Remarks delivered to a budget hearing before the Sedgwick County Commission.
Listening to the budget hearings two weeks ago, I was struck by the reach of government into people’s lives, and to the extent that the recipients of services expect the general taxpayer to pay.
It’s one thing when we help people who are truly not able to care for themselves. While I do not believe government is the best agent for that, it’s the system we have in place for now.
For example: the g2goutside program, which offers recreational programs in the great outdoors. Is this a worthy goal? Sure, but this should not be a government program. It is recreation. Government should not be involved.
Then, a farmer said a farm bureau program helps him plan his crops and their management. Commissioners, a farm is a business. If it has need for information and management consulting advice, it should pay for its own needs, just like we expect other business firms to do.
I’m almost reluctant to say this, as these people seem to be well-meaning. But these two examples and other testimony presented that day remind me of Henry Hazlitt and what he termed the “special pleading of selfish interests.” In his book Economics in one lesson, he wrote:
While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for then plausibly and persistently.
Looking through the budget, it seems like Sedgwick County makes very little use of outsourcing. In fact, in 769 pages the word “outsource” or its variant is used only once. I would ask that the commissioners take notice of the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, which outsources nearly everything the city does. It would take me a while to read the list of functions that the city outsources. This is not a small town; its population is over 90,000. We in Sedgwick County can do more with outsourcing as a way to improve service delivery at lower cost.
I also see no reason as to why the county should be supporting Wichita State University.
Regarding our economic development efforts: According to the recent report by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition, 517 jobs were created through the combined economic development efforts in Sedgwick County. That’s an annual rate of 1,034 jobs. That sounds like a lot, but place this number in context. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the labor force in Sedgwick County averaged 253,045 people in 2010. That means the number of jobs created by our economic development efforts amounted to 0.4 percent of the county’s labor force.
I would suggest that this amounts to mere statistical noise; a vanishingly small number which is overwhelmed by other events.
Furthermore, we find that despite the economic development incentives we’ve granted are often not really needed. We have two examples — one here and one at Wichita City Hall — where developers told this body that without incentives, their projects could not go forward. The Wichita example is relevant because it involved the city granting forgiveness of taxes that the country would otherwise collect.
In these cases, despite the insistence of developers that welfare was required for their projects, the projects went ahead without it.
Tomorrow I believe you will be dealing with another example of developer welfare given to someone at great cost to taxpayers, but now is not needed after all.
The statistics cited above, along with these three examples, show that money can be saved on our economic development efforts.