finances.

Winn said she has raised only about $17,000 to date, and Brownback spokesman John Milburn said his re-election message is consistent whether the opponent is Winn or Davis. - AP, 7/20/14

And of course Brownback is hoping that blaming Obama will distract voters in red Kansas:

With just a few weeks remaining before the August primary election – and a hotly contested race for governor coming this fall – it would make sense that Kansans should hear about the candidates, the issues and the direction of our state.

But in the world of political campaigns, it’s not always sense that wins elections. No, what wins many elections is fear, and in Kansas nothing strikes fear into the hearts of men and women more than the name Barack Obama.

And why wouldn’t he? The president of the United States doesn’t look like an American. He’s tall, thin, and – get ready for this – he’s black! There’s even that lingering question about whether he’s an American at all or just some foreign-born terrorist in disguise who managed to weasel his way into the White House. Worse still, Obama is the modern-day face of such dangerous liberal policies as increased access to health care, a better minimum wage and equal rights. You know, the same things that we thought were important 100 years ago.

In fact Obama and his supporters are so fear-inducing, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum came to Kansas to stump for Gov. Sam Brownback and to warn us all that the “freedom of the free world” hangs in the balance of the Kansas governor’s race.

Oh, and by the way, if you support anyone other than Brownback, Santorum told about 100 people in Wichita, you’re akin to the evil Eye of Sauron from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy – always searching for ways to oppress and control the elves and hobbits of Middle Earth.

Thanks, Obama.

So why all the hyperbole just weeks before a primary election? Why will voters hear more about Obama than the candidates for whom they’ll be voting?

Because in Kansas, particularly in the Republican primaries where being more conservative than that other conservative candidate is all that matters, proving that you’re nothing like Obama trumps proving that you’re good for Kansas.

It didn’t take long for Brownback’s campaign to invoke Obama’s name as its top campaign strategy.

“I welcome Paul Davis to the race,” Brownback stated on the day Davis filed to run for governor. “He is an Obama-style Democrat. Kansans will recognize the sharp contrast between my policies as a Reagan Republican, reducing taxes and increasing family income, and those of a liberal Democrat who supports increased taxes and federal intrusion including support for Obamacare.” - Hutchinson News, 7/18/14

It's going to take a lot more than blaming Obama to dupe voters into re-electing Brownback.  They know what's going on in Kansas and who to blame.  But we can't take anything for granted.  Click here to donate and get involved with Paul Davis' (D. KS) campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 11:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kansas & Missouri Kossacks, Youth Kos 2.0, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.

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