TOPEKA – Diverse groups held a rally at the state capitol on Wednesday to protest the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington, DC, the Koch Brothers in Wichita, Governor Sam Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Kansans for Life.
The Facebook page gave this description of the event:
Kansans United in Voice & Spirit have partnered with KanVote and Kansas Stronger Together to call attention to corporate influence on our democratic process in Kansas. There are many issues of concern before the legislature. Stand up for democracy, and any other issue you are most concerned about, and make your voice heard. Join us in Topeka on February 15th to hold our elected leaders accountable
Other topics addressed by speakers included voting, voter ID, immigration, women’s rights.
Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen appears in this YouTube video about Kansans reclaiming citizenship against policies of Gov. Brownback’s that burden the vulnerable.
David Hansen, Wichita, Interfaith Worker Justice of Kansas
“This event today is about reclaiming democracy, bringing together diverse groups from across the state representing a variety of interests but all seeking to reclaim and strengthen the great tradition of democracy in Kansas.”
“I represent Interfaith Worker Justice of Kansas. It’s a national organization. It’s a coalition between faith groups — all faith groups — and labor, both organized, and non-union labor, seeking to create a better work environment for workers and their families …”
American Legislative Exchange Council
The Lawrence Journal World earlier this month quoted a press release from Kansas United about ALEC and why that organization was one of the protest targets:
“ALEC is the primary influence on the current administration, not Kansans.”
On Feb. 7 Jonathan Williams, director of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, addressed the Kansas legislature about reforming the tax code.
On Jan. 19 economist Arthur Laffer told the Kansas legislature that taxes and unions hurt Kansas’ prosperity.
Williams and Laffer are co-authors of the ALEC study Rich States, Poor States that gives details about how states can compete economically.
In 2011 Gov. Sam Brownback wrote the forward to the 4th edition of Rich States, Poor States:
Rich States, Poor States should be required reading for governors, legislators, and those who serve them. Money is spent more efficiently by the private sector than by governments, so it is reasonable to expect that states with lower overall taxes have better economic environments than states with high taxes and more government spending. It is true that lowering taxes can be politically difficult: even fiscal conservatives start losing their enthusiasm for cutting taxes when special interest groups that consume a state’s tax dollars warn them that tax cuts will have dire consequences. But the consequences of being caught in a spiral of increased taxes and a decreasing rate of return on the tax base are much more dangerous.
Gov. Brownback’s Communications Director Sherriene Jones-Sontag on Wednesday gave these comments about the protest a few hours earlier:
“Kansans across are state are struggling. During the last decade [January 2001 to January 2011], Kansas lost tens of thousands of private sector jobs. We are just beginning to reverse that trend, gaining 12,000 private sector jobs last year. But to make up for the lost decade of job growth, we need a tax policy that encourages investment and rewards work. Governor Brownback’s tax plan will help to create jobs. The best anti-poverty program is a job.”
In an email on Thursday ALEC’s spokesperson Kaitlyn Buss offered these comments about the protest and ALEC’s work:
“ALEC understands that not everyone shares the principles of free markets, limited government and federalism, and supports their right to protest those ideas. Those protests, however, don’t detract us from what we believe is the very important work of promoting policies that will create jobs, strengthen our economy and put the federal government back within its Constitutional limits.”
“ALEC uniquely brings together state legislators from across the country to share best practices with each other. ALEC values the opinion of the private sector of our economy and is a resource for legislators looking to make real differences that strengthen our states: whether that is to solve budget crises, reform health care, or improve their state’s education outcomes.”
State Rep. John Rubin (R, Shawnee) gave this response on Sunday via E-mail about the protest and his picture appearing on signs saying “I put Corporate Profit Over People”:
“While I wholeheartedly support the First Amendment rights of the protestors who marched on the Capitol on February 15 peaceably to assemble and seek redress of their grievances, I regret that they seemed to be woefully uninformed about pending pro-life, religious freedom, immigration reform and tax reform legislation currently being thoughtfully considered and debated in the Kansas House, and about the invaluable contributions made by both legislators and private sector members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to economic growth, job creation, protection of free enterprise and personal liberties, and a better life for all Americans.”
