Tag Archives: Americans For Prosperity

Export-Import Bank threatens a revival

Last week members of the United States House of Representatives successfully executed a maneuver that will force a vote on the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The method used, a discharge petition, was signed by well over a majority of House members, including perhaps 42 Republicans. If the petition signers vote the same way, the bill to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank will pass the House. It will then move to the Senate for consideration.

No members of the House of Representatives from Kansas signed the discharge petition. In July a vote on an amendment in favor of the Ex-Im Bank passed with 67 votes, including votes from both Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran.

Wichita governmental agencies favor the Export-Import Bank.
Wichita governmental agencies favor the Export-Import Bank.
Business groups and government agencies usually favor Ex-Im. Business — as distinguished from capitalism. Free-market and capitalism advocacy groups are almost universally opposed. A statement from Americans for Prosperity read:

Members are right to be frustrated with this attempt to sidestep regular order, especially to revive a defunct institution that represents the worst of Beltway crony capitalism. It’s unfortunate that some are determined not to take even a modest step toward restoring free markets or getting out of the business of special interest deals. Signing this discharge petition is an attempt to bring an inherently corrupt institution back from the dead, and it means siding with corporate lobbyists over taxpayers. Abandoning free-market principles is wrong, but trying to do it with a procedural gimmick just adds insult to injury.

FreedomWorks issued this:

This July, an 80-year-old corporate welfare program known as the U.S. Export-Import Bank was allowed to expire for the first time since its inception. Created by FDR as part of his New Deal, the bank offers taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to companies unable to secure independent financing — in other words, loans too risky for private investors to be willing to finance.

It’s a ridiculous and obsolete program, and while its cost is small in the grand scheme of government spending — $2 billion over years — the difficulty with which it was finally defunded shows the extreme disproportionate influence of special interests in Washington. When conservatives finally succeeded in stopping the Bank’s funding, it was regarded as a huge victory for the opponents of corporate cronyism, proof of the concept that we can stop, or at least roll back, the leviathan if we could only muster the political will. …

It’s cynical in the extreme for politicians to try to sneak this corporate handout past the voters, and anyone who supports the reauthorization should be ashamed of themselves. FreedomWorks has preemptively issued a Key Vote NO on any bill to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, and will count those votes on our legislative scorecard.

Heritage Foundation has an excellent discussion of the issues at Export–Import Bank: Propaganda versus the Facts.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Rodger Woods of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Americans for Prosperity is one of the largest grassroots political action groups. Its motto is “Economic Freedom in Action.” Rodger Woods, deputy state director for AFP-Kansas, joins me to explain AFP’s mission and goals, and some specific issues. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 92, broadcast August 16, 2015.

AFP’s website is Americans for Prosperity.

Rally for school choice in Kansas

This month, parents and children from around Kansas rallied in the Kansas Capitol for school choice.

Speakers included James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute. He told the audience that children deserve better than what they are getting today. For many, he said that might be in a public school, but for many others it may be in a private school. Parents and their children should make that decision. It shouldn’t be based on their zip code. Individuals, not institutions, should be the focus.

Kansas now has a private school choice program. Franko told the audience that newspaper coverage of this program emphasizes how it helps private schools and hurts public schools. But we should be reading stories about how school choice helps kids, giving each child the freedom and opportunity to find the best educational fit. He explained that school choice also helps the students who remain in public schools, referring to a Friedman Foundation for Education Choice study. “It’s about helping every single child,” he said.

The study Franko mentioned is A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice. In its executive summary, author Greg Forster, Ph.D. writes “Opponents frequently claim school choice does not benefit participants, hurts public schools, costs taxpayers, facilitates segregation, and even undermines democracy. However, the empirical evidence consistently shows that choice improves academic outcomes for participants and public schools, saves taxpayer money, moves students into more integrated classrooms, and strengthens the shared civic values and practices essential to American democracy.”

Later, the specific finding that Franko used in his talk: “Twenty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 find that choice improves public schools and one finds no visible impact. No empirical study has found that choice harms public schools.

Michael Chartier of the Friedman Foundation for Education Choice said that there are now 51 school choice programs in 24 states plus the District of Columbia.

School Choice Rally, Kansas Capitol 2015-02-02 15.07.38 HDRAndrea Hillebert, principal of Mater Dei Catholic School in Topeka told the audience that school choice benefits families, schools, and the state. Families can choose the learning environment that is best for their children, and are not penalized if they choose a school that is not run by the government. She told the audience that “school choice encourages — requires — families to take an active role in shaping their students’ future.” Schools benefit because consumer choice is a catalyst for innovating programming and continuous improvement. The state benefits from the increased achievement of students in non-public schools.

Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity – Kansas explained that even as a former public schoolteacher, it has been a challenge for her to navigate the school system so that the needs of her three children were met. She said that parents not only deserve, but have the right to be the primary decision maker for their children.

Bishop Wade Moore, founder and principal of Urban Preparatory Academy in Wichita, completed the program. Urban Prep is a new private school in northeast Wichita, and students from that school attended the rally. He said that our legislators have “a moral responsibility to do what is right for each Kansas kid.” He mentioned the students that are pushed through the system until they graduate, but are unprepared for college, trade school, or employment. “A lot of those children have no chance at life. So we say that we have a crisis in this nation,” he said.

Alluding to how Kansas has few school choice programs, Moore said “It’s time for us to wake up and move ahead, like the rest of the nation, in education reform.” He said that he heard a school superintendent make the statement that our children and parents have a choice in education. He said “They can choose one of our schools to attend.” That is not choice, Moore said. Real choice is when parents have the opportunity to go outside the public school system.

The reason for the poor academic performance of many children is that their parents have not had choice and control over the children’s education. “It is imperative that all children, regardless of their race, gender, place of residence, and socio-economic status, learn the concepts and strategies necessary for them to develop and succeed,” he told the audience.

In Kansas fourth district, fundamental issues of governance arise

The contest in the Kansas fourth district is a choice between principle and political expediency, and between economic freedom and cronyism.

While some news articles and political columns have described the contest for Republican Party nomination for United States House of Representatives between Todd Tiahrt and Mike Pompeo as a yawner, as between two candidates with few and only minor distinguishing positions — there are important differences. The press is starting to notice.

A Crony Capitalist Showdown

In the Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel made the case for this contest’s importance as a bellwether of Republican sentiment:

A big decision comes Tuesday in the Kansas GOP primary. The Sunflower State is in the throes of political upheaval, with most of the attention on the fortunes of Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts. But the race that may say far more about the direction of the GOP is taking place in Wichita, the state’s Fourth District, in the standoff between Rep. Mike Pompeo and challenger Todd Tiahrt.

The 50-year-old Mr. Pompeo — an Army veteran, Harvard Law grad and businessman — was elected in the 2010 tea party surge, with a particular focus on liberating private enterprise. He’s made a name for himself as a leader in the fight to end corporate welfare and pork, and to cut back on strangling regulations. (Potomac Watch: A Crony Capitalism Showdown, August 1, 2014)

(If the above link does not work for you because you don’t have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, click here.)

Such principles are preciselyAfter detailing some legislative activity and accomplishment, Strassel notes the difficulty that fighters for economic freedom encounter: “Such principles are precisely what conservative voters claim to demand from their representatives. Yet the antisubsidy line has hardly been an easy one, even in conservative Kansas — which collects its share of federal largess. And Mr. Tiahrt knows it.”

Concluding her column, Strassel outlines the choice that so many writers have failed to realize:

The choice voters fundamentally face on Tuesday is whether they want a congressman who works to get government smaller for everyone and to end corporate welfare, or a congressman who grabs what he can of big government to funnel to his district, and embraces crony capitalism. The latter is a return to the unreformed GOP, a groove plenty of Republicans would happily slide back into — if only voters gave the nod. We’ll see if Kansas conservatives do.

Another example of the difference between the two candidates is the Export-Import Bank. Conservative groups are urging that Congress not reauthorize the bank, a vote that will happen soon. The most common argument is that it harms American jobs, and there are allegations of corruption in its operations.

While in Congress, Pompeo voted against the reauthorization of the bank. He has said he would vote against its reauthorization again unless there is significant reform. Tiahrt, on the other hand, voted in favor of the Export-Import Bank. It’s representative of the type of cronyism he has supported while in office, and would likely support again, especially as his positions tack to the political left.

Finally, Tiahrt has recently criticized Charles Koch and Americans for Prosperity, leading us to wonder if Tiahrt understands or embraces the principles of economic freedom and free markets.

For Tiahrt, economic freedom is not a good thing, it seems

Kansas congressional candidate Todd Tiahrt has criticized Charles Koch and Americans for Prosperity, leading us to wonder if Tiahrt understands or embraces the principles of economic freedom and free markets.

In a recent speech, candidate for United States House of Representatives Todd Tiahrt criticized Americans for Prosperity and Charles Koch, telling an audience “in general, they try to fight programs that they think are not good for Koch Industries.”

He also said that for Mike Pompeo, Tiahrt’s election opponent who is supported by Americans for Prosperity, they “think it’s all about the money.”

These allegations are contrary to positions and actions that Charles and David Koch have taken throughout their lives. As an example, in April of this year Charles Koch penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. In the article, Koch explains his involvement in public affairs:

Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished.

Koch Industries was the only major producer in the ethanol industry to argue for the demise of the ethanol tax credit in 2011. That government handout (which cost taxpayers billions) needlessly drove up food and fuel prices as well as other costs for consumers — many of whom were poor or otherwise disadvantaged. Now the mandate needs to go, so that consumers and the marketplace are the ones who decide the future of ethanol. (Charles Koch: I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society)

In an earlier Journal op-ed Koch wrote “Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.”

If it was “all about the money” as Tiahrt contends, Koch Industries would join the majority of American business firms that seek to rig the system in their favor. But Charles and David Koch, along with Americans for Prosperity, do not do that. Instead, they advocate for reform.

It’s not a recent conversion, either. Charles and David Koch have promoted free markets and economic freedom for many decades. Charles Koch and others founded what became the Cato Institute in 1977, almost four decades ago. Cato has been consistent in its advocacy of economic freedom.

Even earlier that that: An issue of Koch Industries Discovery newsletter contains a story titled “Don’t subsidize me.” Here’s an excerpt describing an event that must have taken place about 50 years ago:

When Charles Koch was in his 20s, he attended a business function hosted by his father. At that event, Fred Koch introduced Charles to a local oilman. When the independent oilman politely asked about the young man’s interests, Charles began talking about all he was doing to promote economic freedom. “Wow!” said the oilman, who was so impressed he wanted to introduce the young bachelor to his eligible daughter. But when Charles mentioned he was in favor of eliminating the government’s oil import quota, which subsidized domestic producers, the oilman exploded in rage. “Your father ought to lock you in a cell!” he yelled, jabbing his finger into Charles’ chest. “You’re worse than a Communist!”

It seems the oilman was all for the concept of free markets — unless it meant he had to compete on equal terms.

Under oath

For more than 50 years, Charles Koch has consistently promoted economic freedom, even when it was not in the company’s immediate financial interest. In the 1960s, Koch was willing to testify before a powerful Congressional committee that he was against the oil import quota — a very popular political measure at the time. “I think it’s fair to say my audience was less than receptive,” recalls Koch.

Years later, Koch warned an independent energy association about the dangers of subsidies and mandates. “We avoid the short-run temptation to impose regulatory burdens on competitors. We don’t lobby for subsidies that penalize taxpayers for our benefit. “This is our philosophy because we believe this will produce the most favorable conditions in the long run,” Koch said.

It seems that candidate Tiahrt doesn’t share these principles.

