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Moderation wanes as Kan. governor gets fast start


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Washington Examiner:

In a mere five months, Brownback and likeminded lawmakers have recast the social and fiscal landscape of Kansas and made the state a laboratory of conservative ideas.
For decades in Kansas, a delicate political balance kept the state on a moderate path even as other states in the region turned to the right. Conservatives could cut taxes in flush times. But Democrats and centrist Republicans still freed up money for highways and schools, and a loose coalition worked out compromises.

Those days, it seems, have passed.

And the change has come more swiftly than in other places that were part of last fall's conservative electoral wave that put new Republican governors or stronger Republican legislatures in charge in half of the nation's statehouses.

In a mere five months, new Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and likeminded lawmakers have recast the social and fiscal landscape of Kansas and made the state a laboratory for conservative ideas.

Kansas will soon become one of the most difficult places in the country for a woman to obtain an abortion. Its public schools will have much leaner budgets. Its government workers will have smaller pensions or pay more to keep what they have. Several state agencies have been closed or merged. The state will look for ways to spend less on health care for the poor in the Medicaid program. And Kansas will be first state to eliminate funding for the arts.

The legislative session that ended this month will have shoved Kansas away from the socially moderate climate of the Midwest, with Iowa and Illinois, and toward the sharply conservative Southwest of Texas and Oklahoma.

"The ground was very fertile. There hadn't been a conservative governor in maybe 50 years," Brownback said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's a center-right state. On top of it, you've got a revulsion to what's taking place in Washington."

Brownback, a conservative Catholic and strong abortion opponent who served 14 years in the Senate, took office in January and moved briskly through a wish list of conservative priorities while new Republican leaders in other states were caught up in legislative fights with similar measures.

Voters' anger over the recession and government spending set the stage. Democrats and other moderates found themselves overwhelmed. In Kansas, the number of GOP lawmakers grew by 10 percent, making the Legislature three-quarters Republican. Many of the new members were strong conservatives.snip
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