U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback faced new questions Thursday about joining fellow congressional Republicans in opposing legislation that would prop up state budgets as his Democratic opponent in the race for governor criticized him.
Brownback said he is against a plan that includes extra Medicaid dollars for states because it wasn't drafted in a fiscally responsible way. Kansas' share is $131 million, and its current $13.7 billion budget won't balance without the money, which covers health care for the poor and disabled.
The GOP senator has said he'll support the extra Medicaid funding if Congress offsets the costs elsewhere so the federal debt doesn't rise. The latest version contains such offsets, but Republicans see it as deeply flawed.
Kansas Democrats' nominee for governor, state Sen. Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, declared Thursday that Brownback is "out of excuses" for not supporting the legislation.
Holland had a Statehouse news conference to kick off the fall campaign for governor and suggested Brownback is out of touch with the state. Holland said Brownback's position is an example of him being too far to the right.
"If this is the damage that Sen. Brownback can cause from Washington, imagine what he can do in Topeka," Holland said.
But Brownback, like many Republicans, has a long list of objections to the Medicaid legislation, which is likely to clear Congress next week. Among other reasons, it rewrites tax laws and trims spending from military procurement and construction budgets.
The bill does tap some federal stimulus funds. Brownback argues all the extra Medicaid spending - and extra education funds in the bill - could be covered by existing federal stimulus dollars.
"With our debt out of control, we need to be fiscally responsible," he said in a statement Thursday.
The congressional impasse over the $26 billion legislation had caused heartburn for states because a majority counted on extra Medicaid dollars in their budgeting, Kansas included. A key vote came Wednesday, when Senate Democrats broke a filibuster.
"These funds will not only allow us to keep our budget in balance, but prevent thousands of teacher layoffs and keep Kansas on the road to economic recovery," Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said Thursday.
Provisions of the legislation rewrite laws determining how much income tax credits individuals and corporations receive for overseas income taxed by other nations. Supporters see the changes as reining in offshore tax shelters, but critics say corporations won't want to reinvest foreign earnings in the U.S.
Another change repeals a 2009 law that helped some poor and working-class families by giving them an advance against the earned income tax credit they receive when filing their income taxes later.
Brownback said the legislation relied on "accounting gimmicks" and "questionable" offsets to its extra spending. Fellow Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts opposed the bill for similar reasons.
Brownback said: "The Democrats could have easily paid for this with existing stimulus funds."
Holland and Brownback are seeking to succeed Parkinson, who could have run but decided to return to private business.
Brownback is favored to win because Republicans enjoy a better than 3-to-2 advantage in voter registration and he had almost $1.2 million in cash at the end of July, 10 times as much as Holland did. Brownback easily overcame token opposition in Tuesday's GOP primary. Holland had no primary opponent.
Holland also challenged Brownback to 10 debates before the Nov. 2 general election. Brownback's campaign didn't respond directly but said he looks forward to debating Holland in September.
Brownback also announced that next week, he'll outline a "Road Map for Kansas" and take a 32-city bus tour. Brownback said his platform will include plans for improving the economy and schools and reforming government.
Holland mocked Brownback's plans, saying his platform would be a far-right "road map to ruin."