Tag Archives: Kansas Reporter

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 8, 2012

Candidate representatives at Pachyderm. This Friday’s meeting (March 9th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Republican presidential candidate spokespersons. In addition, Lora Cox, Executive Director of the Sedgwick County Republican Party will be on hand to answer questions regarding the mechanics of Saturday’s Republican Party Caucus. … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Sedgwick County pre-caucus rally. Friday afternoon (March 9th) Kansans for Liberty is producing a pre-caucus rally at Century II. Ron Paul is scheduled to appear. There will be other speakers and live entertainment, say event organizers. Tickets are $25. For more information, see Kansans for Liberty.

Libertarian ideals. The Winfield Courier criticizes U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo for his bill that would eliminate all tax credits for energy, writing “This is a case of putting libertarian ideals ahead — far ahead — of the interests of our region and our state.” But the libertarian ideals of personal liberty, economic freedom, and free markets ought to be all that government concerns itself with. … This is not the only way this op-ed is misinformed on facts. The anonymous author writes: “New, life-changing technologies, from the railroads to the Internet, have long had the active support of our national government.” But: Consider the railroads. The government-subsidized railroads involved in the transcontinental project went bankrupt. Only The Great Northern Railroad, which was built without government subsidy, was profitable and not a burden on the national treasury. (See Interfacing with Obama’s Intercontinental Railroad). Shame on the Winfield Courier so being so misinformed on U.S. history and the proper role of a limited government.

High Kansas taxes. Kansas Reporter covers more of the Tax Foundation’s report on the high cost of Kansas business taxes: “A new national study says Kansas business owners pay some of the highest taxes in the country. … Kansas businesses that are 3 or fewer years old pay the third-highest total taxes in the nation among all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the study found. Older businesses, such as Midway Wholesale, pay the fourth-highest totals. The findings contrast sharply with previous surveys, including some by the Tax Foundation, that put Kansas closer to the midpoint in regard to tax burden. As recently as January, for example, the foundation released its latest compilation of its Business Tax Climate Index, which put Kansas almost dead center — in 25th place — among lightest- to heaviest-taxed states. ‘Those surveys focus on tax policies, such as what types of taxes do states have or what are their tax rates,’ said Scott Hodge, the foundation’s president. ‘This new study looks at the issue from a business’ viewpoint and what they actually pay.'” … More at New study finds KS tax loads worse than reported.

Harm of individual mandate explained. In the following short video, Elizabeth Price Foley of the Institute for Justice explains the harm of the individual mandate that is the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She explains that if the U.S. Supreme Court fails to strike down the individual mandate, there will be nothing to stop Congress from forcing people into other contracts against their will — employment contracts or union membership, for example. If we still have a constitutional republic in which the federal government’s powers are limited, then the Court should strike down this law. More information on IJ’s brief is contained in this press release.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday November 22, 2011

Ghana junket. A reader writes with information and opinion about the trip by Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast and east Wichita) to Ghana, Africa: “I found it interesting that the City Council $15,000 plus junket to Ghana was first advertised as a Sister City recruitment trip (And after the Police Chief and others were identified) the trip mission changed to Economic Development. I have no idea how Ghana can help us when 56% of their economy is agricultural and in 2002 the government opted for debt relief under the “Heavily Indebted Poor Country Program.”Tomorrow night the Ambassador of South Africa is visiting Wichita and making a presentation on Economic Development to the World Trade Council at the Marriott East in order to hopefully partner with Wichita in future economic development projects. So the point is this: South Africa has a GDP of $527.5 billion and is coming to us for economic development (they import machine and equipment), and the mayor is spending thousands of dollars to visit Ghana, a country with a $38.24 billion GDP and mostly agricultural. Finally, foreign governments that invited American delegations always provide security if there is a need for it.”

Kansas job recovery seen as slow. From Kansas Reporter: “IHS Global Insight, a Lexington, Mass., business information and forecasting firm, calculated that at the pace jobs are being created or recovered now, Kansas workers will not regain the more than 90,000 lost since April 2008 until the end of 2014.” More at Full Kansas jobs recovery remains three years away, forecasters say.

Village West defaults. The Legends at Village West, a huge shopping development in Kansas City near the Kansas Speedway, has defaulted on its loan. According to reporting in Commercial Real Estate Direct, the property never met its cash flow projections, topping out at $10.3 million per year in 2008. The loan assumed it would generate $11.1 million. Since 2008 cash flow has fallen. The public policy interest is that this facility, along with the nearby racetrack, received millions in sales tax (STAR) bond financing, to be repaid by taxpayers through sales tax collections.

No Pachyderm this week. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Wichita Pachyderm Club will not meet on Friday. Upcoming speakers: On December 2: Kansas Representative Dennis Hedke speaking on “Energy and environmental policy.” … On December 9: Beccy Tanner, Kansas history writer and reporter for The Wichita Eagle, speaking on “The Kansas Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary.” … On December 16: David Kensinger, Chief of Staff to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. … On December 23 there will be no meeting. The status of the December 30th meeting is undetermined at this time. … On January 6: Kansas Senator Garrett Love. … On January 13: Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Mike O’Neal, speaking on “The untold school finance story.” … on January 20: Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday October 17, 2011

Government job creation. Reason editor Matt Welch introduces the magazine’s November issue, which contains articles on free-market job creation. After citing the litany of failures, he concludes: “Such persistence in the face of repeated failure suggests that some powerful myths continue to hold sway among politicians and many of the people they represent. Among the most stubborn of these is the notion that passing a bill to fix a problem is the same as actually fixing the problem. This assumption — which reaches its illogical conclusion during times of national panic, when do-something busybodies like Michael Bloomberg will say that it doesn’t matter what Washington does, it just needs to do something — is oblivious to the law of unintended consequences, to the reality of corporatist lobbying, and to the limitations of government power.” … Then having done something, government is oblivious to what it has actually done: “A curious flip side to the myth of government omnipotence is near-complete incuriosity about government side effects. That is, people remain convinced that the state can and should look a problem squarely in the eye and fix it, but they are rarely moved by daily examples of the harm caused by earlier fixes.”

Wichita City Council. Tomorrow the Wichita City Council considers these items: The city will consider revisions the ordinances governing municipal court bondsmen. The agenda packet reports “Currently, six departments are involved in the licensing and oversight of bail bondsmen.” The goal, says the city, is a more efficient process. … Johnson Controls asks the city for a forgivable loan of $42,500. It is proposed that Sedgwick County do the same. The State of Kansas is contributing $1,168,000 through various programs. Worldwide, Johnson Controls has 137,000 employees, sales of $39,080,000,000, and profits of $1,540,000,000. Yet, corporate welfare is still required, it seems. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

Kansas tax plans. “In the coming months, Brownback and state legislators are expected to deal with at least three major proposals to change Kansas’ tax structure.” More from Kansas Reporter at Competing tax plans head for Kansas Legislature .

Repealer on tour. “Government regulation is costing businesses valuable time and opportunities and denying state and local government millions in tax revenue from business activity and development, according to business leaders speaking at the ‘Drowning in Regulation’ tour stop in Wichita Wednesday.” The event was part of the Office of the Repealer seeking input from Kansans. More, including video, from Kansas Watchdog at Legislators Hear Examples of Businesses Drowning in Regulations. The Repealer (Dennis Taylor, Secretary of Kansas Department of Administration) will make a public appearance in Wichita on Tuesday, November 1st at 11:30 am, in the Wichita Public Library Patio Room (223 S. Main).