Following is a transcript provided to me of remarks by Todd Tiahrt on July 25, 2014.

The Americans for Prosperity is an organization that is primarily funded by Koch Industries and, in general, they try to fight programs that they think are not good for Koch Industries. And now they’re trying to support President, excuse me, they’re trying to support Mr. Pompeo. So, I guess because Mr. Pompeo is a Harvard lawyer and President Obama is a Harvard lawyer, sometimes I accidentally slip when I say “President Obama” when I really meant to say “Mr. Pompeo,” because they’re both Harvard lawyers.

Americans for Prosperity have done some good things in the past, but today they’re on the wrong side of the truth. … Mr. Pompeo and Koch Industries think it’s all about the money. You can out-vote Charles Koch if you get one other person to vote with you. Right here we have enough people to out-vote all of the billionaires in Kansas. Right here we have enough people to out-vote most of the millionaires, but they think that they can sway the outcome of this election by just putting more and more money into it. And forget about you! … They, in Washington, are all about the money, and it’s playing out right here in the Fourth District of Kansas.

For McGinn, a liberal voting record is a tradition

Based on votes made in the Kansas Senate, the advertising claims of Sedgwick County Commission candidate Carolyn McGinn don’t match her record.

Kansas CapitolIn a radio advertisement, Carolyn McGinn says she is conservative. In a mailer, she touts her “fiscal conservative leadership” in the Kansas Senate.

But voting records don’t match these claims.

Several voting scorecards in recent years show Senator McGinn ranking low in terms of voting for economic freedom issues. These issues generally concern taxation, wasteful spending, and unnecessary regulation. In recent years, a freedom index has been produced by Kansas Policy Institute. In 2012 the Kansas Economic Freedom Index was a joint product of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, Kansas Policy Institute, and myself. In 2010 I produced an index by myself. All tabulations show McGinn rarely voting in favor of economic freedom.

In the 2014 formulation, McGinn scored 25.8 percent. Four senators (Kansas has 40 senators) had lower scores. Some Wichita-area legislators that had higher scores than McGinn include Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Representatives Ponka-We Victors, Gail Finney, Jim Ward, Tom Sawyer, and Brandon Whipple. All these are Democrats, by the way, and they voted more in favor of economic freedom than did Carolyn McGinn.

In 2013, McGinn scored 40 percent. Eight senators had lower scores.

In 2012 the scores were calculated in a different manner. McGinn scored -6, with 16 senators scoring lower.

There was no index for 2011.

In 2010, on an index that I produced, McGinn scored seven percent. Three other senators had the same score, and one had a lower score.

At a recent forum, McGinn criticized the concept of a vote index, telling the audience: “The economic freedom index, I just find that interesting. Because it’s based on amendments after we’re out of session, so you can pick and choose what you want for who.”

She’s right, in a way. I don’t know what she meant by “amendments,” but the organizations that construct voting scorecards choose votes that they believe distinguish candidates along some axis. Usually the votes are chosen after they’re made, although sometimes organizations “key vote” an issue. That means they alert legislators in advance of a vote that the vote will be included on their scorecard.

There are organizations that are in favor of more spending, less accountability, and fewer choices for Kansas parents and schoolchildren. They produce scorecards, too. In particular, Kansas Association of School Boards found that McGinn never voted against their position from 2009 to 2012. Kansas National Education Association, while not making a scorecard public, recommended that its members vote for McGinn.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Citizen activists and the proposed Wichita sales tax

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Two activists join host Bob Weeks to discuss activism at the local level. Then, what about the proposed sales tax increase in Wichita? View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 51, broadcast July 13, 2014.

Wichita city council schools citizens on civic involvement

Proceedings of a recent Wichita City Council meeting are instructive of the factors citizens should consider if they want to interact with the council and city government at a public hearing.

At the June 17, 2014 meeting of the Wichita City Council, one agenda item was a public hearing to consider adding a property to the city’s facade improvement program. Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas appeared before the council during the hearing to express concern that a member of AFP (me) had made a request for information on the item, but had not received the information by the time of the public hearing. Background on my request and its importance to public policy can be found at In Wichita, a public hearing with missing information. Video of this meeting is below, or click here to view at YouTube.

From the bench, Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) said that this Pete Meitzer District 2 2012item had been “discussed in length last week,” referring to what would be the June 10, 2014 meeting. A reading of council agendas and minutes shows that it was actually at the June 3 meeting when the item was presented. Further, the June 3 matter was a different item. It’s a small detail, but the purpose of the June 3 item was to approve and accept the property owners petition and set the date for a public hearing. That public hearing was held on June 17.

At the June 3 meeting, contrary to Meitzner’s assertion, there was no substantive discussion on this item except for the presentation by city staff. There really was no need for discussion at that time, as the purpose of the agenda item was to accept the petition and set a date for a public hearing. If the petition is valid in its form, I don’t believe the council has any choice but to accept it and set a date for a public hearing. The purpose of the public hearing is to, naturally, hear from the public.

At the June 17 meeting during the public hearing, Meitzner questioned Estes and city staff. He asked if there was a “gap analysis” performed on all special assessments the city establishes. When told no, he asked Open Recordswhy is the gap analysis needed for this project and not for others. The assistant city manager explained that it is required for economic development projects like the one under consideration today, but not for others.

Questioning at the meeting also revealed that there are legal issues regarding whether the gap analysis can be disclosed to the public. The city has told me it will respond to my request for the document by June 20. The city is treating my friendly request for the document as a request made under the Kansas Open Records Act. That law is permeated with loopholes and exceptions that give government many pretexts to avoid disclosure of documents.

The meeting also featured an impassioned attack on Estes and her allies from a citizen speaker. The attack was based on incorrect information, as was explained to the citizen in the meeting.

What citizens can learn from this meeting

If you don’t ask for information on a schedule that pleases the city council, you may be criticized by multiple council members.

Council members may criticize you based on incorrect facts.

Council members may grill you based on their lack of knowledge of — or incorrect understanding of — city policy.

If you ask for information from the City of Wichita, but don’t also ask for the same from other jurisdictions, a city council member may seek to discredit you.

Kansas news media should report, not spin

kansas-policy-institute-logoA Hutchinson News editorial contained an uninformed opinion of which special interest groups are working for the best interests of Kansans. Following, Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute explains that influence may be shifting from media, unions, the education establishment, cities, counties, and school boards to those with different views — those of limited government and economic freedom that empower citizens, not an expansive government and its beneficiaries. The editorial referred to is Goodbye Democracy, Hello Wealthocracy.

Media spin a threat

By Dave Trabert

Kansans are bombarded with claims that range from innocently incomplete to quite deliberately false. Increasingly, the media perpetrates this bad information. That behavior limits civil discourse and is a serious threat to personal freedom and our democratic republic.

Media should use its powerful voice to provide unbiased information. Instead, we see a growing trend in Kansas media to distort the truth, ignore facts and attack those who disagree with their view of the world. A recent Hutchinson News editorial is an example of this petulant behavior.

The basic premise of “Goodbye Democracy, Hello Wealthocracy” is that elected officials are chosen and kept in line by special interest groups. The author allows that moneyed interests work both sides of the aisle in Washington and in other states but incredibly asserts that this is not the case in Kansas. He says, “Here, the GOP rules, and the split is between those who labor for their constituents and those who pledge allegiance to their sponsors.”

Even casual political observers know that to be laughably false. Republicans have a paper majority, but even cub reporters know it is meaningless. KPI’s Economic Freedom Index has consistently found Republicans at the top and bottom of rankings based on their votes for economic and educational freedom.

The dividing line is not party affiliations or labels like liberal, moderate or conservative. Rather, it’s a philosophical belief in the role of government and collectivism versus the personal liberty of individuals.

There is no such thing as a “wealthocracy,” but special interest groups do influence politics. Claiming this to be the exclusive province of Kansans with a limited government perspective, however, is a conscious lie.

The behaviors attributed to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity (recruiting and financially supporting friendly candidates for public office and encouraging elected officials to see things their way) are equally attributable to public employee unions, school board associations and others with big-government views. “Laboring for constituents” is a Hutchinson News euphemism for upholding the self-serving ideals of KNEA, KASB, state employee unions and other institutional interests.

There is nothing wrong, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, about special interests attempting to influence government. The difference — and perhaps the real objection of The Hutchinson News — is that their “side” is losing its long-standing monopoly over information and, with it, heavy influence over government and citizens.

The Kansas Policy Institute is perhaps the leading provider in Kansas of factual information on school funding and student achievement. Our information often differs from that published by media, unions and the education establishment, but they are facts nonetheless.

The editorial said, “… few lobbyists dominate like the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Policy Institute.” We’re flattered to be considered a dominant force, but the editorial conveniently didn’t mention other dominant players, including cities, counties, school boards and unions. The objection is not to our dominance; it’s that we don’t share the big-government/collectivist perspective of The Hutchinson News.

We call that hypocrisy.

Kansas newspapers against the children

apple-wormA Kansas newspaper editorial illustrates that for the establishment, schools — the institution of public schools, that is — are more important than students.

An unsigned editorial in the Garden City Telegram proclaimed “Another attempt to undermine public schools materialized last week in the Kansas Statehouse.” (Legislators turn to ALEC for poor plan on schools, March 25, 2014.)

What was in a bill that so worried the Telegram editorial writers? According to the op-ed, the dangerous provisions are “expansion of charter schools, overhaul of teacher licensing and tax breaks for private school scholarships.”

To the Telegram, these ideas are “radical” and would “undermine” public schools. These ideas are from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), purportedly funded by Charles and David Koch. To low-information newspaper editorialists, the source of an idea alone is sufficient evidence to condemn it. To buttress its argument, the Telegram mentions the Koch Brothers several times along with Americans for Prosperity, the tea party, and other “special interests.”

What’s curious is that the op-ed says “ALEC promotes concepts of free-market enterprise and limited government, which are worthy of discussion in legislative pursuits.” It’s good that the op-ed writers realize this. Very good.

But the next sentence criticizes ALEC’s “one-size-fits-all approach.” That’s a strange claim to make. The education reforms that ALEC supports — and the public school establishment hates — are centered around providing more choices for students and parents. The public schools that the Telegram defends are the “one-size-fits-all approach.” School choice programs foster diversity, creativity, and entrepreneurship in education. Government schools are the opposite.

Further, these school choice programs do not “target” public schools, as claimed in this op-ed. It is true that school choice programs provide competition for public schools. But to say that giving choices to parents and students is targeting public schools assumes a few things: First, it assumes that the institution of public schools is more important than Kansas schoolchildren.

Second, it assumes that public schools are somehow more worthy of taxpayer funds than are charter schools and private schools. But should taxpayer funds be spent where government school bureaucrats want, or where parents believe their children will get the best education?

Third, allowing and encouraging competition is not “targeting.” Proclaiming this reveals lack of understanding of economic competition in markets. In the jungle, the winners kill and eat the losers. But in markets, competition is a discovery process. Competition spurs people to innovate with new products, or become more efficient. As new products and services are discovered and refined through competition, the old products and services must adapt or fall by the wayside. But the old stuff doesn’t die, as do animals in the jungles. People and capital assets from failing enterprises are recycled into the new successful enterprises, and life goes on — except everything is better.

That’s the real problem. Kansas schools are not getting better. Editorials like this are part of the problem. It doesn’t help that the Wichita Eagle excerpted this editorial.

Harry Reid takes money from companies under investigation for bribery law violations

The Washington Examiner reports “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has received campaign contributions from people and political action committees linked to multiple companies suspected of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

This comes as the Senate Majority Leader has used the Senate floor to criticize Charles and David Koch for doing things that Reid doesn’t like … such as advocating for and supporting free markets, economic freedom, and limited government.

