Last month, the newspaper cited his decision to ice the Kansas Arts Commission as an example of the extreme austerity measures that states are taking. On Sunday, an editorial in the Times called Brownback foolish, indulgent and partisan — all before it reached the first period!
The editorial addressed Brownback’s decision to return a $31.5 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant related to the federal health-care reform that conservatives liken to a tumor of evil wrapped in pus-colored gauze.
Before Brownback developed a case of grant winner’s remorse, the Kansas Insurance Department was planning to use the money to design and implement a Web-based health-insurance exchange. Exchanges are supposed to help individuals and businesses shop for private health plans when the law goes into effect in 2014. (The law, commonly known as the Affordable Care Act, is being challenged in the courts.)
But there will be no innovation of this variety on Brownback’s watch. The governor cited the “uncertainty” of the federal government’s ability to meet its obligations as his reason for returning the grant.
The Times thinks Brownback is pissing away an opportunity. The editorial mocked his worries about Washington’s ability to pay its bills, noting that as a U.S. senator, he voted for the tax cuts and war spending that have contributed mightily to the nation’s deficit habit.
Brownback’s first impulse was not to grandstand. In December, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said Brownback wanted her to proceed with the planning for an insurance exchange.
But hard-liners pressured Brownback to return the money. “This administration should be fighting with every fiber to stop implementation of Obamacare,” state Rep. Charlotte O’Hara, an Overland Park Republican, told Secretary of State Kris Kobach on his Internet radio program, according to a report in The Topeka Capital-Journal.
House Speaker Mike O’Neal felt that O’Hara’s remarks were intemperate. He removed her from a legislative committee on health issues. His actions suggested a man who thinks that when the federal government plops $31.5 million on a tree stump, you put the money in your sack and slink back to Middle Earth.
But once the governor refused the grant money, O’Neal fell into line and started complaining about federal mandates and attached strings.
So, governor, your objection to Obamacare has been noted. Today it only cost the state’s IT professionals the chance for meaningful work.