Sowell: And then what will happen? Last week I quoted at length from a book by Thomas Sowell (Applied economics: thinking beyond stage one) where he writes about “thinking beyond stage one.” Later that day the great economist was interviewed by Sean Hannity, and he told the same story. Video is at Thomas Sowell on ‘Hannity’.

Zuckerman on Obama. James Freeman of the Wall Street Journal interviews Mortimer Zuckerman, who is a Democrat and an Obama voter. He has been openly critical of President Barack Obama and his leadership, and that again is expressed in this article. Zuckerman told of the real unemployment numbers: “Mr. Zuckerman says that when you also consider the labor-force participation rate and the so-called ‘birth-death series’ that measures business starts and failures, the real U.S. unemployment rate is now 20%.” … Zuckerman is pessimistic about the Obama Administration, writes Freeman. An example: “At that time he supported Mr. Obama’s call for heavy spending on infrastructure. “But if you look at the make-up of the stimulus program,” says Mr. Zuckerman, ‘roughly half of it went to state and local municipalities, which is in effect to the municipal unions which are at the core of the Democratic Party.’ He adds that ‘the Republicans understood this’ and it diminished the chances for bipartisan legislating.”

The fall of California. “California has long been among America’s most extensive taxers and regulators of business. But it had assets that seemed to offset its economic disincentives: a sunny climate, a world-class public university system that produced a talented local work force, sturdy infrastructure that often made doing business easier, and a record of spawning innovative companies. No more. In surveys, executives regularly call California one of the country’s most toxic business environments, while the state has become an easy target for economic development officials from other states looking to lure firms away.” Reasons: “a suffocating regulatory climate,” “California taxes are high and hit employers and employees hard,” and “the state’s legal environment is a mess.” Complete article by Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in the Wall Street Journal at How California Drives Away Jobs and Business: The Golden State continues to incubate cutting-edge companies in Silicon Valley, but then the successful firms expand elsewhere to avoid the state’s tax and other burdens.

Public Sector Inc. Speaking of the Manhattan Institute, its project PublicSectorInc is a great resource for learning more aboout the issues of public sector employment. Says the site: “PublicSectorInc.org is a one-stop-shop for the latest news, analysis and research about the issues facing the public sector and the American taxpayer. It provides a national forum to probe problems and develop solutions at the state and local level. With a critical focus on the urgent topics of pension reform, employee compensation, bargaining and retirement health benefits for public employees, PublicSectorInc.org is shaping the national debate unfolding in state capitals and city halls across America.” … An example article of value is Valuing Job Security as a Public Employee Benefit.

Markets and trade help all. James Otteson explains the motivations and concerns of Adam Smith, one of the earliest economists and author of The Wealth of Nations. In a short video, Otteson explains: “One of the main concerns is … how do we raise the estates of the least among us? He’s deeply concerned about the poor in society.” Continuing: “His investigation of centuries of data … shows that, empirically, the way to help people who are the least among us, the bottom rungs economically of society, is by allowing for commerce: free trade, free migration, limited government. To the extent that you can encourage those policies, their estates will be raised tremendously. … What he’s interested in is those people at the bottom, and his endorsement of markets and of trade is because he thinks they’ll help the people at the bottom, not because they’ll help the people who are already rich.” Over the centuries since Smith, we’ve learned many times that economic freedom is good for everyone, especially the poor. … The video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday October 13, 2011

Wichita city leaders too cozy with developers? Yesterday I participated in a KAKE Television news story where I explained the need for pay-to-play laws in Wichita and Kansas. These laws generally restrict officeholders from participating in votes or activities that would enrich their campaign contributors. In the story I said “What I, and some of my political allies object to, is what is happening in plain sight: In that there is a relatively small group of people — and their spouses and people who work at their companies — who regularly contribute to a wide variety of city council members, both political liberals and political conservatives, because they know that they are going to be coming to the city council and asking for taxpayer money.” Officeholders and the developers who contribute deny there is a connection between contributions and votes. Curiously, these developers generally don’t make contributions to school board members, county commissioners, state legislators, or federal representatives. Actually, it’s not so curious: It’s primarily the Wichita City Council that is able to vote to give them money. I would say the contributors are acting rationally. … If there is no connection between contributions and votes or consideration, there should be no problem in getting the council to agree to some form of pay-to-pay law for Wichita. An example is a charter provision of the city of Santa Ana, in Orange County, California, which states: “A councilmember shall not participate in, nor use his or her official position to influence, a decision of the City Council if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect, apart from its effect on the public generally or a significant portion thereof, on a recent major campaign contributor.” … KAKE correspondent Deb Farris reported that Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer doesn’t look at the list of campaign contributors. I wonder: does he send thank you letters to his contributors? … Video and story at Wichita City Leaders Too Cozy With Developers?

Obama economic strategy questioned. This year’s Nobel prize in economics went to Thomas J. Sargent of New York University and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and Christopher A. Sims of Princeton University. In its reporting, the Wall Street Journal explained (A Nobel for Non-Keynesians: People’s expectations about government policy make it difficult for officials to affect the economy in the ways they intend to): “The Swedish economists announcing the award emphasized, correctly, the importance of Messrs. Sargent’s and Sims’s thinking about the role people’s expectations play in economic decision making and the larger economy. But what they failed to mention is that their work has also offered empirical evidence that the school of thought known as Keynesian economics — which believes that government can turn a flagging economy around with the right combination of fiscal ‘stimulus’ (generally government spending) and monetary policy — is fallible.” In further explanation, the Journal writes: “One of Mr. Sargent’s key early contributions, along with University of Minnesota economist Neil Wallace, was the idea that people’s expectations about government fiscal and monetary policy make it difficult for government officials to affect the economy in the ways they intend to. If, for example, people get used to the Federal Reserve increasing the money supply when unemployment rises, they will expect higher inflation and will adjust their wage demands higher also. The result: The lower unemployment rate that the Fed was trying to achieve with looser monetary policy won’t happen. This conclusion was at odds with the Keynesian model, which dominated economic thinking from the late 1930s to the early 1970s. The Keynesian model posited a stable trade-off between inflation and unemployment.” The 1970s however, saw stagflation — both high unemployment and high inflation at the same time, a danger that some feel will grip us in the near future. Keynesianism, of course, is the basis of the economic policy of President Barack Obama and the reason why the economy has not recovered. … While these economists worked on national economies, does the theory of rational expectations apply to state and local governments, meaning that it is very difficult for local government officials to micro-manage their economies through intervention? I think so.

Public vs. private. One of the curious statements in Rhonda Holman’s Sunday Wichita Eagle editorial (Say ‘no’ to naysayers, October 9, 2011) was where she wrote of the “crowds increasingly assembling downtown for concerts and events.” Curious because not long ago she begrudgingly realized the cool down at the Intrust Bank Arena, writing: “Intrust Bank Arena’s strong performance during its inaugural year of 2010 couldn’t last. And it didn’t.” (Make case for arena, August 19, 2100 Wichita Eagle) I don’t know if these two editorials are at odds with each other. … I have noticed one downtown Wichita venue that seems to have a lot of concerts, that being the Orpheum Theater. That venue doesn’t suffer from government genesis and ownership as does the arena, although the arena’s management is in the hands of the private sector. As part of its restoration the Orpheum may qualify for historic preservation tax credits, a government spending program that I oppose. That subsidy, if obtained, is quite small compared to the total taxpayer funding of the arena.

