In his State of the State Address last month, Governor Brownback emphasized a need to restructure state government, stating “the days of ever expanding government are over – and under my administration, they will not return.” The governor has subsequently signed 34 Executive Reorganization Orders (EROs), needed to combine or eliminate state agencies.
In light of our tight revenue projections, state agencies must be scrutinized. Their missions, policies, and processes must all be thoroughly reviewed to ensure that our state is operating as efficiently as possible. That’s why I support the Governor’s proposals to eliminate Kansas, Inc. and move the Kansas Health Policy Authority (KHPA) back under the Executive branch.
As a director on Kansas Inc.’s Board, I have had the opportunity to work with their management team and am impressed with the quality work they do. But I have always felt that their mission was much better served by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
I also believe that KHPA never should have been its own agency in the first place. In 2005, then-Governor Sebelius proposed that KHPA exist under the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Instead, the legislature chose to set KHPA up as a separate entity outside of the Executive branch.
While these changes will eliminate inefficiencies and improve responsiveness, I have serious reservations about a number of Governor Brownback’s other restructuring proposals. In particular I am concerned with his proposals to eliminate the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC) while transferring its functions into the Department of Commerce, and elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission.
KTEC is a private/public partnership that promotes technology-based economic development in Kansas. It is a critical component of promoting innovation and creating high-paying jobs for our citizens. Eliminating KTEC investments and Pipeline programs will not only make it more difficult for Kansas entrepreneurs in the short term, but will stymie development over the long haul.
Changing the Kansas Arts Commission into a private, nonprofit Kansas Arts Council would eliminate annual state funding of $815,000 and another $778,300 in annual federal matching funds. More than $400,000 in annual grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance would also be lost. As a result of these funding cuts, nearly 4,000 full-time jobs supported by the non-profit arts sector would also be on the chopping block.
As our new governor, Mr. Brownback has an opportunity to take a fresh look at state organizations and challenge “business as usual” practices. With proper planning, I believe some government restructuring will be good for our state. But we mustn’t restructure so quickly as to force the elimination of services to needy Kansans.
I hope that Governor Brownback and his team carefully consider the adverse impact these decisions may have on Kansas citizens. If not, we’ll be putting our state through a lot of unnecessary transitional turmoil.