Near the end of February Reid said from the Senate floor this about ObamaCare: “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.”

On advertisements from Americans for Prosperity, an organization linked to Charles and David Koch, Reid said: “We heard about the evils of Obamacare, about the lives it’s ruining in Republicans’ stump speeches and in ads paid for by oil magnates, the Koch brothers. But in those tales, turned out to be just that: tales, stories made up from whole cloth, lies distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.”

Many may be surprised to learn that when members of Congress are speaking on the floor, they are immune from standards of behavior that the rest of us — including Charles and David Koch and Americans for Prosperity — must observe. That is, members can’t be sued for libel and slander while speaking as did Reid. Constitutional Law For Dummies explains Article I of the United States Constitution: “Among other consequences, the clause gives members of Congress a right, unique among American citizens and other officials, to basically libel or slander others in statements on the floor of Congress.”

More about this issue may be found at Koch representatives respond to U.S. Senate majority leader’s recent attacks.

Rally for school choice in Kansas

Rally for school choice, Topeka, 2014-02-11A grassroots coalition of educators, advocates, parents, and Kansans came together to make the case for school choice in the Kansas State Capitol on 11 February 2014. This was the first capitol rally in Kansas’ history focused on school choice.

Participants included
– Andrea Hillebert of Mater Dei Catholic School in Topeka
– Becky Elder of The Northfield School for the Liberal Arts in Wichita
– James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute
– Jeff Glendening of Americans for Prosperity
– Cristina Fischer of the Kansas Education Freedom Movement
– Chiquita Coggs, co-founder of Holman Academy in Kansas City, KS
– Tammy Hope, Decoding Dyslexia-Kansas
– Derrell Bradford, Better Education for Kids in New Jersey
– Pastor Wade Moore, Christian Faith Centre in Wichita

There is also a podcast holding audio from some of the speakers. View the video below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Kansas school finance lawsuit reaction

apple-chalkboard-booksFollowing is news coverage and reaction to the Kansas school finance lawsuit Luke Gannon, et al v. State of Kansas.

Press release from Kansas Supreme Court
The court declared certain school funding laws fail to provide equity in public education as required by the Kansas Constitution and returned the case to Shawnee County District Court to enforce the court’s holdings. The court further ordered the three-judge panel that presided over the trial of the case to reconsider whether school funding laws provide adequacy in public education — as also required by the constitution. … The court set a July 1, 2014, deadline to give the Legislature an opportunity to provide for equitable funding for public education. If by then the Legislature fully funds capital outlay state aid and supplemental general state aid as contemplated by present statutes, i.e., without withholding or prorating payments, the panel will not be required to take additional action on those issues. But if the Legislature takes no action by July 1, 2014, or otherwise fails to eliminate the inequity, the panel must take appropriate action to ensure the inequities are cured.

The full opinion

Court Orders Kansas Legislature to Spend More on Schools New York Times
Kansas’s highest court ruled on Friday that funding disparities between school districts violated the state’s Constitution and ordered the Legislature to bridge the gap, setting the stage for a messy budget battle in the capital this year. … Most of the attention in the case, Gannon v. Kansas, had been focused on the trial court’s order to raise base aid per student to $4,492, a 17 percent increase over the current level, to provide an adequate education for all Kansas students. On Friday, the Supreme Court held that the district court had not applied the proper standard to determine what constituted an adequate funding level and asked the lower court to re-examine that issue. “Regardless of the source or amount of funding, total spending is not the touchstone for adequacy in education” under the State Constitution, the decision read.

Kansas must heed court’s call for fairer school funding Kansas City Star.
The Kansas Supreme Court’s school finance ruling Friday cast a bright light on the Legislature’s willful failure to meet its funding obligations to poorer school districts and their students. The state’s duty to promote equity in public education is well established. A previous court ruling ordered legislators to provide payments to districts with low tax bases to help lessen the gap between them and districts that can more easily raise money through property taxes. But in 2010 the Legislature cut off equalization money meant to help poorer districts with capital needs. A year later, lawmakers even amended a statute to excuse themselves from providing money for that purpose through 2017. They also reduced and prorated supplemental payments to help less wealthy districts meet day-to-day needs.

Court declares Kansas’ school funding levels unconstitutional Los Angeles Times
The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s current levels of school funding are unconstitutional, and ordered the Legislature to provide for “equitable funding for education” by July 1. The long-anticipated ruling was a victory for education advocates in the state, but it may be a short-lived one as the Legislature has vowed to defy court orders on the subject. … According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Kansas is spending 16.5% less per student, or $950 per pupil, on education in 2014 than it did in 2008.

Kansas Supreme Court finds inequities in school funding, sends case back to trial court Wichita Eagle
The Kansas Supreme Court found some unfairness — but not necessarily too few dollars — in the state’s funding of schools and sent a mammoth school-finance case back to a lower court for further action. The court found disparities between districts to be unconstitutional and set a July 1 deadline for lawmakers to address that. But it stopped short of saying the state is putting too few dollars in the pot, leaving that issue for another day. … Both school advocates and Republican lawmakers declared partial victory in the wake of the ruling in the lawsuit brought by the Wichita school district and others against the state. But they offered strikingly different interpretations of the decision.

Kansas Supreme Court on school finance: A summary of the ruling Lawrence Journal-World

Court decision gives little clarity on adequacy of K-12 funding Topeka Capital-Journal
Plaintiffs and interested third parties articulated different interpretations of Friday’s school finance ruling, with some saying it is a call for more K-12 funds and conservative groups saying there is no rush.

KS Supreme Court: Legislators made ‘unconstitutional’ school funding choices Kansas Watchdog
In a long-awaited decision, the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that state lawmakers created “unconstitutional” and “unreasonable wealth-based disparities” by withholding certain state aid payments to public schools. … While the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision regarding the state’s failure to equitably disburse capital outlay and supplemental general payments to Sunflower State schools, it stopped short of issuing a decree for specific funding to meet the Legislature’s constitutional requirement to provide an “adequate” education.

Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leadership outline opportunity for progress following Kansas Supreme Court Ruling on Education Funding (full press release)
Today Governor Sam Brownback, joined by Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ray Merrick and other legislators responded to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the Gannon vs Kansas case. “We have an opportunity for progress,” Governor Brownback said. “My commitment is to work with legislative leadership to address the allocation issue identified by the court. We will fix this.” The court has set out steps for the legislature to end the lawsuit by July 1, 2014. It affirms the Constitutional requirement for education to be “adequate” and “equitable.” “Our task is to come to resolution on capital outlay funding and local option budgets before July 1,” said Senate President Wagle. “We now have some clarity as we work toward resolution of issues that began years ago under prior administrations.”

Davis comments on Gannon ruling
The court today made it clear that the state has not met its obligation to fund Kansas schools in equitable way. It is time to set it right and fund our classrooms.

Kansas Policy Institute
Statement from Dave Trabert, the president of Kansas Policy Institute, in response to Gannon v. State of Kansas:
“We’re encouraged that the Court ruled that total spending cannot be used to measure adequacy. This is especially important because spending is currently based on deliberately-inflated numbers in the old Augenblick & Myers report. To this day, no one knows what it costs for schools to achieve required outcomes while also making efficient use of taxpayer money. “The next step in helping each student succeed while acting responsibly with taxpayer money is to model a K-12 Finance Commission on the KPERS Study Commission. The Legislature and Governor Brownback should determine what schools need to achieve required outcomes while organized and operating in a cost-effective manner, including appropriate equity measures, and fund schools accordingly.”

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas
The Kansas chapter of the grassroots group Americans for Prosperity released the following statement in response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s school finance decision handed down today:
“For years, those demanding more education spending have ignored anything other than the base state aid per pupil which is only part of overall education funding,” said AFP-Kansas State Director Jeff Glendening. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court has specifically directed that ‘funds from all available resources, including grants and federal assistance, should be considered,’ and that ‘total spending is not the touchstone for adequacy.’
“In light of the Court’s ruling that ‘adequacy’ of education is determined by student outcomes rather than spending, and adopted standards similar to those adopted by the legislature in 2005, now is the time to consider how we are spending education dollars.
“Kansans are spending more than an average of $12,700 per student, and K-12 education currently makes up more than half of our state budget. Despite that, less than 60 percent of education dollars actually make it into the classroom. To meet the educational standards set out by the Legislature and Supreme Court, and give every Kansas child the opportunity they deserve, we must do better.
“We know that the discussion of school finance is not over, and will continue to play out in the courts as the Supreme Court sent the issue of ‘adequacy’ back to the District Court. It’s our hope that the lower court will carefully look at student outcomes and local spending decisions, rather than automatically demanding more state spending, and recognize its role in the constitutionally-defined separation of powers.”

Kansas National Education Association
We are disappointed that today’s announcement by the Kansas State Supreme Court prolongs a resolution of the school finance issue. It didn’t deal directly with the current critical need in Kansas public schools. Together, the citizens of Kansas made sacrifices at a time when the state and national economy were in crisis. During that time Kansans came together and dealt with staggering cuts to education, believing the promise of full restoration to public school funding once the state economy had rebounded.

Kansas Supreme Court rules in school finance case Kansas Health Institute
Kansas’ top court today released its long-awaited decision in the school finance case and while the ruling settled little for now, both sides in the litigation said they found things to like about it.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose office defended the state in Gannon v. State of Kansas, said he didn’t believe the mixed decision would necessarily require the Legislature to spend more on K-12 schools, though that would be one option for making the state’s school finance formula constitutional again. … But representatives of the school districts that took to court claiming state aid dollars have been unequal and inadequate said they felt confident they would win the remainder of their points at retrial and that the Legislature would need to authorize an added $129 million in K-12 spending by July 1 to meet the standards spelled out in the unanimous decision. “We are not concerned about this. All of our proof at trial was presented using the correct standard that the court now directs to be used,” at retrial, said John Robb an attorney for the four public school districts that sued the state.

Kansas Supreme Court issues ruling on school finance Wichita Public Schools
The Kansas Supreme Court issued its ruling on the school finance lawsuit on March 7. It upholds the concept that the legislature must adequately fund schools in Kansas and that the funding must be distributed equitably. It requires the Kansas Legislature to fund capital outlay and Local Option Budget equalization by July 1, 2014. That means immediate increases in some state funding for education. … “Overall, we think this is a great ruling for Wichita and Kansas kids,” said Lynn Rogers, BOE member. “It upholds the concept that the State of Kansas is responsible for adequately and equitably funding our students’ education.” Rogers said that the lawsuit is for all Kansas students and that they deserve a quality education regardless of where they live in the state. “The education we provide is the foundation for our workforce and the future of Kansas,” said Superintendent John Allison. “If we don’t give our students a quality education now, we will pay for it in the future.”

Wichita Business Journal remodels, features Charles Koch interview

wichita-business-journal-cover-2014-02-28The Wichita Business Journal has, it its own words, “reinvented” itself, and starts its new life with features on Koch Industries and an extended interview with Charles Koch.

To get started, the weekly newspaper has made its complete digital edition available to read at no charge. Click here for access.

The interview with Koch is wide-ranging, covering the business interests of Koch Industries and Koch’s political involvement, detailing his relationship with Americans for Prosperity. An example quote: “When you start attacking cronyism and people’s political interests, it gets nasty.”

In Wichita, citizens want more transparency in city government

Wichita city hallIn a videographed meeting that is part of a comprehensive planning process, Wichitans openly question the process, repeatedly asking for an end to cronyism and secrecy at city hall.