Kansas tax policy. Several news outlets have reported on how hard Kansas state officials are working on crafting a new state tax policy. That worries me. The best tax policy is one that is simple and fair to all. The more tax policy is worked on, the more likely it is to contain measures designed to manage the behavior of people and business firms. This would be a continuation of the conceit that the state can manage economic growth, and contrary to the concepts of economic dynamism for Kansas, where fertile ground is created for all companies.

Petition drive is on. Last Friday citizen activists started the petition drive to give the people of Wichita a chance to vote on crony capitalism or free markets. See Our Downtown Wichita (motto: “Limited government and free markets in Downtown Wichita benefit everyone. Centralized planning and crony capitalism benefit only a few.”) for more information.

Kansas education scores mixed. From Kansas Reporter: “Kansas students’ performance on reading and math proficiency improved for the 11th consecutive year, according to Kansas State Department of Education’s latest State Report Card for schools released Tuesday. Some 87.6 percent of the students tested turned in scores in the top three of five performance levels for reading and 84.7 percent achieved similar scores in math. But two other performance yardsticks show different results. Statewide Kansas test scores on ACT college entrance exams, which are averaging 22 points out of a perfect 36, have been flat for the past five years. … Most Kansas statewide reading, writing and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, tests have changed little since 2000, according to the U.S. Education Department, which counts the test results as the broadest national measure of how school systems compare state by state. ‘Fourth-grade math tests have improved significantly, but that’s about it,; said Arnold Goldstein, program director for the federal Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics.” Complete story on Kansas Reporter at Kansas education scores proved mixed picture of schools’ success.

‘Federalists’ author to appear in Wichita. On October 25th Kansas Family Policy Council is hosting an event in Wichita featuring Joshua Charles, a recent KU graduate who has teamed up with Glenn Beck to write the book The Original Argument: The Federalists Case for the Constitution Adapted for the 21st Century. The book debuted at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List in July. … KFPC says “The event will be at Central Christian Church (2900 North Rock Road in Wichita) on Tuesday October 25th at 7:00 pm. Doors will open at 6:30 pm. This is a free event and dessert will be provided for attendees.” RSVP is requested to 316-993-3900 or contact@kansasfpc.com.

Kansas gas wells appraisals. Some Kansas counties use different methods of gas well valuation for tax purposes, writes Paul Soutar in Kansas Watchdog: “The method used to appraise the tax value of gas wells in Stevens County is ‘not correct or appropriate’ according to a report commissioned for Stevens County and released at their latest meeting. The method is or has been used for at least nine years, possibly since the early 1990s, in nine Southwest Kansas counties covering much of the Hugoton gas field, the ninth highest producing field in the U.S. in 2010.” … The complete investigate report is at Report Says Gas Well Appraisal Method ‘Not Correct or Appropriate’.

Lieutenant Governor in Wichita. This week’s meeting (October 14th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D. speaking on “An update on the Brownback Administration’s ‘Roadmap for Kansas’ — Medicaid Reform” … Upcoming speakers: On October 21st: N. Trip Shawver, Attorney/Mediator, on “The magic of mediation, its uses and benefits.” … On October 28th: U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, speaking on “Spending battles in Washington, D.C.” … On November 4th: Chris Spencer, Vice President, Regional Sales Manager Oppenheimer Funds, speaking on “Goliath vs Goliath — The global battle of economic superpowers.” … On November 11th: Sedgwick County Commission Members Richard Ranzau and James Skelton, speaking on “What its like to be a new member of the Sedgwick County Board of County commissioners?” … On November 18th: Delores Craig-Moreland, Ph.D., Wichita State University, speaking on “Systemic reasons why our country has one of the highest jail and prison incarceration rates in the world? Are all criminals created equal?”

Urban renewal. “The goal was to replace chaotic old neighborhoods with planned communities.” Planned by government, that is, with all the negatives that accompany. The fascinating video from Reason.tv is titled The Tragedy of Urban Renewal: The destruction and survival of a New York City neighborhood. Its introduction reads: “In 1949, President Harry Truman signed the Housing Act, which gave federal, state, and local governments unprecedented power to shape residential life. One of the Housing Act’s main initiatives — “urban renewal” — destroyed about 2,000 communities in the 1950s and ’60s and forced more than 300,000 families from their homes. Overall, about half of urban renewal’s victims were black, a reality that led to James Baldwin’s famous quip that “urban renewal means Negro removal. … The city sold the land for a token sum to a group of well-connected Democratic pols to build a middle-class housing development. Then came the often repeated bulldoze-and-abandon phenomenon: With little financial skin in the game, the developers let the demolished land sit vacant for years.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday August 16, 2011

Future of Kansas insurance exchange. “TOPEKA — A federal appeals court ruling in Georgia that overturned a portion of the nation’s latest health insurance law Friday did little to end confusion over how to follow that law in Kansas. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires all Americans to carry health insurance or face penalties, is unconstitutional. The Court ruled that Congress exceeded its constitutional powers by requiring people to buy health insurance when they choose not to do so.” At issue is whether the state should continue to spend money and work on infrastructure to support Obamacare, when it appears increasingly likely that the law will be ruled unconstitutional. Gene Meyer reports in Kansas Reporter.

Concern over Wichita spending. At today’s city council meeting the council considered whether to pay travel expenses for Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer to attend a sister cities exchange meeting in Mexico. The mayor announced that he would be paying his own airfare, that the hotel and meals would be paid for by the host city, so the only expense would be for his luggage and perhaps some incidental meals. Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) said that if the city sends representatives on worthwhile missions, the city should pay all travel expenses. Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams (district 1, northeast and east Wichita) disagreed, noting that just last week she traveled to Texas on city business, and she paid for her own airfare. The mayor remarked that “primarily what we’re doing is we’re paying to perform the job we’re assigned to do,” and that previous commitments had been made that obligate the current council to follow through. … The next item was to pay for travel for other persons to attend the conference. The agenda packet for today’s meeting contained no information on these two items, certainly not the amounts of money involved or the persons to travel. … The council’s concern over spending on items like the mayor’s airfare is welcome, but this spending is small relative to the many areas in which the city could trim spending.

Kansas governor praises wind power. Today Kansas Governor Sam Brownback promoted investment in wind energy. In a press release he said “I want Kansas to be known as the ‘Renewable State.’ To get there, we have to balance the three E’s: Energy, Economy and the Environment. My first priority as Governor is to grow the Kansas economy, and getting wind power to market is a key component accomplishing that.” Contrary to the governor’s rosy picture, Lisa Linowes details the long string of failures of the wind power industry, including the fact that wind power is becoming more expensive, despite its massive federal subsidy. It is unknown why Brownback — who generally supports free markets — supports wind power and the government intervention necessary to prop up the industry. The same can be said for his support of ethanol, which is rapidly losing support for its three forms of government intervention that support it: a subsidy for its producers, a mandate to use it, and a tariff to protect domestic producers from foreign competition.

