- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to rescind an executive order protecting gay, lesbian and transgender state employees from discrimination was unnecessary and perplexing, and said she considers his economic policies “a colossal failure.”

Sebelius, who signed an executive order in 2007 extending protection to LGBT state employees, said she was unhappy when Brownback announced Tuesday that he was rescinding the order. Brownback said such changes should be made by the Legislature, not by executive order.

The former governor said she signed the order to signal that Kansas was a tolerant state that wanted a diverse workforce and that “we were open for business.” She said she didn’t know of any issue that had been raised in response to the executive order.

“I have no idea what problem he was trying to solve,” Sebelius said at an appearance Tuesday at the Dole Institute in Lawrence. “But I think we need to be clear to people around the United States, ‘This is not Kansas. This is not what the state was founded on, it’s not what we believe in,’ that this is not an acceptable policy going forward.”

She also criticized Brownback’s handling of the state’s $344 million shortfall in the current budget, with an additional shortfall of nearly $600 million in the budget year for the next fiscal year. She said his plan to eliminate the state’s income tax to attract business and new jobs could put Kansas on course for a long-term economic downturn.

“(The) experiment is a colossal failure,” she said.

Brownback has signed a bill that diverts money from highway projects and other special funds to general government spending. The state also is reducing contributions to pensions for teachers and government workers and plans to cut nearly $45 million in funding for public schools and higher education.

“My concern is that a step back in these various areas in Kansas takes a lot longer than one election to fix and this may have a generational effect,” Sebelius said.

Brownback’s spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, said Friday that Kansas voters have consistently supported the governor’s vision for the state.

“Kansas voters have now had three opportunities to choose between Governor Brownback’s vision for our state and the Obama/Sebelius agenda,” she said. “The Obama/Sebelius agenda was rejected every time.”

Sebelius resigned as Kansas governor in 2009 and was U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama until resigning in 2014 following a troubled introduction of a web-based health insurance exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act. Since resigning, she divides her time between Washington, where she serves on several boards, and Kansas, where her husband, Gary Sebelius, is a federal magistrate.

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