Kansas new governor, Sam Brownback, is facing early criticism for whats called an unprecedented effort to consolidate authority within the executive branch.
Critics, including some of Brownbacks fellow Republicans, cite examples from the former U.S. senators first months in office in which hes brought independent agencies under his control or at least tried.
They are trying to acquire as much authority as they can get over state government and centralize as many state government functions as they possibly can in the governors office, said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Democrat from Lawrence.
Whats in it for Brownback? According to Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Democrat from Topeka, its all aimed at maximizing Brownbacks political and executive leverage over a sprawling state bureaucracy, and imprinting that bureaucracy with his personal agenda.
In other words, Hensley said, a power grab.
But the governors office insisted that times have changed in the Sunflower State. With Kansas strapped for cash, it has to find ways to perform many of the same old functions with fewer dollars.
The state cant afford to do everything it has done in the past, said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag. Weve got to focus on the core responsibilities and try to find ways to make state government more efficient.
Those who question the moves, however, argue that theres more at stake than saving a few bucks in a multi-billion-dollar budget. The danger, they contend, is that the demise of independent agencies will lead to a more politicized government one more concerned about the standing of the Brownback administration than the core missions that the agencies once championed.
The negative side is that you politicize all kinds of stuff, said University of Kansas political scientist Burdett Loomis.
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