Corporate taxes. Mitt Romney made it an issue. David Henderson comments: “No, I’m making the simple point that a tax on corporations is a tax on people. I remember that in addressing the issue in the 1980s, the late Herb Stein said that it’s as if people think that if the government imposed a tax on cows, the tax would be paid by the cows.” In a video, Milton Friedman explained that “There’s no business to be taxed. There are people. Only people can pay taxes. … When you talk about a tax on business, it has to be paid by somebody. Either it’s paid by the stockholder, or it’s paid by the customer, or it’s paid by the worker. There’s no other way it can come from.” He also addressed the fiction that the Social Security tax is paid equally by employers and workers.

How the racism charge is used. The Capital Research Center has published a piece that illustrates how the political left tosses around a charge that no one wants to be accused of: racism. In an email the Center says: “Author Kevin Mooney examines a little-known group called Color of Change, which alleges that conservatives in the media are racists. Targeting figures like TV talk show host Glenn Beck and Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch, Color of Change enjoys the praise of prominent left-of-center groups like Media Matters and MoveOn.org. Mooney says the Left admires Color of Change because it has learned how to use the incendiary charge of racism to stifle conservatives’ free speech.” … The report itself says: “The intense anti-Fox animus is not new, but this time conservatives have good cause to be concerned about one aspect of the new campaign against Fox. That campaign aims to exploit the most incendiary of tactics — the issue of race — to dislodge conservatives from prominent media posts. … Despite much evidence that contemporary America has moved beyond the tragic legacy of slavery and segregation, the Left remains eager to accuse its opponents of racism.” … It will come as no surprise that George Soros is a financier of this organization. The compete report is The Left Wing Targets Conservative Media.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday July 10, 2011

Wichita city council. This week the Wichita City Council considers these major items of interest: Capps Manufacturing, Inc. seeks to avoid paying property tax on an expansion of its plant. Under the city’s Economic Development Exemption (EDX) Program, the company, according to city documents, is eligible to avoid paying 80 percent of the property tax on the expansion for a period of ten years. The documents state: “Based on the 2010 mill levy, the estimated taxable value of exempted property for the first full year is approximately $38,387.” I believe this is incorrect; that figure is the amount of property tax that would be paid on the value of the property. If the council approves, Capps will be forgiven 80 percent of that tax — nearly $31,000 per year.

Bombardier Learjet seeks issuance of $2,564,275 in Industrial Revenue Bonds. The benefit to the company is that the property purchased with bond proceeds is exempt from property taxes, which is estimated by the city to be worth $76,966 per year in taxes that Bombardier won’t be required to pay. Also, property purchased with bond proceeds isn’t subject to the sales tax. If all the items being purchased are taxable, this means Bombardier could escape paying $187,192 in sales tax. Under the IRB program, the city is not the lender and does not guarantee that bonds will be repaid.

There will be a public hearing for a facade improvement program loan for a building at 1525 E. Douglas to house GLMV Architecture. This action will loan $500,000 for the purposes of sprucing up the outside of the building, with that amount, plus interest, to be paid back in the form of special assessments collected with the regular property tax. It’s similar to the special assessment financing used in new housing developments, but here applied to existing structures. Interestingly, the city documents proclaim a “gap,” meaning that “applicants show a financial need for public assistance in order to complete the project, based on the owner’s ability to finance the project and assuming a market-based return on investment.” In other words, private financing was not available, so the city steps in, and we have another example of the city investing in money-losing projects. Although it is likely the city will be paid back, the program also includes a $30,000 grant for this project. That, of course, is a gift from Wichita taxpayers made by the city council, and will not be paid back. In addition to assistance from Wichita and its taxpayers, GLMV also benefits from state and federal taxpayers, too. Its application for historic preservation tax credits has been approved. Under the state program, GLMV is eligible for tax credits of 25 percent of the $2 million cost of the project, so Kansas taxpayers will be giving this company $500,000.

The council will be asked to receive and file the city manager’s budget. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

Kansas news media criticized. Kansas University political science professor Burdett Loomis takes a look at Kansas news media, particularly its coverage of the Brownback administration, and finds it lacking. In his listing of Kansas news media, Loomis misses a few outlets, namely Kansas Watchdog and Kansas Reporter. This is in contrast to his characterization of Dome on the Range as a “serious attempt.” This is laughable. Dome on the Range, written anonymously, exists primarily to poke fun at conservatives, many times for reasons that have little to do with serious issues of public policy. After several posts in March, DOTR had no posts in May, and one each in June and July. This, combined with anonymity — meaning the author is not willing to be accountable — doesn’t qualify as serious. But DOTR meshes well with Loomis’ personal politics, and Kansas Watchdog and Reporter are sponsored by conservative groups. … Loomis is correct in his assessment of the Kansas Health Institute as a valuable resource for reporting. … The op-ed is at Insight Kansas: Covering Kansas Conservatism.

The revolving door. Between government and lobbying, that is. Latest example: The Lawrence Journal-World through the Associated Press reports that Michael White, Chief of Staff for Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, is becoming a lobbyist for ITC Great Plains, an electric transmission company. The article says that White will oversee the company’s lobbying in Kansas and Oklahoma.

KPERS solution not likely this session

With little time left for the Kansas Legislature to meet this year, and with the budget still not passed, it’s not very likely that action will be taken to reform the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS). Especially when there’s a study commission waiting in the wings to take the pressure off lawmakers to take action now. It should be noted that the “best” plan, in terms of making a start on the reforms KPERS needs, still falls short of making the fundamental reforms that are required. Below, Kansas Reporter provides details of the political wrangling.

Lawmakers spar over Kansas pension proposal

By Gene Meyer
April 28, 2011

(KansasReporter) TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas House and Senate negotiators offered sharply differing approaches Thursday to one of the biggest changes proposed for the state’s underfunded government employees pensions plans.

House negotiators, led by state Rep. Mitch Holmes, a St. John Republican and chairman of that chamber’s Pension and Benefits Committee, are adamantly backing a House proposal that would convert what now is a traditional pension plan for Kansas teachers, state employees and local government workers into what’s known as a defined contribution plan for workers hired after July 1, 2013.

Such plans, including the 401(k) plan versions many private employers offer, provide retiring workers with pools of savings with which to supplement Social Security or other resources, but not guaranteed lifetime pensions. That would limit future exposure of Kansas taxpayers — who pay the employers’ current contributions equal to 8 percent or more of each workers’ salary into the system — to rising pension plan costs. Those costs, according to Kansas Public Employees Retirement Systems projections presented in February, could rise to equal more than 21 percent of some workers’ paychecks in two decades and still leave one group of penson funds, for Kansas teachers, out of balance.

“What my colleagues in the House, and even some Senators, are telling me is, ‘don’t back down,'” Holmes said after negotiators met Thursday to define the broad outlines of differences between the House and Senate plans.

“The Senate rejects defined contributions,” said state Sen. Jeff King, an Independence Republican and vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on KPERS, who is leading the Senate negotiators.