As part of the Wichita-Sedgwick County Comprehensive Plan, the City of Wichita held a number of focus groups meetings. Their purpose, according to city documents, was to provide “information on the components of the Plan and provide input on a draft survey.”

(Some indication of the reverence given to the plan to city planners may be inferred by the city’s use of capitalization when referring to it.)

The community meetings were structured in a way reminiscent of the Delphi method, described in Wikipedia as “a structured communication technique, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts.” Others have a more skeptical view, believing that the Delphi technique leads citizens to believe they have participated in community democratic decision-making when in reality, that is not the goal of the process.

In October Americans for Prosperity-Kansas invited the city to hold a focus group meeting. Video from the meeting is below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Dave Barber, who is Advanced Plans Manager at Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department, facilitated the meeting. Susan Estes of AFP was the meeting organizer and host. Mike Shatz is the videographer. His description of the meeting is “The City of Wichita is holding a series of meetings to gain input from the public on future spending plans. The meetings are based off a survey the city conducted, which, by all accounts, was full of loaded questions geared towards promoting the programs that city officials want to see. In this meeting, one of the first in the series, citizens openly question the process and repeatedly ask for an end to cronyism and secrecy at city hall.”

WichitaLiberty.TV February 2, 2014

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: A Kansas college professor claims that college costs are rising only a tad faster than inflation. We’ll take a look at the actual numbers. Then, this week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered the annual State of the City address. A few things deserve comment. Episode 30, broadcast February 2, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

The state of Wichita, 2014

Wichita city hallWichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered the annual State of the City address. He said a few things that deserve discussion.

This week Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer delivered his annual State of the City address. We expect a certain amount of bragging and over-the-top community pride, things like “Wichita is the BEST place to work and raise a family!” That’s good, to a point. Because if we take these boasts seriously, and if they are not based on factual information, then we have a problem. We may believe that everything is fine in Wichita. But if the actual state of the city is otherwise, we may take unwise action that ultimately is harmful.

(While the city took prominent measures to promote the mayor’s speech, so far the text has not been made available on the city’s website. But you may click here to read it.)

Here’s an example, and perhaps the most important. The mayor said “Our community partnerships have helped us overcome the challenges of the great recession — which brought layoffs to many sectors of our economy.” But the problem is that we haven’t overcome the recession.


If we take a look at job growth in Wichita over the last two decades, we see Wichita performing very poorly. That’s not only on an absolute basis, but relative to our self-chosen peer cities. The relative part is important, because the recession was nation-wide. All cities suffered. Note that there are a few cities over which Wichita ranked higher: Springfield, Illinois, and Wichita Falls, Texas. These cities are relevant because we recently hired people from these cities to lead our economic development efforts.


I’ve shown data like this to the city council. I don’t think they believed me. I can understand their reluctance, as it’s not easy to admit things like this. Few like to admit failure. But that doesn’t excuse a reluctance to face facts. I also believe that some council members think that city hall critics take joy in presenting these figures. At least for me, that’s not true. I realize that these statistics tell a story of human hardship. So for those who don’t believe or trust my research, here’s a chart prepared by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce for a presentation to its leadership committee. It uses a different time frame and a slightly different set of peers for comparison, but the results are the same: Wichita lags behind in terms of job growth.

Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition

Despite this evidence, the mayor thinks we’re doing well, and he is proud of our economic development efforts. In his address, he told the audience this: “For the past five years — the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition has helped generate nearly 10,000 jobs and more than 400 million in capital investment.”

That sounds like a lot of jobs. But we have to temper that number. We know that we don’t update our job statistics to reflect jobs that didn’t last for very long. We also must realize that some of these jobs would have been created without the involvement of our economic development agencies. We also must realize that these economic development efforts have a cost, and that cost is harmful to our economy and job creation.

But even if we give our economic development agencies sole credit for these 10,000 jobs, let’s apply a little arithmetic to provide some context. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the labor force in the Wichita Metropolitan area is about 302,000 people. that number, by the way, has been declining since 2009. If we take the 10,000 jobs — recognizing that was for five years — that averages to 2,000 jobs per year. That’s in the neighborhood of six percent of the labor force.

Does that represent a significant factor in the Wichita area economy? Remember, that calculation gives government more credit that it deserves. When we combine this with Wichita’s lackluster performance in creating jobs compared to our peers, I really don’t think we should be proud of our government’s economic development efforts.

In his State of the City Address, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also said we need to “continue to diversify our economy.” But we’re not doing that. Our economic development programs heavily favor the aviation industry, which makes it more difficult for aspiring companies in other diverse industries to start and thrive.


The mayor told the audience that “We will also continue to support our successful affordable airfares program.” This is the program whereby Wichita and the state of Kansas pay a discount airline to provide service in Wichita. It was AirTran, but is now Southwest. It is thought that if one airline has low fares, others will reduce their fares to match. That’s probably the case. But I’ve done the research, and there is another effect. As can be seen in the nearby chart, the number of flights and the number of available seats is declining in Wichita. These measures are also declining on a national level, but they are declining faster in Wichita than for the nation.

The mayor also asked for cooperation in using Southwest Airlines, advising the audience: “So when you make your corporate travel plans, please remember our community’s commitment to supporting low-cost carriers.” Well. How would you feel if you worked for one of our air carriers that don’t receive a subsidy, such as American, United, and Delta? How would you feel if you owned stock in one of these airlines, as does nearly everyone who holds broad-based index funds in their retirement or investment accounts?

In the past, the subsidized discount carrier has carried around ten percent of Wichita’s passengers. So we are vitally dependent on the legacy, or major, airlines, and we don’t need to insult them, as I believe the mayor did.

(To help you explore Wichita airport data, I’ve created an interactive visualization. Click here to open the visualization in a new window. You may add or remove any number of airports. Or, if you’d like to watch a video, click on Wichita Airport statistics: The video.)

Water was another topic that the mayor touched on. He told the audience: “The city has also invested in the second phase of the aquifer storage and recovery project known as ASR. New construction was completed in time to help with the drought. More than 100 million gallons were diverted from the little Arkansas River directly to customers.” 100 million gallons sounds like a lot of water. But what is the context? Well, 100 million gallons is about how much water we use on a single hot summer day.

And what about the ASR, or aquifer storage and recovery program? Its cost, so far for Phases I and II, is $247 million. Two more phases are contemplated. Despite this investment, and despite the plan’s boasts, Wichitans were threatened with huge fines for excessive water usage. The Wichita City Council also started a rebate program so that citizens were forced to pay for other people to buy low-water usage appliances. Expensive city decorative fountains were dry for a time.

Why were these measures necessary? A document created in March 2013 — that’s just as Wichita realized the city was running out of water — is titled “Wichita Area Future Water Supply: A Model Program for Other Municipalities.” It states: “In 1993 the Wichita City Council adopted an Integrated Local Water Supply Plan that identified cost effective water resources that would be adequate to meet Wichita’s water supply needs through the year 2050.” This squares with what former mayor Bob Knight recently told the Wichita Pachyderm Club, that when he was in office, Wichita had sufficient water for the next 50 years. He was told that about 10 years ago.

Just to give you an idea of how seriously we should take the claims made in speeches like this, here’s what the mayor told us in his 2009 State of the City Address: “We will continue work on the state-of-the art water supply system, known as the ASR project. It will provide the Wichita area with sufficient water for the next 50 years. Economic Development is not possible without an adequate water supply.” The mayor’s right. We need an adequate water supply. But it appears that despite huge expense and the boasts of city officials — including the mayor — we don’t have a secure water supply.

The mayor also addressed transit. He asked the community to answer a few questions, such as:

Should we have more stops to drop off and pick up riders?
Should we run later hours during the week and on the weekends?
Should we find new partners to extend our service area and help with costs?

The problem with questions like these are that citizens don’t have all the information needed to make an informed answer. Would we like to have more bus service? Who could answer no to such a question?

But if the mayor had told us that the cost per passenger mile for Wichita transit buses is 95 cents, or that only 30 percent of the operating costs are paid by fares, people might answer these questions differently. (That 30 percent would be lower if we included the cost of capital, that is, the cost of the buses.) And when the mayor asked citizens to weigh in at the Activate Wichita website: I looked, and there’s no topic for transit.

But even if citizens were informed of these costs, their answers are still not fully reliable. That’s because of the disconnect between the payment for the service and the actual bus service. Because so much of the cost of providing bus service is paid for someone else, we don’t really see the total cost of a bus trip. That’s often a problem with services provided by the government. Since someone else is paying, there’s not the same concern for receiving value as there is when people spend their own money.


The Activate Wichita website, by the way. When citizens are asked to rate ideas, to express their approval or — well, that’s the problem. Your choices for voting on an idea are: “I Love It!” … “I Like It!” … “It’s OK.” … “Neutral.” That’s it. There’s no voting option for expressing disagreement or disapproval with an idea. “Neutral” is as much dissent as Wichitans are allowed to express in this system. On this system that city leaders say they rely on for gathering citizen input, there needs to be a voting selection that expresses disagreement or disapproval with an idea. Otherwise when votes are tallied, the worst that any idea can be is “neutral.” City planners may get a false impression that all these ideas a fine and dandy.


On the topic of citizen involvement: The mayor also told us this: “A few weeks ago – the city launched the Office of Community Engagement.” That’s something that the city needs, based on data the city has gathered. The Wichita Performance Measures Report holds some data from a survey called the National Research Center National Citizen Survey. Survey respondents were asked to rate “the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement.” The results are shown in the nearby chart I created from data in the most recent version of the Wichita Performance Measure Report. The numbers are the percent of respondents giving “excellent” or “good” as their response to the question. The values for the last three administrations of the survey are between 35 percent and 39 percent. The report says this performance is “much below” a benchmark set by the National Research Center. The report tells us that the city expects to re-survey citizens in 2014. For that year, the city has given itself the lofty target of 40 percent of citizens rating the job Wichita does at welcoming citizen involvement as excellent or good. Maybe an Office of Community Engagement will help.

Last year the city conducted an extensive survey of residents. Of this survey, the mayor said: “We learned that more than 70% of our residents are willing to rise above their personal interests to do what’s best for the community.”

The problem with this is that it relies on the false concept of a conflict between personal interests and what is good for the community. In the marketplace, which is the opposite of government, people advance their self-interest in one legitimate way: By finding out the goods and services that others want, and then providing them. If you can do this well and efficiently, you can earn profits. It’s the quest for profits — that’s self interest — that drives people to figure out what others want, and then to work hard to provide that. Everyone benefits.

This quest for profits could, and should, apply to areas that are under the control of government. But people are so afraid that someone will earn a profit by serving their fellow man. Recently John Stossel spotlighted a park in New York City that is run by a private corporation with the aim of earning a profit. People are happy with the new park. They feel safe, even though the park doesn’t discriminate and still lets homeless people stay there. There’s commerce going on, selling food, for example. People like that, and evidence of that is the profit being earned. But Stossel’s guest was critical and unhappy because someone was earning a profit, even though park patrons were happy with the park and most were unaware of its private sector operation.

So when the park was operated by the city — for the common good, that is — not many people used it. It was dirty and trashy, and people didn’t feel safe. Under the profit motive, people like the park and they use it. So where is the conflict between personal interest and what is good for the community?

Now, not everything government does is bad. But when government dabbles in areas that the private sector can do very well, we see problems. As an example, the city wants to help real estate developers, but the city handled a recent situation so badly that the mayor apologized in his address, saying “We are also taking steps to ensure we have integrity and openness when we solicit proposals for development in the core area.”

