Gov. Sam Brownback said Wednesday he wants to train the Kansas spotlight on issues other than taxes and spending.
Who can blame him? With huge budget cuts looming the next couple of years, the fight on that front is going to be bloody.
In Wichita Wednesday, Brownback said he wants to also talk about obesity and illiteracy.
At a Wichita Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Brownback showed slides saying that 3 out of 10 Kansans are obese, and a like number of the state’s fourth-graders, at a pivotal point in their education, can’t read at a basic level.
Brownback said his first two years in office were focused almost entirely on taxes and the economy, which he said are now “moving in the right direction.”
As for obesity and illiteracy, “They’re not so much in the budget and growth area, but they’re items that I ran on and items that I think are critically important for us moving forward as a state, so I want to start laying them out for people,” Brownback said.
One of Brownback’s slides showed an alarmingly rising curve from 13 percent obesity in 1992 to 30 percent today.
“This is a big deal,” Brownback said. “This is really going bad, and that impacts your health care numbers, it impacts diabetes, that impacts just a whole bunch of different things.”
Brownback said he plans to kick off his anti-obesity campaign on Friday by issuing a challenge to state employees to lose weight, with cash prizes for the biggest losers.
The governor said he has formed a five-person weight-loss team with members of his staff and will challenge state employees to form their own teams and compete for the highest percentage of weight loss over a six-month period.
“Any state team that beats us, the top two, we’ve got cash prizes we’re going to give – hope to give some pretty substantial ones – and the rest of them are going to be qualified for a set of prize drawings,” Brownback said.
He said the administration also is setting up a public website and hopes to draw local government and private-business teams into the competition to “see if you can beat the governor’s team or not.”
Brownback is himself a fairly trim individual, but he said, “I’ve got some room here and then I’ve recruited some beefeaters.”