Senate negotiators want a special KPERS commission to study the defined contribution idea along with other potential solutions between now and the end of next year’s legislative session. Critics of the defined contribution proposal worry that such a plan would worsen the cash bind to which KPERS appears to be heading because it would reduce what is paid into the plan for traditional pension benefits current workers would continue to earn for another few decades.

“Defined contributions are a non starter as far as the Senate is concerned,” King said.

But that is just for 2013 as the House has proposed, he said; “Everything would be on the table for the study commission.”

The proposed commission is the brainchild of state Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican who Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback last winter named as point man for legislative efforts to deal with the pension funding gap. Brownback has been quoted as saying he thinks some version of a defined contribution plan is inevitable for KPERS, whether it’s a relatively pure version such as private employers offer or a hybrid plan that would include some pension-like guarantees.

The funding hole that legislators are trying to fill is an officially projected $7.7 billion gap between benefits that KPERS has promised to pay its approximately 250,000 members over the next few decades and the money it is projected to have by then to pay those benefits. Unofficial estimates put the gap in the $9 billion to $12 billion range, based on a combination of lower market level of rates of investment returns than KPERS presumes for planning purposes and longer recovery times that will be needed to recoup market setbacks.

House and Senate negotiators were agreed Thursday on a few broad ideas for closing the gap. Both broadly agree to offer employees a choice between increasing workers contributions to maintain current formulas for calculating retirement benefits or leaving contribution rates unchanged and reducing the formulas for future benefit calculations. Some of these proposed changes would require Internal Revenue Service approval.

Both also broadly agree to accelerate the rate at which taxpayer contributions are increased — now capped at 0.6 percent per year — to at least 1.2 percent by 2017.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday April 11, 2011

Social security entitlement. In today’s Wichita Eagle Opinion Line, this comment was left: “Please stop calling my Social Security an ‘entitlement.’ I paid into it all my working life, and I just want my money back.” Two points: The writer seems to believe that just because people pay into Social Security, they’re entitled to benefits as through there was a contract in place. But there is no contract. Social Security benefits are what Congress says they are, and Congress can make changes at any time. … Second, the writer wants his money back, as though the money was paid onto some sort of investment account and has been working there earning interest. Unfortunately, the Social Security trust fund money has been spent. There’s nothing for the writer to get back except the future taxes to be paid by future workers.

New York Times may be offended. “The New York Times is carrying out a vendetta against Charles and David Koch, two of the very few rich people who support conservative and libertarian causes. The Times is offended, apparently, that the Left does not quite have a monopoly on big money. The paper’s editorialists flat-out lied about the Koch brothers, and had to issue a retraction.” … Referring to author David Callahan and a recent op-ed: “What is most striking about Callahan’s piece is its rampant hypocrisy. He himself is an employee of a left-wing organization that prefers not to abide by the transparency standards that Callahan advocates.” From Powerline: The Times Vendetta Continues.

Kansas Legislature website. Kansas Reporter writes: “Most hurdles now behind legislative website update.” The major problems I experience now are reliability issues, where many times clicking on a document produces the dreaded “Error 500 Internal Server Error” message. … The cost of the work, plus a new system for preparing legislative text, is some $11 million.

General Electric tax bill. The Washington Post looks at the New York Times and its reporting on General Electric and its taxes: “Unfortunately, for all its good work, the article has created at least one major misperception: that GE paid no U.S. income taxes last year and is getting a $3.2 billion refund from the Treasury. … The company says it’s not getting any refund for 2010 — validating [accounting professor Ed] Outslay’s analysis. Its 2010 tax situation? ‘We expect to have a small U.S. income tax liability for 2010,’ said Gary Sheffer, GE’s chief spokesman. How big is small? GE declined to say. The number is unlikely to be disclosed unless GE goes public with it or is forced to do so. One reason the Times was ensnared — and that it took us a while to sort this out — is that the material is confusing. Outslay drew up 10 GE tax metrics for us and could have given us at least six more. None shows what GE’s U.S. income tax bill is for a given year.”

Sweet deal for big sugar. Senator Dick Lugar, writing in the Washington Times, explains the harm to U.S. consumers from a tariff that benefits a few: “The collapse of communism brought an end to many of the world’s command-and-control economic systems and central planning by government bureaucrats. But a notable exception is the United States government’s sugar program. A complicated system of marketing allotments, price supports, purchase guarantees, quotas and tariffs that only a Soviet apparatchik could love, the U.S. sugar program has actually lasted longer than the Soviet Union itself.” The idea is that by keeping prices high and insulating domestic sugar produces from the world market, jobs are saved. Counters Lugar: “But in 2006, the Commerce Department calculated that for every sugar-growing job saved by artificially high prices, three manufacturing jobs in the confectionery industry are lost. Overall, from 1997 to 2009, more than 111,000 jobs were lost in the sugar-using food sector, according to Commerce data.” This is always the case with protectionist trade tariffs: a small number of highly-visible jobs are saved, at the cost of great economic harm spread across the economy, harm that is difficult to see. Sugar protectionism is only one such example. President Bush’s tax hike and Obama’s tax increase on tires are other examples.

Williams on role of government. A short lecture by Walter E. WIlliams. “Almost every group in our country has come to feel that the government owes them a special privilege or favor.” Conservatives too, he says. Williams highlights the contradictions of conservatives, who “don’t have a moral leg to stand on,” he says. “They merely prove that it’s a matter of whose ox is being gored.” He quotes H.L. Mencken: “Government is a broker in pillage” and “Every election is an advance auction on the sale of stolen property.” Williams says not to blame the elected officials we send to Washington and local centers of government. They, he says, are doing precisely what we send them there to do: “Namely, to use the power of their office to confiscate the property of one American and bring it back to another American to whom it does not belong.” Politician who say they would not do this — of course, they do not speak so bluntly on the campaign trail — would not be elected.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday March 28, 2011

Wichita Eagle endorsements. Yesterday the Wichita Eagle released its endorsements for Mayor, Wichita City Council, and Wichita school board. It is no surprise that in each case the newspaper editorial board recommended that voters select the candidate most likely to support the board’s big-government interventionist policies, thereby (unwittingly?) providing a guide as to who not to vote for, if you value limited government and economic freedom.

Wichita City Council this week. As it is the fifth Tuesday of the month, the Wichita City Council will not meet. While some might say the mayor and council members need to get to work and do their jobs, I’m more aligned with Will Rogers when he quipped: “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

Sedgwick County commission this week. At Wednesday’s meeting, the Sedgwick County Commission has two economic development incentives to consider. These are forgivable loans, essentially grants of money, to be made to MoJack Distributors, LLC and Apex Engineering International LLC. Each has already received a forgivable loan from the City of Wichita, as well as other subsidy of various forms from governments state and local. More discussion is at Wichita again to bet on corporate welfare as economic development. The commission’s agenda is available at Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners, March 30, 2011.

Kansas judicial selection. A legislative maneuver could force the Kansas Senate to debate and possibly vote on the method of selecting judges for the Kansas Court of Appeals. This is despite the efforts of Senator Tim Owens, an attorney and Republican from Overland Park, to block the bill in his committee. See Method of choosing judges could see debate.

Kansas Department of Labor computer system. From Kansas Reporter: “A $50 million, six year project to upgrade unemployment claims technology within the Kansas Department of Labor was grossly mismanaged, resulting in massive system flaws according to Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee.” Brownlee took office earlier this year after being appointed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. More at Massive waste, inefficiency in Labor Department technology upgrade, secretary says .

