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Smell the coffee
Hyped optimism could lead to bleak returns
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Kansas Department of Children and Families inadvertently sent out a news release before the election that incorrectly claimed poverty in Kansas had declined under Gov. Sam Brownback and did not issue a correction to the media when it became aware of the inaccuracy.
The release, issued Oct. 20, release said the state’s poverty rate had dropped 2.3 percent between 2011 and 2013. When the Kansas Health Institute notified the agency the rate was not accurate, the department issued a correction to the KHI but not to any other media, it was reported.
According to KDCF officials, department staffers combined figures from separate poverty measures by mistake.
“We misread the report,” a spokesperson said. “There was no intent to mislead anyone.”
DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said in the revised statement that poverty had dropped “slightly” during the Brownback administration but she was confident state efforts to improve the poverty rate were working. Brownback, who won re-election on Nov. 4, emphasized reducing poverty during his tenure, particularly pertaining to children.
Whether or not there was an intent to dupe Kansans may never be known. Is this a big deal? In the grand scheme of things, probably not.
Although Brownback’s victory over Democratic challenger Paul Davis was a thin one, a few decimal points in this report probably would not have changed the outcome.
However, there is a trend here.
Barton County commissioners and county officials attended the Kansas Association of Counties convention last week in Wichita. They all came home with a bleak view of the state’s fiscal health.
“The State of Kansas is hurting,” Commissioner Don Davis said.
 “They’re in a state of denial,” Commissioner Homer Kruckenberg said of Kansas officials.
The commission is worried now about how much more of the financial burden will be shifted from the state to the counties, counties that will have little choice but to raise mil levies to make up the difference.
Just one week into Browback’s second term, we are seeing signs that this Pollyanna vision of our economy could lead to increased economic distress. This, taken together with the poverty faux pas, may make Kansans feel like they were sold a bill of goods.
Let’s hope not. There is too much at stake.
Maybe someone needs to wake up and smell the coffee.
Dale Hogg