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Former Kansas Governor and defrocked Obama Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is beside herself over the state’s financial situation under Governor Sam Brownback’s tax cut policies. How odd – when she occupied the governor’s office and scuttled a $2.8 billion investment in the state’s electrical infrastructure with repercussions still felt in the state today, she seemed to have far more pressing concerns than the state’s financial picture.
“Kalamity Kate,” as she’s called out west by those whose fortunes were foregone when she sandbagged the Sunflower Electric plant upgrade at Holcomb, told a Kansas City public radio station recently it “would take decades” for the state to recover from Republican tax cuts that trimmed taxes without commensurate spending cuts during a continued sputtering state economy. “It breaks my heart,” she lamented to KCUR’s Steve Kraske.
Nearly 10 years later Sebelius has finally developed a financial conscience, after earning the moniker “most economically damaging governor in Kansas history” for pulling the plug on the Holcomb power plant expansion. As you recall, Kansas Department of Health and Environment staffers had already analyzed Sunflower’s plan for emissions control and other environmental impacts from a double power unit expansion plan at Holcomb and given the massive investment a green light, but secretary of KDHE and Sebelius appointee Rod Bremby suddenly refused to approve the project. When pressed, Sebelius stood by her man instead of overriding his veto. The whole thing smelled a little funny.
The reasoning of course was that before Sebelius botched her play as secretary of Obama’s Health and Human Services, she was an up-and-comer in the national Democratic party with a bright future and possibly even a VP or presidential spotlight upon her. She and the party desperately needed a way to get her on the national stage, and an appointment to Obama’s cabinet was the logical move. But she’d need to bow to the leftist playbook extolled by Obama’s administration – particularly in favor of environmental over-reach and copious regulation – so Sunflower’s project and all its benefits for Kansas was sacrificed for Sebelius’ ill-fated political ambitions.
So when she laments the possible long-term impacts of Brownback’s tax cuts, it seems all too fair to ask what the impacts of her Sunflower decision have been over the past decade. How many construction jobs never happened? How many dollars from those jobs never circulated in the western Kansas economy? How much was lost in sales tax from associated purchases? How much was lost in property taxes from the cancelled expansion, and in income taxes from Sunflower’s sale of power both to Kansans and to Coloradans to whom the company would have exported power over the grid? There’s little doubt the economic loss compounded the impact of the recession in Kansas. The benefits that could have, but which never happened, certainly contribute to the state’s continuing economic lethargy.
In all of Kansas’ statehood, no governor ever did comparable economic damage.
Subsequent to Sebelius’ exit to pursue her disaster at HHS, lieutenant governor Mark Parkinson took the governor’s office and brokered a deal to cut the project in half and get it approved, but a lawsuit by the Sierra Club stymied it again until the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in its favor this month. The embattled project may, one day, get off the ground in spite of hurdles that bolster leftist philosophy and politics over common sense and economics.
For Kalamity Kate Sebelius to wreak such economic havoc in Kansas and then pronounce judgment on what is partially her own legacy is inauthentic, at best.