General Electric: no taxes for me. Competitive Enterprise Institute explains how General Electric, one of the largest companies in the world, earns large profits and manages to pay no income tax.

Freeloaders come in all types. This weekend John Stossel had an hour-long special show that focused on freeloaders. Not just panhandlers, although Stossel did work in disguise as a panhandler and discovered he could make over $90 a day. Tax free, he added. One segment of the show uncovered farmers who received $50,000 because they were discriminated against by lenders. But — some of these farmers merely grew potted plants or fertilized their lawn to qualify as a farmer. Another reported on homeowners who stopped paying their mortgages on advice of a website. The homeowners and the website operator said there is no moral obligation to pay their mortgage loans. Corporate freeloaders didn’t escape, as General Electric was mentioned as a large recipient of government handouts. And, they won’t pay taxes: “Despite billions in profit, they’ll pay no taxes this year,” reported Stossel. … The severe poverty of American Indian tribes that live on government-managed reservations and living on government handouts is contrasted with a tribe that accepts no handouts and has no casinos. … Stossel covered his own beach house, which was covered by low-cost subsidized federal fund insurance. It suffered losses twice. … Standing in front of the U.S. Capitol, Stossel said “We rich people freeload off you taxpayers all the time, because the over-promisers in there keep churning out special deals for politically-favored groups. And they tend to be rich people, because the rich can afford lobbyists. … Think about how much money we could save if these guys just didn’t pass so many laws that encourage freeloading. But they do, year after year. They micromanage life with subsidies. And the winners are not so much the needy, but people like Bon Jovi, Ted Turner, Maurice Wilder, and — me. So let’s hope for an end to all this freeloading.”

New York City may seek waiver from ObamaCare. One of the strongest advocates for ObamaCare may seek an exemption for the city he represents. Politico reports in Anthony Weiner: Waiver might work for New York. … So far over 1,000 waviers have been issued, exempting businesses, labor groups and a handful of states from at least some of the requirements of the Affordable Health Care Act.

Economic freedom and a better life. Economics professor Josh Hall explains that economic freedom leads to greater human well-being. If we look at average income, life expectancy, income of the poorest 10%, and other factors, we see that when governments let citizens make economic decisions for themselves, this leads to greater human flourishing. This video refers to the Economic Freedom of the World index, which was the subject of a lecture delivered last year in Wichita by Robert Lawson. In that lecture, Lawson warned of the path of the United States in terms of economic freedom, as I reported: “Speaking about the United States, Lawson said that the numbers are likely to go down in the future. While the U.S. ranks above the world average, its measurement of freedom has been declining since 2000. At the same time, the rest of the world is on an upward trend. ‘It’s no longer accurate to say the United States is among the very top tier in the economic freedom index,’ Lawson said, adding that he blames George Bush for this. The decline is partly due to the increasing size of government, but the largest cause of the decline is in the area of property rights. This area is measured largely by surveys asking people how they feel about property rights in America. The perception, Lawson, said, is that the security of property rights are on the decline.”

Government investment specialty. Gene Callahan, in his book Economics for Real People: An Introduction to the Austrian School, explains some of the problems inherent in government acting as investor. Writing about a plan to build a sports stadium in Hartford: “The Public Choice School has pointed out another force weakening that incentive, indeed, in most cases, completely negating it. Strong incentives exist for politicians to favor special-interest groups at the expense of the general public. Those upon whom benefits are concentrated are motivated to campaign hard for those benefits. As the costs of most political actions are spread across the public as a whole, the average person has little motivation to become involved. In the context of the stadium project, we can see that, even at a total cost of $374 million, the cost to each Connecticut resident is only about $100. It is simply not worth much of any individual citizen’s time to become devoted to the cause of stopping the stadium. However, for the construction companies who hope to get work on the stadium and the owners of businesses and land nearby, the potential benefits are enormous. They have a strong incentive to lobby hard for the project, to donate to the campaigns of politicians who support it, and to sponsor studies that will make the project look good. In fact, if there were a profit to be made in some particular investment, private investors would be likely to act quickly to take advantage of the opportunity with their own funds. … Private investors will turn to the risky business of lobbying the government to support a project only when it is not clear to them that it is profitable without taxpayer subsidies. Thus, the government is likely to specialize in money-losing projects.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 23, 2011

Owens still blocks judicial selection reform. Kansas Reporter writes that one man, Senator Tim Owens, an attorney and Republican from Overland Park, is still blocking judicial selection reform. But a move by the House gives Senate President Stephen Morris a chance to let Senators vote to concur with the reform measure passed by the House. Or, Morris could refer the measure to Owens’ Judiciary committee, where it will die. See New way of picking appeals judges gets second shot.

Greed is killing Detroit. Greed is often portrayed as a negative quality of the rich. But Investor’s Business Daily tells what happens when union greed — yes, everyone can be greedy — runs wild in a city: “Census data released Tuesday show Detroit’s population has plunged 25% since 2000 to just 713,777 souls — the same as 100 years ago, before the auto industry’s heyday. As recently as the 1970s, Detroit had 1.8 million people. What’s happening is no secret: Detroiters are fleeing an economic disaster, the irreversible decline of the Big Three automakers. … Sure, a lot of the blame goes to a generation of bad management. But the main reason for Detroit’s decline is the greed of the industry’s main union, the UAW, which priced the Big Three out of the market.” … Having killed the goose with the golden egg once, union leadership seeks seek to do it again: “Even as Detroit collapses, new UAW chief Bob King promises to ‘pound’ the transplants into submission and force them to drink his union’s poison, too. Given what we know, every town that is now home to a foreign automaker should be very afraid. If King has his way, they’ll soon suffer Detroit’s fate.”

Liberal Bias at NPR? Stephen Inskeep, co-host of the National Public Radio program Morning Edition, defends his network against charges of liberal bias. In The Wall Street Journal Inskeep writes that NPR draws an audience with diverse political views, including conservatives: “Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.” Which, I would say, is all the more reason why the network should stand on its own without government funding. … Inskeep also writes about the recent undercover video by James O’Keefe, who NPR claims, through a spokesperson, to have “inappropriately edited the videos with an intent to discredit” NPR. If true, shame on O’Keefe. The NPR spokesperson concedes that then-NPR chief fundraiser Ron Schiller made some “egregious statements.”

Electric cars questioned. Margo Thorning writing in The Wall Street Journal, explains that the new crop of all-electric or near-all-electric cars not worthy of government support. She notes the Consumer Report opinion of the Chevrolet Volt: “isn’t particularly efficient as an electric vehicle and it’s not particularly good as a gas vehicle either in terms of fuel economy.” … Batteries remain a problem: “A battery for a small vehicle like the Nissan Leaf can cost about $20,000 and still only put out a range of 80 miles on a good day (range is affected by hot and cold weather) before requiring a recharge that takes eight to 10 hours. Even then, those batteries may only last six to eight years, leaving consumers with a vehicle that has little resale value. Home installation of a recharging unit costs between $900 and $2,100.” … Thorning notes that half of the electricity that powers America is generated by coal, so all-electric cars are still not free of greenhouse gas emissions. Also, “a substantial increase in the numbers of them on the road will require upgrading the nation’s electricity infrastructure.” … While electric cars are not ready to save the earth, the U.S. government insists on intervention: “Despite these significant flaws, the government is determined to jump-start sales for plug-ins by putting taxpayers on the hook. The $7,500 federal tax credit per PEV is nothing more than a federal subsidy that will add to the deficit. There are also federal tax credits for installing charging stations in homes and businesses and for building battery factories and upgrading the electric grid. The administration’s goal — one million PEVs on the road by 2015 — could cost taxpayers $7.5 billion.” And saddle Americans with expensive automobiles that do little to address the problem they’re designed to solve. Reading the Journal article requires a subscription, but it is also available at The American Council for Capital Formation, where Thorning is Senior Vice President and Chief Economist.

