Sam Brownback says the state of Kansas is strong, which is easy to say when you ignore all the bad stuff

In Sam Brownback’s Kansas, problems lurk inside the walls of the White House and in the clinics that provide women’s reproductive health services.

Budget catastrophes and an ongoing crisis with a state mental health hospital aren’t of Brownback’s concern. At least not on Tuesday evening when he delivered his fifth State of the State address, the annual rite of passage that sets the legislative session in motion. 

Brownback spent the measure of his speech touting his accomplishments, delivering a sunny assessment on Kansas. Even if an optimist views the glass as half full, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the half that’s missing can’t be addressed or desired.

In Brownback’s case, he pointed out that the Kansas Highway Patrol graduated its largest class of troopers in recent years, but omitted any mention that the patrol’s headcount has dropped from 501 in 2006 to 419 due to budget cuts.

He also says Kansans are finding jobs in their home state. And they are, just not as many as most states in the union.

“Mr. Speaker, Madam President, it is for these reasons, and many more, that I can report to you that the state of our state is strong,” Brownback said in Topeka on Tuesday.

There was no mention of the state once again having to reassemble its jigsaw budget to account for a $170 million shortfall, one that resulted from the state’s lack of a dynamic economy and Brownback’s tax policies that gutted Kansas finances.

Nor was there any mention of the crisis at the Osawatomie State Hospital, a facility for patients suffering from acute mental health crisis. The hospital is so beset with problems that even the federal government saw it no longer worth its while to provide funding to the facility. Meanwhile, community-based mental heath facilities, hospital emergency rooms and jails are left to wonder how to handle these patients that it cannot send to Osawatomie. It’s the type of thing that deserves a plan, much less a mention in the governor’s speech. 

If Osawatomie isn’t occupying Brownback’s mind, Planned Parenthood and Barack Obama are.

Brownback made a call for state bureaucrats to ensure that no Medicaid money goes to Planned Parenthood, which the governor accused of trafficking in “baby body parts.” Brownback was referring to undercover videos produced by anti-abortion advocates that emerged last year, purporting to prove Planned Parenthood wantonly hawked the tissue of aborted fetuses for its own profit. Planned Parenthood has insisted that it donates fetal tissue for research, with the permission of the mother, and that the fee covers handling costs. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri says it doesn’t participate in the fetal tissue program.

Speaking of Medicaid, don’t count on it expanding in Kansas this year. Brownback rejected the notion of Medicaid expansion, saying that the state’s own privatized Medicaid program, called KanCare, is working while the Affordable Care Act is the culprit for the state’s rural health crisis. 

Of course, many might disagree with that assessment, including some from his own party, but they won’t find an ear on Brownback.

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