When Sam Brownback was elected governor of Kansas in 2010, I figured this reddest of the red states deserved him.
During his terms in the U.S. Senate (he succeeded Bob Dole, who vacated the seat to run for president in 1996) he gained a reputation as one of Congress' most uncompromising right-wingers.
During his 14 years in the Senate, he distinguished himself by opposing same-sex marriage, condemning homosexuality, supporting efforts to declare that life begins at conception, voting against union interests, and demanding that the U.S. invade Iraq to defuse those infamous "weapons of mass destruction" that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were talking about. And oh, by the way, he got caught taking a lot of bucks from disgraced super lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Yup, my kind of guy, I thought — and ain't we lucky we don't have someone like him here in Wisconsin.
Little did I know that after that same November 2010 election we did have someone exactly like Brownback. In fact, one might argue that Scott Walker and his disciples in the Legislature have turned Wisconsin into a copy of Kansas, albeit without the sunflowers.
The Brownback and Walker administrations have governed remarkably alike since 2010. One of Brownback's first actions as governor was to rescind an executive order from the previous governor making it illegal to discriminate against gays. After Walker succeeded in destroying public unions, he went after abortion rights.
But both of their mantras have been tax cuts, no matter who winds up getting hurt in the process and, frankly, no matter if there's enough money to pay for those cuts.
And guess what? Public education in both states is in a crisis.
Like Walker, Brownback predicted that state revenues would rise in 2012, and he used that to successfully enact a significant income tax cut. But, like Wisconsin, Kansas wound up with an economy that hasn't done well during the recovery. Like Walker, Brownback's a dyed-in-the-wool supply-side, trickle-down kind of guy.
So taking it in the shorts these days are the public schools, which are being asked to pick up the damage done by the tax cuts. Kansas City alone has been hit by $40 million in school aid reductions and rural school districts around the state are crying for help.
We can relate here in Wisconsin. Like Brownback, the Wisconsin governor used revenue projections during a re-election year to enact some income and property tax reductions, only to find out those projections didn't pan out.
So not only did Wisconsin public schools take a big haircut during Walker's first budget, they are getting less aid this year, plus the University of Wisconsin System is being asked to absorb a $300 million budget reduction to help make up for the ill-advised tax cuts.
The big difference between these two governors, though, is that one is being touted as a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, while the other's turn on the national stage has fortunately passed him by.
A bigger downside for us Badgers, though, is that someday someone might write a book, as Thomas Frank did about Brownback's state, and ask, "What's the Matter With Wisconsin?"
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.