Government as business. Yesterday’s reading from Robert P. Murphy’s book Lessons for the Young Economist explained the value of the profit-and-loss system in guiding resources to where they are most valued. For those who wan to “run government like a business” I offer today’s excerpt from the same book, which explains how lack of the ability to calculate profit means this can’t happen: [Regarding a capital investment made by Disney as compared to government:] The crucial difference is that the owners of Disneyland are operating in the voluntary market economy and so are subject to the profit and loss test. If they spend $100 million not on personal consumption (such as fancy houses and fast cars) but in an effort to make Disneyland more enjoyable to their customers, they get objective feedback. Their accountants can tell them soon enough whether they are getting more visitors (and hence more revenue) after the installation of a new ride or other investment projects. Remember it is the profit and loss test, relying on market prices, that guides entrepreneurs into careful stewardship of society’s scarce resources. In contrast, the government cannot rely on objective feedback from market prices, because the government operates (at least partially) outside of the market. Interventionism is admittedly a mixture of capitalism and socialism, and it therefore (partially) suffers from the defects of socialism. To the extent that the government buys its resources from private owner — rather than simply passing mandates requiring workers to spend time building bridges for no pay, or confiscating concrete and steel for the government’s purposes — the government’s budget provides a limit to how many resources it siphons out of the private sector. (Under pure socialism, all resources in the entire economy are subject to the political rulers’ directions.) However, because the government is not a business, it doesn’t raise its funds voluntarily from the “consumers” of its services. Therefore, even though the political authorities in an interventionist economy understand the relative importance of the resources they are using up in their program — because of the market prices attached to each unit they must purchase — they still don’t have any objective measure of how much their citizens benefit from these expenditures. Without such feedback, even if the authorities only want to help their people as much as possible, they are “flying blind” or at best, flying with only one eye.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 10, 2011

Kansas labor report. For January 2011, the Kansas Department of Labor reports: “According to January 2011 estimates, Kansas businesses lost 6,100 jobs over-the-year, a 0.5 percent decrease. … The January 2011 unemployment rate in Kansas was 7.4 percent, up from 6.4 in December 2010 but down from 7.9 percent in January 2010.” Said Labor Secretary Karin Brownlee: “The Great Recession continues to take a tremendous toll on the Kansas economy. The Governor’s focus on creating jobs could not be more timely. The work by the Brownback administration to make Kansas the best place to do business is the focus needed to grow our economy. Improving the tax and regulatory climate will help take some of the sting out of this recession and get Kansans back to work.” … Interestingly, at a time when it is said government is slashing budgets, government employment at all levels in Kansas grow by about 300 jobs from January 2010 to January 2011. In Topeka, about 600 government jobs were gained over that time period, in Wichita 300 jobs, and in Kansas City, 400 jobs.

Whose money is it? Wisconsin protester: “Why do you have a right to your money?” See video.

Kansas 2011 budget. Kansas Reporter writes: “Kansas House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative school financing deal Wednesday that may unjam state budget talks that have been stalled for weeks. … In the agreement that began emerging Wednesday, the House negotiators broadly agreed to restore some of the originally proposed special education funding cuts, while Senate negotiators broadly agreed to cut general fund spending for workers’ longevity pay, capital improvement projects and some child care development and insurance plans. Between $12 million and $14 million for those programs would come from special funds outside the state’s basic general fund or would be self funded with internal budget reductions.”

Green jobs. John Stossel in Washington Examiner: “Anyone who understands basic economics already knows that President Obama’s $2.3 billion green-jobs initiative was snake oil. Now, thanks to Kenneth P. Green, we have statistics as well as theory to prove it. In a new article, ‘The Myth of Green Energy Jobs: The European Experience,’ the environmental scientist and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute writes, ‘Green programs in Spain destroyed 2.2 jobs for every green job created, while the capital needed for one green job in Italy could create almost five jobs in the general economy.'” The article Stossel refers to may be read by clicking on The Myth of Green Energy Jobs: The European Experience. Despite this evidence, Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer promotes manufacturing of wind power machinery as good for Wichita’s economic development, and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback supports renewable energy standards for Kansas.

America, welfare nation. Investor’s Business Daily: “More than one-third of all wages and salaries in this country are actually government handouts. We should be alarmed that we’ve become a nation of dependents. Using data mined from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, TrimTabs Investment Research has found that 35% of wages and salaries this year will be in the form of a government payment. That’s up sharply from 2000, when it was 21%, which is more than double the rate — 10% — of 1960.” … We should note that 1960 was before the start of the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson and of the War on Poverty. 2000 was the year of the election of George W. Bush.

Politics vs. free markets. Rothbard on the difference between the political means and the economic means: “A second basic reason for the oligarchic rule of the State is its parasitic nature — the fact that it lives coercively off the production of the citizenry. To be successful to its practitioners, the fruits of parasitic exploitation must be confined to a relative minority, otherwise a meaningless plunder of all by all would result in no gains for anyone. Nowhere has the coercive and parasitic nature of the State been more clearly limned than by the great late nineteenth-century German sociologist, Franz Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer pointed out that there are two and only two mutually exclusive means for man to obtain wealth. One, the method of production and voluntary exchange, the method of the free market, Oppenheimer termed the ‘economic means'; the other, the method of robbery by the use of violence, he called the ‘political means.’ The political means is clearly parasitic, for it requires previous production for the exploiters to confiscate, and it subtracts from instead of adding to the total production in society. Oppenheimer then proceeded to define the State as the ‘organization of the political means’ — the systematization of the predatory process over a given territorial area.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday February 28, 2011

Elections tomorrow. On Tuesday voters across Kansas will vote in city and school board primary elections. Well, at least a few will vote, as it is thought that only nine percent of eligible voters will actually vote. Many of those may have already voted by now, as advance voting is popular. For those who haven’t yet decided, here’s the Wichita Eagle voter guide.

Kansas schools can transfer funds? A recent legislative update by Kansas Representative Bob Brookens, a Republican from Marion, tells readers this about Kansas school finance: “Most school districts in our area braced for this possibility by taking advantage of a law passed last year by the legislature; the new provision allowed schools this one time to transfer funds from certain other areas to their contingency reserve fund, just in case the state had a budget hole in fiscal year 2011; and most of the school districts around here moved all they were allowed to.” Thing is, no one can seem to remember the law Brookens refers to. There were several such laws proposed, but none made their way through the legislature to become law.