From the summary of that report:
“Kansas faces similar economic, budget and public policy issues as other states. It’s my duty as an elected official to work with fellow state legislators to help generate new ideas and have the best choices possible when making policy decisions to help Kansas thrive economically and socially.”
Kari Ann Rinker, Kansas National Organization for Women
“I think this event means different things to the different people that are here representing various interests, but I think the underlying theme is frustration.”
“There’s frustration with our government that is bought and sold by ALEC and the Koch brothers. There’s frustration by women who see their rights trampled on and their privacy trampled on by piece after piece of anti-choice legislation that comes through here. “
“You see a lot of voices here of people who are against Kris Kobach and his policies suppressing the vote and putting down immigrants and taking away their rights …”
“I look over here and I see all these fliers being held that say “ALEC Members” and those are the same faces of the people that take their marching orders from Kansans for Life. So no matter what your beliefs are on a woman’s right to choose we can all agree that these people need to go …”
“I stood in front of a committee last week that was considering a 68-page abortion bill that among other things would make doctors inform women of a non-existent link between breast cancer and abortion … I came forward and I brought them some truth …”
“The truth sheds light on this dismally dark process. The truth when spoken often enough, loudly enough, has power far beyond the power of ALEC, the Kochs, Kris Kobach, and Kansans for Life.”
On Feb. 9 at a Kansans for Life banquet, Gov. Sam Brownback made these statements on the life issue:
“Kansas is a pro-life state and we’re not going back …”
“My hope is that Kansas moves forward to become the most pro-life state …”
“This is the state that has led in these moral battles in the past …”
“Particularly if you look at the issue over slavery, there’s no state that’s got a better position in the world of fighting this …”
“it’s a fabulous legacy. It’s one where my mom grows up on the property where John Brown would stay when he’s in Osawatomie, Kansas.”
“That’s our legacy. It’s also our heritage and it’s our gift to this state and to this country and to this world. To lead us out of this chapter of darkness. And we can do this. There is no reason we can’t do this.”
“… how about us competing with other places on life? We’re going to be the top pro-life state in the country …”
“Yes, these are dark chapters, and yes there’s light. And we can help carry that and be that light. “
“Just like we did against slavery, we’re going to do for life.”
On Thursday on their blog Kansans for Life countered Rinker’s statements about the abortion-breast cancer ink: Abortion lobbyists fight breast cancer undisputed risk info.
Koch Brothers and Koch Industries
In addition to ALEC and Gov. Brownback, several of the speakers railed against the Koch Brothers.
Melissa Cohlmia, Director of Communications at Koch, gave this comment about the Topeka protest and an earlier one in Wichita on Oct. 29, 2011:
We respect all Americans’ rights to free speech and to peaceably assemble.
Rather than protest an American company that employs 50,000 Americans, including more than 2,600 Kansans, we encourage citizens to turn their attention to the burden of excessive government spending, uncontrolled debt, and onerous regulations that are crippling our nation.
As we have for decades, Koch’s efforts will continue to be focused on producing products that people want and need, while promoting policies that will help grow our economy, foster free enterprise and create American jobs. We believe these goals are supported by most Americans and are critical to our nation’s future.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach was attacked by several of the speakers at the rally about voter ID, vote suppression, and his pro-legal immigration stand.
In a brief telephone conversation with Kobach on Thursday he said he saw “no coherent message” from the protesters and they were “randomly throwing stones at Brownback, the Koch Brothers and himself.”
Mark Desetti, Kansas National Education Association (KNEA)
“I represent a cause that is under attack these days as well …”
“Education of our children is under attack with the plan to freeze the cuts of the last few years into permanency”
“Educators … must not be content if schools are funded and hungry children go unfed.”