Citizens that pay attention at city hall also note there are several small groups that contribute heavily to campaigns. Then the mayor and council members vote to give financial benefits to these people. These are not isolated incidents. This behavior is repeated over and over. Some cities have laws against this type of behavior. But in Wichita, while we’re being encouraged to put “what is good for the community” above our personal self-interest, we see city hall run over by cronyism. That is, by people using city government for their own interests. In the name of the “common good,” of course.

At the end of his speech, the mayor asked citizens to “get into the game,” saying: “We need you to be a player — not a spectator — to win a better and brighter tomorrow.”

But we’ve seen what happens when people want to be involved, but not in the way the mayor and council want. Do you remember the chart of airport data? Last year I presented that information to the city council. It so happened that Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn had appointed me to the Airport Advisory Board, and later in that same meeting the city council voted on my appointment. I was rejected. Only one council member voted in my favor. The Wichita Eagle reported: “Mayor Carl Brewer was clear after the meeting: The city wants a positive voice on the airport advisory board, which provides advice to the council on airport-related issues.” A positive voice is more valued than a critical voice, it seems.

Council members shall refrain 01

You may also remember how Susan Estes of Americans for Prosperity testified at a meeting of the Wichita City Council. She cited a section of the Wichita City Code that says council members shall refrain from making decisions involving, among other things, friends and business associates. She asked the mayor to observe that part of the city code. But the mayor lashed out at Estes and others and threatened a lawsuit.

At least this year the mayor didn’t mention the importance of open and transparent government, as he usually does. Because based on Activate Wichita — where there is no disagreement allowed, to rejecting board appointments simply because someone might be critical of the city’s programs, to threatening those who ask the mayor and council members to follow the laws that they passed, to the city’s hostile attitude towards the citizen’s right to know: The message we get is this: The city welcomes your involvement, but only up to a point. Question the authority, and you’re not welcome.

That’s the state of Wichita government, that government to be distinguished from the many wonderful people who live here. We can be thankful for the difference.

Voice for Liberty Radio: Jeff Glendening, Americans for Prosperity

Voice for Liberty logo with microphone 150In this episode of WichitaLiberty Podcasts: The day after Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s State of the State Address, I talk with Jeff Glendening at the Kansas Capitol. He’s Kansas State Director for Americans for Prosperity.

Prior to joining AFP in 2013, Jeff most recently was vice president of political affairs with the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, where he worked to expand the Chamber’s grassroots network, and to promote a pro-growth economic climate in Kansas. Aside from his work with the Kansas Chamber, Jeff has been involved in Kansas politics for a number of years, and has worked on the staffs of several members of legislative leadership, including Speaker of the House, House Majority Leader and Speaker Pro Tem. Jeff has also worked on gubernatorial, U.S. Senate and U.S. House campaigns.

This is podcast episode number 3, released on January 17, 2014.


Americans for Prosperity-Kansas
Americans for Prosperity, national site
Americans for Prosperity-Kansas statement on State of the State Address
State of the State address for 2014, by Sam Brownback
Response by House of Representatives Minority Leader Paul Davis

WichitaLiberty.TV January 5, 2014

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: A look back at a few problematic issues regarding ethical government in Wichita in 2013. Topics include: Campaign contributions, the timing of city and school board elections, Mayor Carl Brewer’s integrity and threats, the need for campaign finance reform, the firing of a television news reporter, the apparently non-transparent way the city formulates policy, and the useless feedback systems the city relies on. Episode 26, broadcast January 5, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Coalition to Congress: End the wind production tax credit

Following is a letter from a coalition of organizations led by Americans for Prosperity advocating for the end of special treatment and subsidies for one industry.

September 24, 2013
Dear Senators and Representatives:

On behalf of the millions of members that our organizations represent, we encourage you to oppose extending the main source of federal support for wind energy, the production tax credit (PTC). The problems with bestowing government favors on wind energy are myriad — it doesn’t produce cheaper energy, it threatens electrical grid reliability, it’s inefficient, it’s unprincipled tax policy, to name a few — and it’s time to end this misguided handout.

Proposals to phase out the credit over time are a red herring. A phaseout is still an extension, and it does not address any of the problems that arise from government backing for wind energy. Besides, the PTC in its current form already has a phaseout built in: Wind farm projects may claim the tax credit for 10 years following receiving an investment letter.

In addition, we discourage you from including a PTC extension in a large tax extenders package at the end of the year. This is precisely what happened this past December; a 1-year PTC extension and expansion found its way into the Fiscal Cliff deal at the last minute. This provision expanded wind farm eligibility from those that were already in operation to those that were simply in the planning stages. If Congress is serious about comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates for everyone, then special provisions like the PTC that clutter the tax code should be first on the chopping block.

The PTC is scheduled expire on December 31, 2013. Congress should ensure that it does so as to clear the way for a simpler, less burdensome tax system across the board.

Also, Christine Harbin Hanson, a policy analyst for Americans for Prosperity, contributes the following article:

Kansas wind turbines

Expiring wind subsidies bring a sense of déjà vu to Capitol Hill. The main federal tax break for wind energy, the wind production tax credit (PTC), is on track to expire at the end of the year, and history is poised to repeat itself. This year, Congress should break from the past and end this wasteful handout for the wind industry, once and for all.

Over the next four months, Washington will engage in the same debate as always. The wind industry will claim that it needs even more time and more subsidies to get on its feet. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity and our coalition partners will point out the numerous economic and philosophical problems with the tax credit — it doesn’t produce cheaper energy, it’s an unreliable energy source, it’s inefficient, it’s not principled, it distorts markets, etc. Over the last twenty years, Congress has repeatedly agreed to the PTC, usually in one or two-year intervals.

This is exactly what happened with this past extension. Big Wind produced a flurry of lobbying activity while Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Biden (D) negotiated a deal to avert the Fiscal Cliff. As Tim Carney noted in the Washington Examiner at the time, this lobbying included “Obama’s closest corporate confidants as well as former congressmen from both parties.” In the end, a 1-year PTC extension and expansion found its way into the Fiscal Cliff deal at the 11th hour, alongside several additional targeted tax credits for renewable energy. Not only was the subsidy extended but it was expanded from wind farms that were already in operation to those that were simply in the planning stages.

This upcoming expiration has a plot twist: The American Wind Energy Association senses that its D.C. gravy train may be coming to an end and it will likely propose phasing down the tax credit over a period of years. Congress should avoid this trap. A phaseout is still an extension, and it does not address the problems that arise from subsidizing wind energy. Besides, the PTC in its current form already has a phaseout built in: wind farm projects may claim the tax credit for 10 years following receiving an investment letter.

Washington may be wising up to the pitfalls of using federal incentives to encourage politically-favored energy sources. Grants and loan guarantees are drying up, tarnished by repeated failures like Solyndra, Beacon Power, Ener1, A123 Systems and the list goes on-and-on. The main tax breaks for ethanol have also gone away, and momentum is building in Congress to repeal green energy mandates like the renewable fuel standard. This phase out proposal is Big Wind’s attempt to get more drink at the taxpayer trough.

Laughably, the only group calling for making the tax credit permanent is the White House. Apparently the Obama administration has still not learned from its repeated green energy failures, showing just how out of touch it is with economic realities.

Congress should end—not phase down, not extend—the wind production tax credit this year. Americans deserve energy solutions that can make it on their own in the marketplace—not ones that need to be propped up by government indefinitely. Washington’s long-time policy of giving preferential tax treatment to special interests simply isn’t working.

Americans for Prosperity releases findings on West Bank vetting process

From Americans for Prosperity-Kansas.

WICHITA, KAN. — The Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity met with reporters today to discuss the group’s findings on the vetting process of the preferred developer for the West Bank development.

AFP-Kansas Field Coordinator Susan Estes called for the city to re-issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) after discovering an oversight in the vetting process; the developers’ municipal references were not checked by the city prior to the city council’s final selection of the River Vista Project developer last month.

After the developers’ proposals were made public earlier this summer, Estes said an observant AFP member noticed that Mayor Brewer, Councilman Meitzner, Councilman Longwell and the city manager were listed as references by three of the developers of the River Vista project. Upon contacting those elected officials and others listed as references for both proposals, Estes said with one exception, all of the elected officials questioned did not know they were listed and did not give permission for their names to be used as references. In fact, some said they would not have allowed their name to be used.

Estes said the findings are troubling, as the departure from written policy raises questions as to what other information may have been left out when city councilmembers discussed the proposals last month.

“The evaluation of developers is a closed process and records are not available to the public, so we must rely on the city to conduct a thorough investigation,” she said. “Knowing the municipal references were skipped leads us to ask, what other steps were missed? What other information wasn’t considered?”

Estes said that although officials have said the developers’ financial references were verified, there is no way to know for certain given the secretive nature of the process. She said these concerns are cause for an even closer examination at the developers and their proposals.

“We’d like to call on the city to re-issue the RFP so the vetting can fully and properly be carried out,” Estes said. “Taxpayers need to feel policies put in place to protect them are being followed.”

An IRS political timeline

Internal Revenue Service IRS logo

In the summer of 2010 President Barack Obama and his allies warned of conservative groups with “harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” At the time, supporters of AFP like myself were concerned, but AFP saw the president’s attacks as evidence of the group’s influence.

This week Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal looks back at the summer three years ago in light of what we’re just starting to learn about the Internal Revenue Service under the Obama Administration. Strassel writes: “We know that it was August 2010 when the IRS issued its first ‘Be On the Lookout’ list, flagging applications containing key conservative words and issues.”

Strassel presents a timeline of events from that time. Here’s an entry that should concern everyone:

Aug. 27: White House economist Austan Goolsbee, in a background briefing with reporters, accuses Koch industries of being a pass-through entity that does “not pay corporate income tax.” The Treasury inspector general investigates how it is that Mr. Goolsbee might have confidential tax information. The report has never been released.

This same week, the Democratic Party files a complaint with the IRS claiming the Americans for Prosperity Foundation is violating its tax-exempt status.

Somehow, I’m not surprised that the Obama-controlled Treasury Department is slow in investigating allegations of misdeeds by an Obama economic adviser, even though Goolsbee hasn’t worked for Obama for some time.

In conclusion, Strassel ties it all together and links the current IRS scandal to Washington:

These were not off-the-cuff remarks. They were repeated by the White House and echoed by its allies in campaign events, emails, social media and TV ads. The president of the United States spent months warning the country that “shadowy,” conservative “front” groups — “posing” as tax-exempt entities and illegally controlled by “foreign” players — were engaged in “unsupervised” spending that posed a “threat” to democracy. Yet we are to believe that a few rogue IRS employees just happened during that time to begin systematically targeting conservative groups? A mere coincidence that among the things the IRS demanded of these groups were “copies of any contracts with and training materials provided by Americans for Prosperity”?

This newspaper reported Thursday that Cincinnati IRS employees are now telling investigators that they took their orders from Washington. For anyone with a memory of 2010 politics, that was obvious from the start.

It’s evident that we’re just starting to uncover what’s been happening to freedom and liberty under the Obama Administration (and past presidents, too). We don’t know where this will lead, but we need to be thankful for organizations like Americans for Prosperity and others that haven’t backed down.

An IRS Political Timeline

President Obama spent months in 2010 warning Americans about the ‘threat’ to democracy posed by conservative groups, right at the time the IRS began targeting these groups.

By Kimberly A. Strassel

Perhaps the only useful part of the inspector general’s audit of the IRS was its timeline. We know that it was August 2010 when the IRS issued its first “Be On the Lookout” list, flagging applications containing key conservative words and issues. The criteria would expand in the months to come.

What else was happening in the summer and fall of 2010? The Obama administration and its allies continue to suggest the IRS was working in some political vacuum. What they’d rather everyone forget is that the IRS’s first BOLO list coincided with their own attack against “shadowy” or “front” conservative groups that they claimed were rigging the electoral system.

