GOP's Brownback: Poor shouldn't lose benefits when they marry

TOPEKA — Kansas Governor-elect Sam Brownback said Monday that he wants the state to stop cutting services for low-income residents just because they get married.

Many state programs for the poor award benefits based on a person’s income. A person receiving services could be disqualified if they marry and their new joint income makes them ineligible.

Brownback said the threat of losing benefits is enough to keep some couples from getting married. He’d like the Legislature to consider letting people receive the same level of benefits after they wed.

“We will work to remove disincentives to marriage so more couples can marry without the fear of losing crucial state support during difficult financial times,” he said at a news conference.

The move would cost Kansas more, but Brownback said promoting marriage is likely to save money elsewhere in the budget.

Brownback, a Republican, made the remarks after announcing key appointments to two state health and welfare agencies. Brownback will be sworn in Jan. 10.

He named Kansas physician Robert Moser to lead the state’s Department of Health and Environment. Moser, 52, is director of Rural Health and Outreach at the University of Kansas Medical School in Wichita. He also was medical director at Greeley County Health Services for 13 years and was named Kansas Family Physician of the year in 2006.

Brownback also named Robert Siedlecki, 41, to head the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. An attorney, Siedlecki worked for the federal government’s Administration for Children and Families and the U.S. Justice Department before joining Florida’s Department of Health where he works as chief of staff.

SRS directs programs for the disabled and mentally ill, manages state hospitals and oversees the foster care system. It’s one of the state’s largest departments, and administers millions of dollars in federal and state funds.

“As SRS Secretary, Rob Siedlecki brings a unique combination of working with the same federal programs that SRS implements in our state and supervising a large staff and budget,” Brownback said. “He understands the severe budget challenges Kansas faces.”

Both nominees are subject to state Senate confirmation.