“Those who love the arts should not be happy if the Arts Commission is restored but disabled Kansans or senior citizens are left to fend for themselves.”
“We cannot be happy about tax cuts that are paid for by abandoning highway maintenance, by shuttering schools, by turning the care of our disabled citizens over to health maintenance organizations.”
Mark Desetti is grossly misrepresenting facts and ignoring realities of the economic situation facing the State of Kansas.
KPI’s recent study, “Major Structural Deficits Looming in Kansas”, explains how Kansas is potentially facing General Fund deficits totaling $5 billion over the next eleven years. Not even average revenue growth will be able to offset the enormous cost increases coming from full implementation of ObamaCare and more realistic funding of KPERS. Alternatively, if all other spending is adjusted based on available revenue (assuming 3.5% annual growth) KPERS and Medicaid will consume up to 45 percent of state general fund revenue by fiscal year 2023 and have a considerable ‘crowding out’ effect on school funding and other expenditures.
Kansas would need sustained annual private sector GDP growth of approximately 6% in order to withstand the highly probable $5 billion deficit scenario. That is very unlikely to occur under the current tax system; hence the need for tax reform.
School districts may not have received as much money as they wanted in the past few years but the changes have been relatively minor overall. According to KSDE, total aid peaked in 2009 at $5.67 billion; in 2011 it was $5.59 billion…a 1.4 percent decline over a two-year period but still 30.3 percent more than in 2005. State aid to public schools in 2012 is $3.16 billion; that’s 4 percent below the 2009 peak but still 25.4 percent higher than in 2005.
The Governor’s proposed General Fund budget for 2013 is $6.09 billion. That’s a small decline of 0.6 percent over 2012 but is still 7.5 percent more than we spent in 2011.
Desetti and others are pushing for large funding increases even though districts haven’t spent all the tax dollars given them in any of the last six years. Carryover cash reserves in current operating funds (excluding capital, debt service and federal funds) increased from $458 million in 2005 to $868 million in 2011. Districts were authorized to transfer up to $154 million of excess funds to be used in any manner this year, but only $24 million of that authority has been exercised. Districts have been paid on time this entire year and that is expected to continue into the future, so there is no reason that unspent tax dollars from prior years should not be used instead of asking for more.
There is no ‘attack’ on public education. Perhaps he is referring to a few relatively minor efforts to hold school districts more accountable to parents and taxpayers.
“Welcome to Brownbackistan” musical interlude by Will Katz, Lawrence
“Welcome to Brownbackistan. It’s where Kansas used to be. Welcome to Brownbackistan. It’s our new theocracy. Brownback and Koch call all the shots. We’re governed by the rich. The wealthy all get wealthier and the rest end up with zip.”
- Kansas United in Voice and Spirit
- Kansas Stronger Together
- KNEA – Kansas National Education Association
- KS NOW – Kansas National Organization for Women
- Interfaith Worker Justice Kansas
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- Rich States, Poor States, 4th Edition, American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011.
- Koch Industries
- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
- Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach
- Kansans for Life
- Group mobilizing people to protest Brownback, Kobach, Lawrence Journal-World, Feb. 18, 2012.
- Amid protests, Kobach pushes immigration laws,Wichita Eagle, Feb. 16, 2012.
- Hundreds protest Brownback initiatives, influence of ALEC, KHI News Service, Feb. 16, 2012.
- Protesters deliver anti-ALEC message, Topeka Capital-Journal, Feb. 15, 2012.
- Groups Question Kobach, Rally For Democracy, WIBW, Feb. 15, 2012.
- Labor groups blast Brownback over tax plan, several other bills, Lawrence Journal-World, Feb. 8, 2012.
- ALEC economist speaks tax policy, Topeka Capital-Journal, Feb. 7, 2012.
- Economist Arthur Laffer: Tax, unions hurt Kansas’ prosperity, Wichita Eagle, Jan. 20, 2012.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, email@example.com, KansasWatchdog.org
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