Below is a more relevant timeline, a political one, which seeks to remind readers of the context in which the IRS targeting happened.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal (subscription not required).

AFP-Kansas statement on 2013 legislative session

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas remarks on the completion of the 2013 session of the Kansas Legislature.

Americans for Prosperity

TOPEKA, KAN. — The Kansas chapter of the grassroots group Americans for Prosperity released the following statement in response to the close of the 2013 Legislative Session:

“In the last few years, legislators have made great strides to bring the state of Kansas on a path toward fiscal responsibility,” said AFP-Kansas state director Jeff Glendening. “The budget for the next fiscal year included a slight reduction in spending that certainly was a step in the right direction, but there is still work to be done in reducing the size and scope of our state government. The budget provision that limits the growth of state spending to 2 percent per year is an important step to keep spending under control.

“With regard to the statewide sales tax rate, however, it is unfortunate that legislators chose to impose a higher sales tax rate on Kansans. While the Legislature showed respect for taxpayers by lowering the overly burdensome sales tax rate, it was only a partial victory for Kansans’ pocketbooks because the rate did not return to the previously promised level of 5.7 percent.

“Additionally, we applaud work by legislators to make Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare more difficult to implement in Kansas. The passage of the proviso requiring legislative approval on any Medicaid expansion the Governor would wish to put in place simply adds a necessary layer of protection from the further expansion of ObamaCare.

“It’s disappointing that legislators failed to defund Common Core, with so many Kansans expressing serious concerns with these federal standards. We look forward to legislators re-addressing this issue when they return to Topeka in 2014.

“In the last weeks of the session, hundreds of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas activists sent emails to their elected officials. We applaud those legislators who listened to their constituents, and we send our sincere thanks to the citizens who spoke up throughout the session on overspending, paycheck protection, judicial selection reform and Medicaid expansion. Their efforts were instrumental in leading to legislative victories in these key areas.”

Original is here.

Jonah Goldberg, ‘Liberal Fascism’ author, to speak

A press release from Americans for Prosperity Foundation — Kansas. This will be an informative event. I’ll be there.

For Immediate Release — May 6, 2013
Contact: Jen Rezac, 785-354-4237

AFPF-Kansas to host policy luncheon on government overreach, high taxation, over spending

Topeka, Kan. — The Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation is pleased to announce that bestselling author and columnist Jonah Goldberg will speak in Topeka this week.

Goldberg, an American Enterprise Institute fellow, will address issues of government overreach, and heavy reliance on government, as well as high taxation and over spending.

“Americans are waking up to the fact that our federal government is encroaching further and further into our daily lives,” said AFPF-Kansas State Director Jeff Glendening. “We’re excited to bring Jonah to Kansas to speak to our AFPF citizen leaders, as well as legislators, about this issue and the effects of high taxation and government over spending on everyday citizens.”

Those attending the AFPF-Kansas luncheon will also have the opportunity to hear from AFP Foundation State Policy Manager Nicole Kaeding on Medicaid expansion, and Wichita’s leading conservative talker, radio host Joseph Ashby.

Friday’s luncheon is open to the public, but registration is required. To attend, please register online at afpfks-jonahgoldberg.eventbrite.com.

For those in Wichita, there is a bus trip available. The bus will leave Wichita at 8:30 am and return at 4:00 pm. More information is available when you register.

Joseph Ashby Show: Mayor Carl Brewer and cronyism

Today on the Joseph Ashby Show, the host had a few comments regarding a television news story about Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. An excerpt follows.

The KAKE TV news story referred to may be seen here. Background on this issue is here.

Joseph Ashby on Wichita city government and Mayor Brewer

Today on the Joseph Ashby Show, the host had a few comments on Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. An excerpt follows.

The video Joseph played audio from is here, and a longer video of the issue is here.

Well-intentioned policies do more harm than good

By Derrick Sontag, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. A version of this appeared in the Wichita Eagle.

Medicaid.gov Keeping America Healthy

Governor Brownback and legislators in Kansas must make an important decision this legislative session. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in June 2012, Kansas must decide whether it will vastly expand its Medicaid rolls. Adding hundreds of thousands of Kansas residents to Medicaid is the exact wrong policy for our state.

The desire to expand Medicaid is well-intentioned, but will do more harm than good. The plan ignores the realities of the Medicaid system.

Medicaid is a broken, costly system traditionally serving low-income populations focusing on pregnant women, children and the disabled. Its expansion is a key component of the President’s health care law.

Unfortunately, Medicaid is rife with problems. Medicaid’s unique structure–jointly managed by the state and the federal government — results in subpar outcomes for covered families. Medicaid combines countless restrictions and paperwork requirements for providers while at the same time paying half of other insurance plans. This results in a lose-lose for providers, forcing many out of the Medicaid market. A recent study found 32 percent of Kansas doctors won’t accept new Medicaid patients.

These problems lead to even bigger problems for Medicaid patients and families. The health outcomes for Medicaid patients dramatically lag those on private insurance or Medicare. Study after study has confirmed these results.

Adding hundreds of thousands of people to this system will only make these problems worse and does not qualify as real health reform.

Even if Medicaid wasn’t a broken system, Kansas can’t afford to expand coverage.

The federal government is making gigantic promises to encourage states to comply. According to the President’s health care law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of expenses for newly eligible individuals for the first three years stepping down to 90 percent by 2020.

This seems like a great deal for Kansas. The state can leverage federal funding to provide for its residents. But not so fast.

The federal government can’t afford these promises. The President himself has twice suggested the government cut its reimbursement to states due to the high costs imposed. Even if the government honors its generous promises, Kansas taxpayers will pay an additional $525 million in the next 10 years just for this expanded population.

By refusing to create a health insurance exchange last year, Gov. Brownback admitted the health care law won’t result in better care or better outcomes for patients. Expanding Medicaid, while well-intentioned, is just another flawed health care idea coming from Washington.

Instead of subject Kansas to a broken, costly system, Kansas’ leaders should refuse to expand the Medicaid rolls in the Sunflower State.

Bill would end taxpayer-funded lobbying in Kansas

Kansas lobbyist expenditure report

A bill has been introduced in the Kansas Senate that would end or limit taxpayer-funded lobbying.

The heart of this bill, SB 109, is “No public funds may be used directly or indirectly for lobbying. No public funds may be used to pay membership dues to an association that is engaged in lobbying the state. Public funds shall not be used for the purpose of employing or contracting for the service of any person whose duty and responsibility includes lobbying.”

Taxpayer-funding lobbying is one of the worst excesses of government. Commenting on the revelation that TARP bailout funds were spent on lobbying, David Boaz wrote:

It’s bad enough to have our tax money taken and given to banks whose mistakes should have caused them to fail. It’s adding insult to injury when they use our money — or some “other” money; money is fungible — to lobby our representatives in Congress, perhaps for even more money.

Get taxpayers’ money, hire lobbyists, get more taxpayers’ money. Nice work if you can get it.

Later in the same article he wrote: “Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for the very lobbying that seeks to suck more dollars out of the taxpayers.”

Locally, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas wrote this last year:

Taxpayer-funded lobbying reform has been a part of AFP-Kansas’ legislative agenda for a number of years. Back in 2007, we conducted a statewide open records request to find out just how many government entities and associations were using tax dollars to lobby the legislature for more tax dollars. We had a hard time getting answers. Many local governments were part of such associations that regularly lobby, but few were willing to recognize that it was tax dollars paying for those memberships, and tax dollars helping fund the organizations’ lobbying efforts.

Fighting the endless cycle of taxpayer-funded lobbying has been a part of this organization’s mission for years, so we welcomed news this week that the Brownback Administration is trying to do something about it. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is changing language to its contracts in an effort to tighten restrictions on taxpayer-funded lobbying by state contractors.

This is certainly an important step, but more can be done. AFP-Kansas will continue to push for legislation restricting taxpayer-funded lobbying in all forms. Unless we are able to achieve serious reforms, the culture of “more is never enough” under the capitol dome is sure to continue.”

Taxpayer-funded lobbying can be very expensive in two ways: First, the cost of performing the lobbying, and secondly, the cost of the government spending that the lobbyists seek.

And that lobbying can be expensive, successful or not. The lobbyist for USD 259, the Wichita public school district is paid $99,588 per year, according to records at Kansas OpenGov. Since she spends much time in Topeka (that’s where the money is), there’s surely much additional travel and lodging expense.

Oh, and she’s not really a lobbyist. That’s a crude word to use to describe someone who’s only working for the kids, as the school district tells us. Instead, she’s Director of Governmental Affairs.

Either way, we’ll all be better off if we don’t have to pay for government lobbying government.

Reaction to Kansas State of the State Address, 2013

Governor Sam Brownback delivered his State of the State Address on January 15, 2013. The as-prepared text of the address may be read here.

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas:

“Americans for Prosperity-Kansas continues to support the eventual elimination of the income tax in Kansas, and we applaud Gov. Brownback for making this a priority in 2013″” said AFP-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag. “We would support a trigger mechanism for future rate reductions in the proposal rather than legislators continuing to seek a reduction in the rate every year.

“We have no doubt that continued reductions in the income tax rate will help create economic activity, expand the tax base and create jobs.

“We’re coming off a years-long cycle in which excessive government spending stifled Kansas families and resulted in stagnant population growth, taxpayers migrating to other states, and the loss of tens of thousands of private sector jobs. The Governor said it best when he pointed out that some choose to grow spending rather than jobs.

“We look forward to working with legislators and the Governor in the coming session on other important areas of reform such as judicial selection — giving citizens of Kansas more direct input in the judges who sit on the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Court of Appeals. Senate confirmation or elections of judges would certainly create a more transparent process that is accountable to the people.”

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis issued the following statement. Hensley is wrong about the school spending figures, as I report in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending.

“Governor Brownback’s $2.5 billion dollar self-inflicted budget shortfall, a result of his irresponsible tax policy, has brought Kansas to the edge of its own fiscal cliff. He has brought Washington, D.C. politics to Kansas, and they do not belong here,” said Hensley. “Four months into office, he signed the single largest cut to public education in Kansas history. In just three school years, statewide funding for K-12 education was cut nearly $442 million, or a cut of $620 per child. It is no surprise that a three-judge panel issued its ruling last Friday that the Legislature isn’t meeting its K-12 school funding duty under the Kansas Constitution. Members of the Legislature took an oath just yesterday swearing to uphold the Constitution of Kansas. What is our oath worth if we renege on our constitutional duty to adequately and fairly fund our schools?”

The 2013 legislative session will likely be marked by three major issues: a budget deficit created by tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations, a court order to restore funding to Kansas public schools and a fundamental debate over checks and balances in Kansas.

“Democrats want to be part of the solution to this problem, but we cannot support proposals that make the gap between the rich and the middle class even wider. The most troubling part of the Brownback Agenda is the extent to which it brings Washington-style politics to Kansas. We need Kansas based solutions to our Kansas problems, which means funding for Kansas schools, lower property taxes, and proposals to create good paying jobs for middle class families,” said Davis.

Some tweets:

Someone doesn’t understand the difference between “deductible” and “refundable”:

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas applauds Sedgwick County Commission for rejecting public financing for Bowllagio

TOPEKA, KAN — The Kansas chapter of the grassroots group Americans for Prosperity applauds the Sedgwick County Commission for rejecting the proposed tax-increment financing (TIF) district for the Bowllagio development in Wichita.

“We are pleased that Sedgwick County commissioners unanimously voted against public funding for this entertainment development,” said AFP-Kansas grassroots coordinator Susan Estes. “Commissioners apparently realized it wasn’t a good deal for taxpayers in Wichita and Sedgwick County.”

