An announcement received from the Illinois Policy Institute early in May spoke of an invitation to join the Illinois Policy Institute for a luncheon on Monday, May 20, featuring Governor Sam Brownback.
The announcement went on to explain that Sam Brownback, serving his first term as Governor of Kansas, is proving to be an innovative reformer seeking to expand liberty in the Sunflower State. Before taking over in Topeka, Governor Brownback represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate from 1996 - 2011 and in the House from 1995 - 1996.
Specially lauded in the announcement was how Governor Brownback has aggressively taken on Kansas' tax model, most notably, by enacting the largest income tax cut in Kansas' history and seeking, as part of a broader package of reforms, to reduce it even further.
As was evident by the large turnout of Illinois Policy Institute member and friends on Tuesday, May 21, that many were energized in having the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. A common thought was: "What lessons might Brownback have to share that could help in fixing the horrendous problems facing our state? But before Brownback could impart any wisdom gleamed through his Kansas experience, it was time for the excellent luncheon to be served.
Following the luncheon, Johathan Greenberg, Vice President of External Relations at the Illinois Policy Institute, extended his welcome to those in attendance, during which time Greenberg highlighted a very important upcoming event being held by the Illinois Policy Institute in partnership with the Union League Club of Chicago and its Public Affairs Committee, a Digital Learning Symposium. It will take place on Tuesday, June 25 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Union League Club of Chicago. The Symposium will explore how students can be helped to achieve their full potential with digital learning. Everyone with a stake in improving student outcomes is invited to the Digital Learning Symposium. http://illinoispolicy.org/news/article.asp?ArticleSource=5741
The honor of introducing Gov. Brownback fell to Gary E. MacDougal, a businessman who now works primarily on helping the economically disadvantage. MacDougal introduced Brownback as the governor of a state "who really get it." Also as one who is thought most likely to become U.S. president by many. www.macdougal.com
A youthful-looking Governor Brownback didn't disappoint his attentive audience. As Govenor Brownback revealed, now is a good time to be a governor along with thirty other Republican governors, for it is at the state level where change occur, not at the federal level. States perform as "laboratories of democracy" where positive, workable policy are formulated and then shared with other states.
It all wasn't a "bed of roses" when Brownback won the governorship. After all, he did follow Kathleen Sibelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services since 2009. Brownback also inherited some RINOS in the state house and a floundering economy. Having run on what is known as theBrownback Road Map for Kansas, these five points now serve as a Kansas Report Card that will be updated yearly so the Brownback Administration will be held accountable by the people of Kansas.
The Road Map for Kansas Goals includes:
1. Increase net personal income.
2. Increase private sector employment.
3. Increase the percentage of 4th graders reading at grade level.
4. Increase the percentage of high school graduates who are college or career ready.
5. Decrease the percentage of Kansas children who live in poverty.
Governor Brownback's Road Map plan is yielding dividends. Kansas was on a downward trajectory in population when Brownback was sworn in as governor. Regarding taxes, Kansas had the highest tax burden of all states in the region at 6.45%. Brownback would like to see a zero state income tax burden on Kansans, but with a divided Republican Congress Brownback must be content with his plan to lower the top income tax rate down to 3.5% by 2017.
As in Illinois, Kansas was in desperate need of pension reform. From a defined benefit plan a cash balance system was put in place, this being the only measure Brownback was able to get through the Kansas legislature. The amazing figure of $4 trillion was quoted by Senator Brownback as the amount of the total unfunded pension obligations throughout this nation at the state and local levels.
Positive state accomplishments since Brownback was elected governor:
- Kansas likes fracking and natural gas. With the horizontal drilling technique, by 2020 this nation could be the largest energy producer in the world. Gov. Brownback expressed amazement at Chicagoland gas prices when driving in from O'Hare.
- Kansas now ranks 10th in the lowest unemployment rate (5.5%) and 15th in being good for business, making the state a good place for recent graduates to locate. A record number of new industries are entering the state. Caterpillar, an Illinois business, is expanding its business in Kansas.
- Kansas took on Medicaid with its managed care system of "KanCare." www.kancare.ks.gov/health_plan_info.htm
- Kansas is a committed family values state.
- Kansas is a right to work state.
Having served in the U.S. House and Senate for sixteen years before being elected governor, Brownback stressed the need to turn things around at the state level because it isn't going to happen at the federal level. Brownback is extremely concerned about what is happening in Washington, D.C. Asked how his accomplishments in Kansas could impact Illinois, Brownback spoke of the need for state organizations like the Illinois Policy Institute and those at the grassroots level to generate policy debate. The education process was cited in not imparting to students what was meant to be a limited role of government by our Founding Fathers, which now has morphed into big government with an entitlement system that has gotten out of control and which desperately needs to be brought under control.
Closing remarks by Johathan Greenberg: Policies must be marketed in ways that can be understood. It's then up to those who do get it to spread the word. We can only hope that given enough pain people will finally get it and start voting to elect those who do understand the value of the free market system in growing the economy, producing job, and thereby improving the quality of life, but this might take years to happen, if ever.
What is needed here in Illinois and is lacking is leadership. We need people in place to get things done. All in attendance were asked to do their part in helping to spread the word to our legislators and others as to what needs to be done to change Illinois from ranking at the bottom of the heap, to a state that is economically viable and one that Illinoisans can once again be proud to call home.
At this point Illinois has failed at being a laboratory of democracy. No state in its right mind would desire to copy Illinois's tax and spend method of government!
Check this site for the video of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTmKyTqC3bc