Kansas wants federal funds to promote marriage

While turning down one federal handout last week, the administration of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was applying for a different one.

No, thanks: $31.5 million for implementing the new federal health care law.

Please remit: $6.6 million to promote marriage.

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is seeking $2.2 million a year for three years to pay for counseling that encourages unwed parents to marry. Free marriage licenses would be given to those who do.

State officials portrayed the grant request as the state’s first major marriage initiative aimed at reducing child poverty.

In giving up the $31 million, the governor said that every state should prepare for less federal cash, given that so many questions are swirling about government spending.

So why ask for marriage money?

Kansas Sen. Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said the Brownback team is picking grants based on how they fit with its worldview.

Turning down the $31 million made a statement opposing President Barack Obama’s health care initiative, Hensley said. Promoting marriage was another matter for the Republican governor, he said.

“When it benefits their philosophical ideology, everything is fine,” Hensley said. “Where it doesn’t fit in or goes against them — either from a policy or political standpoint — then the federal money isn’t OK.”

Brownback’s staff didn’t detail why one grant would be more acceptable than the other, but it outlined how Kansas decides which grants to seek and which to forgo.

“The administration doesn’t have a blanket policy regarding grants. Each potential grant and the federal requirements that come along with them are evaluated on a case-by-case basis with an increased watchful eye toward long-term mandates with short-term funding streams,” according to statements released to The Star.

Asked if other grants had been rejected, Brownback’s staff said it’s more accurate to say the state has declined to apply for some grants.

The state, for example, isn’t pursuing a slice of the $900 million that the federal government will give out over the next five years to help communities reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

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