[Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s weekly Republican address, released Saturday.]
A week ago, nearly a third of the world’s population celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus. New life. Well, we need new life in our nation and economy.
Washington is broke. Big spending programs are running out of money and change is coming. The ideas on how to fix the federal government are now percolating in the states, 30 of which are led by Republican governors.
You see, you don’t change America by changing Washington — you change America by changing the states. And that’s exactly what Republican governors are doing across the country — taking a different approach to grow their states’ economies and fix their governments with ideas that work.
They involve a more focused government that costs less. A taxing structure that encourages growth. An education system that produces measurable results. And a renewed focus on the incredible dignity of each and every person, no matter who they are.
Now, take my state, Kansas, as an example.
The year I became governor, the state began the fiscal year with just $876.05 in the bank — less than $1,000 and it projected a $500 million deficit. Two years later we had a $500 million ending balance — and did it without tax increases.
Now to make that financial turnaround a reality, we didn’t cut state funding to schools, we didn’t cut state funding for our universities and colleges, we didn’t cut state funding for our Medicaid system, we didn’t cut state funding for our prisons.
We did consolidate agencies, cut overhead costs, offered a voluntary retirement buyout to state employees and eliminated outdated programs.
We reformed our state’s Medicaid system to save a billion dollars over five years while at the same time, we expanded health care services for our neediest Kansans.
We found ways to reduce the cost of running state government while increasing our investments in key areas like research in aviation, agriculture and medicine.
We reduced the number of state employees and increased the number of students taking technical education courses, which will help them prepare for a future with a better paying job.
We reformed our court of appeals so that judges are selected more democratically.
We took steps to safeguard our state’s water resources for future generations and gave Kansans more local control of their future water needs.
And we passed the largest tax cut in state history — eliminating the income tax on small businesses altogether. This took us from being one of the highest tax states in the region to one of the lowest.
My objective is to make Kansas the best place in America to raise a family and grow a business.
Now, for those who come to our state because of lower taxes, opportunities abound.
We had an all-time record of new businesses formed in Kansas last year.
Kansas recently received an ‘A’ for its friendly small business environment, and we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 5.5 percent.
All signs of strong economic growth.
Governors compete each and every day for citizens and for businesses, and unfortunately, Kansas hasn’t kept up with that competition the last 30 years, but working with the Legislature, we’re back in the game.
What I and other Republican governors around the country are doing is a lot like the Wichita State Wheat Shockers basketball team playing in the NCAA Final Four this weekend — unranked as a team, the pundits said ‘you can’t win’ and the Shockers said, ‘watch us.’
Republican governors have been told you can’t cut taxes, balance your budgets and invest in the future all at the same time, and we’ve said, ‘watch us’ and done what we said we would do.
Growing our economies, building strong family structures and making wise government investments produces winning results.
Our Republican message is a belief in the power of the people more than the control of government. This unleashes the creativity of entrepreneurs and the strength of hope and dreams.
Join us as we remake our country, not into a place that looks more and more like Europe. We don’t need to do that. We just need to become America again. And that is the rebirth we are doing.
Sam Brownback is Kansas governor.