Estes said this proposed development was another example of a developer receiving several layers of public financing, and that additional public financing would give the Bowllagio developers an unfair advantage over competing businesses.

“Those who will benefit from today’s vote are the taxpayers and the existing businesses who have worked for years to invest in this community,” she said. “This would have been just another example of government picking winners and losers in the marketplace.”

Although some may say today’s vote was a “win” for opponents of the TIF district, Estes says it was more of a win for good government.

“This isn’t a victory in the traditional sense,” she said. “The bottom line is, we believe the Sedgwick County Commissioners today acted in the best interests of their constituents.”

From Americans for Prosperity-Kansas.

Debunking the debunkers on taxes and growth

By Americans for Prosperity State Policy Manager Nicole Kaeding

While Congress and the President currently debate the best path to hold off the upcoming fiscal cliff, many states across the country have already tackled similar challenges this year. Some states took up the challenge of passing tax reform, but others decided to follow failed tax-and-spend policies. The hard-fought battles for lower tax rates and broader tax bases will benefit taxpayers and businesses struggling in this weak economic recovery. Instead of applauding these changes, opponents have relied on a faulty analysis to claim that lower taxes do not promote economic growth.

Two states, Kansas and Maryland, illustrate the diametrically opposed views. In Kansas, lawmakers fought to secure the largest tax cut in the state’s history. The state is consolidating its three income tax brackets into two, lowering their rates to 4.9 percent and 3.5 percent, and also cutting rates for small business owners. In Maryland, on the other hand, the state dramatically increased taxes on the so-called “rich” instead of cutting their bloated state budget. The Old Line State’s tax change raises rates on those making more than $100,000 a year to an astounding 8.95 percent.

Opponents in Kansas and other states looking to lower tax rates, such as Nebraska and Oklahoma, argued that lower tax rates do not encourage economic growth. They argue that empirical results do not show the benefits of lower tax rates. But, their analyses rely on selective samples and counterintuitive methods.

One such study was published in February by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) titled “High Rate Income States are Outperforming No-Tax States.” The study claims that nine states with high income taxes grew faster than nine with no income taxes whatsoever.

The study compares the real growth in per capita GDP. The nine high-tax states grew by 10.1 percent versus 8.7 percent for no-tax states, they claim, but there are several problems with this analysis.

First, one of the high-tax states is Oregon, which grew by more than 25 percent. Oregon’s growth is solely attributable to one company, Intel. From 2000 to 2010, the subcategory of real GDP which contains Intel’s economic contributions grew by 1,450 percent. That dramatic growth will pull any average upward. Ironically, one of the reasons Intel is located in Oregon is the state government’s massive tax subsidies sheltering it from their high taxes. These tax credits and subsidies are an explicit acknowledgment that the Beaver State’s tax climate is uncompetitive.

Similar arguments can be made for other high-tax states like Maryland, which is home to numerous government agencies and contractors which fuel the states’ economy. Maryland’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years — not because of its private sector, but because of its proximity to a seemingly unlimited pot of wasteful government spending in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, ITEP’s analysis relies on per capita growth rates. In general, there is no problem with utilizing per capita growth rates, as they show the benefit of economic growth to each citizen. In this case, however, the nine high-tax states are experiencing much slower population growth than the nine no-tax states. During the decade of 2000 to 2010, the no-tax states’ population grew almost three times faster than the high-tax states. As such, growth on a per capita basis will happen slower in any state whose population is growing that rapidly. On paper, the high-tax states are in essence benefiting from individuals fleeing destructive tax climates.

Recalculating the analysis using real GDP figures from 2000 to 2010 for the same groups of nine states illustrates the argument for low income taxes. During that time period, the nine no income tax states grew by 26 percent — well above the national average of 19 percent. The nine high-tax states grew by only 17.8 percent.

Further, much more determines a state’s competitiveness than personal income tax rates. States compete on a multitude of tax rates, like sales or corporate income, as well as low tax complexity. For instance, there are more than 9,600 sales tax jurisdictions within the fifty states. An item as simple as a candy bar could be taxed at numerous rates in one state based on whether its primary ingredient is sugar or flour. Studies that ignored these realities are far from convincing.

By reforming tax systems, individuals and businesses are able to keep more of their hard-earned money, increasing their ability to spend and save, as well as increase their incentive to earn more. While not all things are within the control of state lawmakers, they can work to create a welcoming environment for economic growth. Instead of relying on faulty analysis, states should follow the lead of Kansas and reform tax rates for all of their residents.

Steve Rose defends Kansas school spending

Attitudes toward Kansas public schools, or facts about them: Which is most important? For boosters of the Kansas school spending establishment, attitude is all that matters. The actual facts about Kansas schools — if we were honest enough to recognize and confront them — need not be considered.

Kansas City Star columnist Steve Rose is a case in point. His recent op-ed Negative attitude toward public schools is scary is scary itself for its vigorous and misinformed defense of a system that isn’t working very well for Kansas schoolchildren.

Kansas Policy Institute president Dave Trabert left this comment to Rose’s article:

It’s quite telling that your basis for saying schools operate very efficiently and spending has only kept up with inflation is a lobbying group that advocates for more spending rather that actual figures from the Dept. of Education of the state budget office.

Here are the facts according to official government data for the period 2001 to 2011:

  • Inflation was 24.2% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Midwest Urban Cities)
  • FTE enrollment increased 1.8% (KSDE)
  • Taxpayer support of public education increased 55.8%; state aid +37.6%, federal +155.4% and local +67%. (KSDE)
  • 2012 is expected to be a record-setting year for taxpayer support of public education, at $5.672 billion (KSDE)

Here are a few more facts that, like those listed above, are not generally known to the public and are routinely denied by education officials.

  • $402 million more in state and local aid was not spent between 2005 and 2011 but was used to increase operating cash reserves (KSDE)
  • Instruction spending per-pupil increased 84% between 1999 and 2011 (KSDE) while inflation was up only 32% (BLS)
  • Taxpayer support of public education in Kansas increased from $3.1 billion in 1998 to $5.6 billion in 2011 (KSDE) yet student proficiency levels are well below 50% (US Dept. of Ed.)

Telling parents the inconvenient truth is not attacking schools, teachers or anyone else. It is giving them the facts they need to make fully informed decisions about what needs to be done to improve public education.

Kansas Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook was mentioned in the Rose op-ed and offered this response:

In his commentary on my response to a candidate survey from Americans for Prosperity at www.afpks.org, Steve Rose used the term “hogwash” to describe this statement, with which I agreed: “Parents, teachers, and taxpayers should have a transparent system so they know how much money is being spent in each school and school district.” He stressed that I had put the statement in bold-face type.

It’s a bold-faced belief. Repeatedly, I have heard frustration from parents, teachers and taxpayers who say they do not know how tax money is being spent. This is especially true in education, which represents a huge investment by the taxpayers of Kansas. I agree with Mr. Rose that “how much” is being spent at the school district level is a matter of public record. However, what is not known is how much is being spent at “each school,” and more precisely, “how it is being spent” at each school. Individual schools have substantial budgets. How much ends up in the classroom? How much goes to fund lobbying for more money by the school administration? How much goes to fund activities and programs that are more properly described as something other than education?

It is important to remember that school based budgeting not only exposes inefficiencies and problems but it also highlights positive areas, as well. However, without the information, we are not fully equipped to make informed decisions regarding our schools. Parents, teachers, and taxpayers should have a transparent system so they can have more input over local school decisions. Mr. Rose thinks that kind of information is “hogwash.” This will come as a surprise to many of his readers, no doubt.

On the bright side, it is amusing that Mr. Rose quotes “facts” from the Kansas Association of School Boards, a lobbyist group that continually insists on tax increases and demands more funding without any accountability for public education, while at the same time saying that my figures “came right out of the conservative propaganda.” Actually, the data I used came from the Kansas State Department of Education.

Maybe Mr. Rose forgot that just a few years ago the Shawnee Mission School District dropped its membership with the KASB because the KASB uses taxpayers’ money to continually lobby against local control, something many taxpayers think is urgently needed for schools in Johnson County.

Mr. Rose’s bogeymen-of-the-moment, “ultra-conservatives Charles and David Koch of Wichita,” have never lobbied the state of Kansas for any special interest money that would benefit only themselves, their companies or their industry. In my experience, their interest is advocating tax policies that would be beneficial to every Kansas citizen.

I typically bold-face responses in questionnaires and surveys to help distinguish between my response and the questions offered. It’s a formatting choice, not a rhetorical weapon. But in this case, let me use boldface to reiterate a very simple point: I believe parents, teachers, and taxpayers should have a transparent system so they know how much money is being spent in each school and school district.

If Mr. Rose believes otherwise, he can boldface his “hogwash” as much as he likes. After all, it’s his ink — and his hogwash.

In Kansas, rejecting left-wing Republicans

The headline in the Kansas City Star reads “Voters reject middle ground in Kansas Senate races.” A more accurate conclusion is that voters have realized that the governance of Kansas by a coalition of Democrats and left-wing Republicans has not been in the state’s best interest. Stagnate job growth as compared to other states, increasing spending on schools with no accountability and not even an honest discussion of achievement, falling behind other states in school reform and school choice, a highly undemocratic method of selecting our state’s top judges, resistance to privatization and other measures to streamline government, business tax costs topped by only a few other states: these are some of the results of this coalition.

But yesterday, Kansas voters said goodbye to many of the left-wing Republicans — the so-called “moderates” or “traditional Republicans” — and nominated conservatives in their place. Some nominees face Democratic challengers in November.

The results are a surprise not only for the number of victories by conservatives, but the margin of victory. In Johnson County, incumbent Senator Tim Owens was defeated 60 to 40. Owens ranked at the bottom of all senators — Democrats included — in the Kansas Economic Freedom Index.

In a neighboring district, incumbent Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook won her primary election by a 64 to 36 margin. Pilcher-Cook ranked at the top of the Kansas Economic Freedom index. Conservative Steve Abrams, who ranked well in the KEFI, also defeated a challenger.

Another notable result is the defeat of Senate President Steve Morris.

Other defeats of moderates, some being incumbents, include Jeff Melcher over Pat Colloton to replace John Vratil, Jacob LaTurner over Bob Marshall, Forrest Knox over John Grange, Jeff King over Dwayne Umbarger, Greg Smith over Joe Beveridge, Bob Reader over Roger Reitz, Tom Arpke over Pete Brungardt, Michael O’Donnell over Jean Schodorf, Mitch Holmes over Ruth Teichmann, and Dan Kerschen over Dick Kelsey. Kelsey will dispute being lumped in the moderate camp, but on economic freedom issues, he ranked just barely above neutral.

There were some victories for the moderates. Kay Wolf won the primary to replace Terrie Huntington, which is a retention for moderates. In Topeka, moderate Vicki Schmidt retains a place in the Senate, as does Carolyn McGinn in south-central Kansas. Pat Apple defeated a challenge from Charlotte O’Hara. Apple ranks barely above neutral in the KEFI, while O’Hara, in the Kansas House, was near the top. Jeff Longbine survived a challenge from conservative James Fawcett.

Commenting on the results, Americans for Prosperity–Kansas state director Derrick Sontag said “The primary results make one thing clear: Kansans support those who promote fiscally conservative, limited government, free market policies. Fiscal conservatives are now being elected because of the policies that have failed our state for years. This new field of candidates vying for office reflects a continued desire to put a stop to the rampant state spending and high tax burdens of the past. It is evident from the results at the ballot box that Kansans want a reasonable, responsible government and we are optimistic that our state is now starting to head down the path toward prosperity and a strong Kansas economy.”

