Americans for Prosperity Kansas has released its legislative agenda for the 2011 session of the Kansas Legislature. AFP advocates for limited government and free markets, and its recommendations are aimed at reducing the growth of Kansas state government spending and placing the state’s budget on a fiscally sound footing.
Regarding the Kansas state budget, AFP Kansas recommends these items:
- Rainy day fund. “Building reserves during times of revenue increases are crucial to weathering economic downturns.” The passage of last year’s sales tax increase, pitched by former Governor Parkinson as a temporary measure, would not have been necessary if Kansas had such a fund. The danger is that even though the sales tax is designed to be temporary, Kansas has had a temporary sales tax increase in the recent past, and it did not go away as planned. Last year there was a proposal for a rainy day fund, but it did not advance into law.
- Limit the growth of revenue and spending to the sum of inflation and population growth. This idea makes tremendous sense, and is vigorously opposed by those who thrive on and benefit from state spending. But if we are satisfied with the current level of states services, there is no reason why spending should increase faster than inflation and the growth in the number of people in Kansas.
- Require local governments (cities, counties and school districts) to participate in KanView, the state’s transparency Web site, with uniform budget reporting.
- Encourage the state to reduce its debt. Kansas state government debt is now $1,140 per capita.
- Zero-based budgeting for state agencies. This is a very important reform that could help Kansas identify unnecessary programs and related spending. An example of how this reform would help is this: It is not uncommon for the state to participate in programs where the federal government sends the state funds for a program, on the condition that the state match the federal funds. So the legislature makes an appropriation. Then, in a few years, the federal program may end. But with the current system of budgeting, in which last year’s budget is used as the basis for this year’s, the state appropriation is likely to continue, even through the program is over. Zero-based budget can spot situations like this. There is an increased cost, but the benefits could be large.
- Allow statutory flexibility to utilize unencumbered cash funds for varying purposes.
On tax policy, AFP Kansas recommends repealing last year’s sales tax increase, requirement of a legislative super-majority to raise taxes, and rejection of all attempts to increase taxes this year.
AFP recommends reforms to taxpayer-funded lobbying: “Currently, more than 100 lobbyists with more than 60 government entities/associations have been hired by your tax dollars, lobbying for more and more of your money. Taxpayer funded lobbying propagates the cycle of more spending and more programs that call for more spending.”
On judicial selection, AFP recommends a process of legislative confirmation of judges, Currently Kansas uses a secretive system that gives undue influence to the state’s lawyers.
AFP also supports “a program, similar to what the federal government uses to decide which military bases to close, to scrutinize every program and agency and root out wasteful spending.” Governor Brownback has made some recommendations along this line.
A press release is available, and the four-page legislative agenda is located at 2011 Kansas Legislative Agenda: Prosperity for our Future.