A new “Office of the Repealer” has been created to reduce the number of laws and regulations, and the Repealer is canvassing the state for more cut suggestions.
In the upcoming legislative session, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) plans to roll out proposals to change the way schools are funded, taxes are levied and state pensions are administered.
A year after voters vaulted hundreds of tea party candidates to power in Washington and in state capitals, the movement’s goals are being pursued aggressively in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Texas.
But in Kansas, as nowhere else in the country, tea party fervor is reshaping government. The same political forces of the Republican Party driving the confrontation over taxes and spending in Washington are now completely in charge in Kansas.
The GOP now controls the state’s House of Representatives with the biggest majority in half a century. Emboldened by this power shift, Brownback — the state’s former two-term U.S. senator — has embarked on his overhaul at a breathtaking pace.
“It’s a revolution in a cornfield,” said Arthur Laffer, the 71-year-old architect of supply-side economic theory and former economic adviser for President Ronald Reagan who is now working with the governor. “Brownback and his whole group there, it’s an amazing thing they’re doing. Truly revolutionary.”
Brownback, 55, declined to be interviewed for this article but has said he wants to turn his small farming state into a national showcase for the virtues of limited government.
“The states are to be the laboratory for democracy,” he said recently at a dinner at the Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank in Wichita. “Why not here and why not us and why not now?”
The governor has said his main concerns are creating jobs, cutting taxes and bringing new businesses to the state, which has been losing population to domestic migration over the past decade and ranks near the bottom in private-sector job creation.
“We cannot continue on this path and hope we can move forward and win the future,” he said in the Wichita speech
. “It won’t work. We have to change course, and we’re going to have to be aggressive about it or we are doomed to a slow decline.”
Brownback has shown little patience with anyone who might stand in the way of the revolution. Nine moderate Republicans in the state Senate who crossed Brownback face primary challengers in 2012. His administration has acquired a reputation for engaging even the smallest critics. The governor’s aides grabbed national attention after they went after a teenager who tweeted derogatory comments about Brownback during a visit to the statehouse. The governor later apologized for their behavior.