Remarks to be delivered to the December 16, 2009 meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission.
Mr. Chairman, members of the commission,
I’m here today to recommend that this body not give taxpayer funds to Visioneering Wichita.
My reason is simple: Many of the items that Visioneering is in favor of require government spending. Mr. Rolph told me that Visioneering doesn’t advocate for higher taxes. But any government spending — at least by governmental bodies other than the federal government — requires taxation or borrowing, which is simply deferred taxation.
For example, the items on Visioneering’s unified legislative agenda all involve funding from the state. Mr. Rolph told me, correctly, that we’re in a battle with other parts of the state to see who gets funding, and that we need to make sure we in south central Kansas get our fair share. There’s some truth in that. But the better battle we need to fight is to control state spending in all areas, so that there’s not this regional battle every year.
If the county is inclined to spend money on legislative matters, I might suggest that restoring funding for a contract lobbyist — that was about $29,000 if memory serves — plus some expense money for commissioners to spend some time at the statehouse might be a better expenditure. This is especially true this year as this commission has proposed some legislative initiatives that deserve advocacy in Topeka.
In another area, Visioneering supports the planning effort for the revitalization of downtown Wichita. Besides being an expenditure of taxpayer money to pay for the plan, it’s certain that the ambitious plans for downtown will require a massive infusion of taxpayer funds. The sales tax used in Oklahoma City, for example, has been cited as something that should be “of interest” to Wichita.
Funding Visionering with taxpayer funds, therefore, amounts to taxpayer-funded lobbying for more government spending funded by taxation. This leads to a loss of economic freedom for the people of Wichita and Kansas. I am reminded of the words of Milton Friedman, who wrote in his book Capitalism and Freedom: “Freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself … Economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.”
So no, we don’t need to do anything that encourages more government spending and taxation.
If this commission should decide to fund Visioneering, I make this suggestion: As a condition of funding, the county should require that Visioneering agree, in writing, that it and its parent or affiliated organizations meet the definition of a “public agency” as defined in KSA 45-217 (f)(1), and are therefore subject to the provisions of the Kansas Open Records Act and the Kansas Open Meeting Act.
By doing this, citizens may request documents without having to confront disagreements over the definition of a public agency.