In local races in south-central Kansas, voters rejected the challenge by left-wing Republican Wichita City Council Member Jeff Longwell to incumbent Karl Peterjohn. Longwell had the endorsement of Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and all Wichita City Council members except Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita). Three Sedgwick County Commission members endorsed Longwell, too. As there is no Democratic contestant, this race is over.

In suburban Andover, voters rejected a proposed property tax increase for schools. Update: After the final canvass of votes, the tax increase passed by two votes.

Money flows to Kansas elections

Kansas Watchdog, in its article Tracking the PACs — big money flowing into crucial Senate contests, lays out the action of political action committees seeking to influence Kansas voters in the August primary election.

The issue of third-party money involvement has been a concern to many, with Democrats and moderate Republicans railing against “special interest” money, frequently referring to the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity. The claim is that these organizations are attempting to buy an election.

Thanks to Earl Glynn’s reporting in Kansas Watchdog, we see that both sides have PACs that funnel money to, or advocate in favor of, candidates. In the case of moderate Republicans, we see that the Senate Leadership Committee PAC has received contributions from special interest groups, and then funneled that money in favor of moderate Republicans. Senate President Steve Morris controls this PAC.

A large contributor to Morris’ PAC is Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), the teachers union. This is a special interest groups that advocates for the interests of teachers, not students and taxpayers.

Another contributor is Kansas Contractors PAC. Its job is to get the state to spend as much as possible on roads and highways, without regard to whether these are needed or wanted.

Casino money makes its way to the PAC, too. The existing casinos in Kansas would like to see competition prohibited.

There are more special interest groups contributing in favor of moderate candidates, including labor unions, perhaps the most highly specialized interest group of all.

Contrast these special interests with groups like Americans for Prosperity. I have supported AFP for many years because AFP promotes economic freedom, which is good for everyone, not just for certain groups. While the Kansas Chamber is more focused on business, a thriving business climate in Kansas is good for everyone — consumers, workers, taxpayers, and government coffers. We don’t have this now in Kansas. Instead, we have low private sector job creation at the expense of government jobs.

Some are concerned about the influence of PAC spending, and also that of third parties that spend in favor of, or in opposition to, candidates. These are independent expenditures. They’re not supposed to be coordinated with the candidate or campaigns. Some of the most misleading and harshly negative ads come from these groups, instead of from the candidates’ campaigns.

This level of separation allows candidates to disavow or distance themselves from these ads. A solution is to allow larger donations to be made directly to the candidates. In this way, the campaign is responsible for the advertisements and can’t shift blame to someone else.

Looking for Senator Reasonable

Below, Alan Cobb of Americans for Prosperity Foundation provides rebuttal to a recent op-ed by H. Edward Flentje of the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University. In his op-ed (Senate elections will shape state’s future, June 24, 2012 Wichita Eagle) Flentje explains his interpretation of the importance of eight Kansas Senate races where Republican incumbents have conservative challengers. These races will likely determine balance of power in the Senate, which has been controlled by a coalition of Democrats and left-leaning Republicans, usually called “moderate” Republicans. A version of this appeared in the Wichita Eagle.

Looking for Senator Reasonable

By Alan Cobb, Americans for Prosperity Foundation

I’ve been looking for those reasonable Kansas state senators who occupy leadership positions that my friend Ed Flentje mentioned a few days ago in this paper. I looked and looked, but can’t find them.

The Senate leadership I’ve seen for more than the last decade certainly isn’t opposed to tax increases, sometimes actively supporting them, and has done everything they can to thwart any kind of spending reform.

Nearly every good piece of public policy that has passed the Kansas Legislature during this time frame has been despite Senate leadership efforts to stop it. This includes the nation’s first budget transparency act, which AFP worked hand-in-hand with the Kansas Press Association to pass, over strong objections and efforts to kill the bill by Republican leaders in the Senate

I always smile when so-called “traditional” Kansas Republicans invoke the name of one of my heroes, Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was hardly a moderate. He was the last President to oversee a true reduction of Federal spending. Over the last several decades, Kansas moderates treat spending increases as fait accompli and spending cuts as the end of the world as we know it. This is not how Eisenhower would have governed and this is not how he did govern.

Senate leaders and those who have supported them have not exercised fiscal restraint as Dr. Flentje states, and to say so really strains credulity. Or in the vernacular I like to use, that dog don’t hunt.

Since Steve Morris was elected Senate President in 2004, State General Fund spending has increased almost 31 percent while inflation during that same time period has been a little over 18 percent. Total Kansas government spending, including Federal contributions, has increased more than 39 percent. Though 2012 data isn’t available yet, population growth in Kansas from 2004 to 2011 has increased by a disappointing 4.5 percent.

Most Kansans, including those of the traditional moderate Republican persuasion probably would not describe that as fiscal restraint.

This group of moderate senators has not proposed alternatives and has simply made every effort to stop legislation supported by Gov. Brownback and other limited government, free market senators. As much as being so-called moderates, this group of senators has really been simply anti-conservative. It really isn’t much of an intellectual base for public policy.

Those that support a different path for our State want something better for Kansans. Certainly those that support the status quo desire the same. The results of the status quo are known. We shall see the outcome of bold change

I agree with Dr. Flentje that the results of August 7 could fundamentally change the future of Kansas. Under the current leadership that can be traced to Govs. Mike Hayden, Joan Finney, Bill Graves and Kathleen Sebelius, we’ve seen significant state budget growth, large state debt increase, state tax increases, sluggish economic growth and slow population growth. We have more people moving out of Kansas than moving in and those moving out are headed to states with a lower tax burden than Kansas.

I don’t know about the rest of the state, but this Kansan does not think that is a path that we should continue.

Wichita city council should not accept raise

That Wichita City Council members are even considering giving themselves pay raises is astounding, to say the least (June 3 Local & State). This city has millions of dollars in debt to pay off; nearly 30 percent of this year’s budget will go toward servicing debt. City Council members must ask themselves if now is really the time for them to be accepting pay raises, given the current status of the city’s budget.

I commend council members Michael O’Donnell and Janet Miller for publicly stating they will not be taking the proposed pay raises. It’s important for our elected officials to lead by example, and I thank the council members who recognize that.

Susan Estes
Field director
Americans for Prosperity-Kansas

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday May 10, 2012

Kansas tax reform. A message from Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: “‘Today’s vote on a much-needed tax reform bill will provide an immediate boost to Kansas families and businesses,’ said AFP-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag. ‘The approved tax bill cuts the income tax for Kansas families and small businesses, which is certainly good news for taxpayers. The current leadership of the state Senate helped lead Kansas down a path of economic destruction as indicated by the past decade being one of lost private sector jobs, stagnant population growth, and taxpayers fleeing to other states. Yet in spite of all the evidence pointing to the failure of the tax and spend approach, the actions of Senate leadership today indicated that they wanted more of the same. Today’s action by a majority of the House led by leadership was a step in the right direction to reverse the failed economic policies of the past. We applaud the leaders of the Kansas House for this bold move toward tax relief.'”

School funding. Two Wichita legislators on Kansas school funding. First, Representative Jim Ward: “The question is do we spend money on tax cuts for rich people and out-of-state corporations or do we spend money restoring the cuts to education.” … Then Senator Jean Schodorf: “Schodorf said business as usual is not funding schools. ‘That has become kind of the status quo in the legislature, and this year we desperately need to get a funding increase for schools.'” I wonder if either of these two legislators, both of whom hold leadership positions on education committees, know that this will likely be a record-setting year for school spending in Kansas, when all sources are considered? Fighting for school funding is a distraction from the reforms that Kansas schools really need.

Separation of art and state. David Boaz, writing at “Room for Debate” at the New York Times: “What do art, music, and religion have in common? They all have the power to touch us in the depths of our souls. As one theater director said, ‘Art has power. It has the power to sustain, to heal, to humanize … to change something in you. It’s a frightening power, and also a beautiful power. … And it’s essential to a civilized society.’ Which is precisely why art, music, and religion should be kept separate from the state. Government involves the organization of coercion. In a free society coercion should be reserved only for such essential functions of government as protecting rights and punishing criminals. People should not be forced to contribute money to artistic endeavors that they may not approve, nor should artists be forced to trim their sails to meet government standards.” Read more at Separation of Art and State. We failed this important test in Kansas, as funding for arts is now a concern for the state.

Stimulus spending. Robert J. Barro in the Wall Street Journal, available at the Hoover Institution: “The weak economic recovery in the U.S. and the even weaker performance in much of Europe have renewed calls for ending budget austerity and returning to larger fiscal deficits. … This viewpoint is dangerously unstable. Every time heightened fiscal deficits fail to produce desirable outcomes, the policy advice is to choose still larger deficits. If, as I believe to be true, fiscal deficits have only a short-run expansionary impact on growth and then become negative, the results from following this policy advice are persistently low economic growth and an exploding ratio of public debt to GDP. The last conclusion is not just academic, because it fits with the behavior of Japan over the past two decades.” On the idea of Keynesian solutions to economic problems: “Despite the lack of evidence, it is remarkable how much allegiance the Keynesian approach receives from policy makers and economists. I think it’s because the Keynesian model addresses important macroeconomic policy issues and is pedagogically beautiful, no doubt reflecting the genius of Keynes. The basic model — government steps in to spend when others won’t — can be presented readily to one’s mother, who is then likely to buy the conclusions. … Keynes worshipers’ faith in this model has actually been strengthened by the Great Recession and the associated financial crisis. Yet the empirical support for all this is astonishingly thin. The Keynesian model asks one to turn economic common sense on its head in many ways. For instance, more saving is bad because of the resultant drop in consumer demand, and higher productivity is bad because the increased supply of goods tends to lower the price level, thereby raising the real value of debt. Meanwhile, transfer payments that subsidize unemployment are supposed to lower unemployment, and more government spending is good even if it goes to wasteful projects.” See Stimulus Spending Keeps Failing.

Drug court to be Pachyderm topic. This Friday (May 11th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club Judge Joe Kisner of the Sedgwick County Drug Court speaking on “A new approach to an old problem.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … The club has an exceptional lineup of future speakers as follows: On May 18th: Paul Soutar, Reporter for Kansas Watchdog, speaking on “The evolution of journalism and how the new media empowers citizens.” … On May 25th: Ron Estes, State Treasurer of Kansas, speaking on “A report from the Kansas Treasurer.” … On June 1st: Gary Oborny, Chairman/CEO Occidental Management and Real Estate Development, CCIM Designated member of the Storm Water Advisory Board to the City of Wichita, speaking on “What is the economic impact of EPA mandates on storm water quality in Wichita?”

Elizabeth Warren. Writes Ann Coulter: “For liberals, it should be a mortal sin: Elizabeth Warren cheated on affirmative action.” A funny — and sad, because it tells us a lot about our country — column on how Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate, apparently lied about being a member of a minority group (being 1/32 Cherokee) and how universities lapped it up.

Failure of socialism to be shown. The Wichita Chapter Meeting of Americans for Prosperity Foundation continues its video presentation of Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” series. The next episode to be shown is “The Failure of Socialism,” followed by a group discussion on Monday, May 14, 2012 at the Alford Branch Wichita Public Library, from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. There is no admission charge. RSVP not required. The Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Yes we can! No they can’t! “It’s a fatal conceit. The politicians in there think they can run our economy, run our lives. But no — they can’t.” That’s John Stossel standing in front of the U.S. Capitol at the start of a television program featuring his new book No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed. The complete show is available on the free hulu service at Stossel – Thursday, Apr 12, 2012.