Ranzau stand on federal funds profiled. New Sedgwick County Commission member Richard Ranzau has taken a consistent stand against accepting federal grant funds, as explained in a Wichita Eagle story. While his efforts won’t presently reduce federal spending or debt, as explained in the article by H. Edward Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University (“Those funds are authorized, they’re budgeted, they’re appropriated, and (a) federal agency will commit the funds elsewhere.”), someone, somewhere, has to take a stand. While we usually think about the federal — and state — spending problem requiring a solution from the top, spending can also be controlled from the bottom up. Those federal elected officials who represent Sedgwick County and are concerned about federal spending — that would be Representative Mike Pompeo and Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — need to take notice and support Ranzau. Those serving in the Kansas legislature should take notice, too.

Kansas legislative chambers don’t agree. Kansas Reporter details the problems conferees from the House of Representatives and Senate face coming to agreement on the rescission bill. Funding for special education seems the problem. The rescission bill makes cuts to spending so that the current year’s budget balances. More at House, Senate can’t agree how to fund special ed.

Citizens, not taxpayers. A column in the McPherson Sentinel argues that we should think of ourselves as “citizens,” not merely “taxpayers.” The difference, as I read the article, is that a citizen is involved in government and public policy: “It takes work, hard work, to make this system work.” Taxpayers, on the other hand, just pay and expect something back: “‘Look at how much I paid,’ these people cry. ‘Give me my money’s worth!'” The writer makes the case that government “is not a simplistic fiscal transaction” and that citizens must participate to make sure that government does good things with taxes. … The writer gets one thing right. Meeting the needs of the country is complex. Where I don’t agree with the writer is that government is the best way — or even a feasible way — to meet the needs of the country. A method already exists: people trading voluntarily in free markets, guided by profit and loss, with information conveyed by an unfettered price system. Government, with its central planning, its lack of ability to calculate profit and loss, and inevitable tendency to become captured by special interests, is not equipped for this task.

Kansas Economic Freedom Index. This week I produced the first version of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index: Who votes for and against economic freedom in Kansas? for the 2011 legislative session. Currently I have a version only for the House of Representatives, as the Senate hasn’t made many votes that affect economic freedom. The index now has its own site, kansaseconomicfreedom.com.

Increasing taxes not seen as solution. “Leaving aside the moral objection to tax increases, raising taxes won’t in fact solve the problem. For one thing, our public servants always seem to find something new on which to spend the additional money, and it isn’t deficit reduction. But more to the point, tax policy can go only so far, given the natural brick wall it has run into for the past fifty years. Economist Jeffrey Rogers Hummel points out that federal tax revenue ‘has bumped up against 20 percent of GDP for well over half a century. That is quite an astonishing statistic when you think about all the changes in the tax code over the intervening years. Tax rates go up, tax rates go down, and the total bite out of the economy remains relatively constant. This suggests that 20 percent is some kind of structural-political limit for federal taxes in the United States.'” From Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before the Coming Fiscal Collapse by Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Hummel’s article may be read at Why Default on U.S. Treasuries is Likely.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday February 3, 2011

Wichita-area legislators to meet with public. From Rep. Jim Ward, South-Central Delegation Chair: “Public comment about the proposed state budget, health care reform, voter eligibility and other major issues will be heard by local legislators at 9:00 am Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Wichita State University Metroplex, 29th and Oliver. The forum is the first of the 2011 legislative session and is hosted by the South-Central State Legislative Delegation. … Delegation members will take written and spoken questions from the public during the two-hour session. ‘Legislators need to hear from the people who are affected by these important issues,’ said Rep. Jim Ward, delegation chair. ‘Better decisions are made when the public participates in the process.’ … For further information, contact Rep. Ward, delegation chairman at 316-210-3609 or jim.ward@house.ks.gov.”

Fairness issue. A letter in the Topeka Capital-Journal: “The Capital-Journal recently published a lengthy feature, headlined ‘Cuts to arts hit sour note,’ about the Kansas Arts Commission. Abolition of the commission may be a legitimate policy move for budgetary reason. However, there is a caveat. If it’s eliminated for budgetary considerations, all comparable departments, agencies, services, programs, etc., must too be abolished or separated from the state into a nonprofit or for-profit corporation — unfunded by Kansas taxpayers, either directly or indirectly.” After running through a number of agencies, the writer concludes: “Thus, artists pay for their own canvasses, hunters fund their own preserves, tourists find the Flint Hills on their own, students come to college to study, farmers show off their fancy ears of corn in their own barns and concert-goers go to New York for entertainment. Honor dictates that all be treated the same, be it sports or tourism or the arts.” … While the tone of the entire letter is sarcasm, the writer almost has everything correct, if taken literally. But it’s not honor that dictates all the treated the same, it’s morality that requires such treatment.

Twenty regulations to eliminate. From the Heritage Foundation: “As the new Congress assembles, many legislators are considering how to lessen the regulatory burden on Americans. President Obama, too, now says that he wants to root out unnecessary government rules. With regulatory costs at record levels, relief is sorely needed. But it is not enough to talk about fewer regulations. Policymakers must critically review specific rules and identify those that should be abolished. This paper details 20 unnecessary and harmful regulations that should be eliminated now. … At every level, government intrudes into citizens’ lives with a torrent of do’s and don’ts that place an unsustainable burden on the economy and erode Americans’ most fundamental freedoms. In fiscal year (FY) 2010 alone, the Obama Administration unleashed regulations that will cost more than $26.5 billion annually, and many more are on the way.” The report is available at Rolling Back Red Tape: 20 Regulations to Eliminate.

Kansas considers major change in state pension plans. “Kansas legislators looking for ways to close a nearly $8 billion gap in state pension plan funding heard how Utah plans to heal its pension wounds by switching to a plan similar to one that most private businesses offer. … Utah state Sens. Dan Liljenquist, of Bountiful, and Curt Bramble, of Provo, both Republicans, outlined to the Kansas House Pensions and Benefits Committee how Utah intends to close a somewhat smaller gap than Kansas’ by switching its traditional defined benefits pension plan to a modified version of a defined contribution 401(k) plan, the predominant retirement savings plan offered by U.S. businesses.” More from Kansas Reporter.

Politics and city managers to be topic. This Friday (February 4) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features as its speaker H. Edward Flentje, Professor at the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, Wichita State University. His topic will be “The Political Roots of City Managers in Kansas.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Funny campaign websites. Steve Harris, a candidate for Wichita City Council district 2, has a post on his website extolling the virtues of government funding for the arts, invoking the words of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. What’s funny is where he quotes John Adams. The blog post states “John Adams said: ‘Diversity is a good man’s shining time.’ I would argue that we need to reflect on the thoughts of great leaders from the past who faced diversity we can’t even imagine today.” … When Harris quotes Adams, I think he meant to say adversity rather than diversity. Diversity is not something we have to “face” and struggle against. Adversity is. But even then, he gets the quote incorrect. The first word in the quotation from Adams is “Affliction.” … Plus, I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of agreement on LBJ being a great leader.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday January 26, 2011

Kansas legislature website. The Kansas legislature’s website is improving. Today the calendar is available for today’s session of the House, although yesterday’s journal is not. The Senate is better, with both today’s calendar and yesterday’s journal available. These documents are now presented in the preferred pdf format, although the unconventional and inconvenient viewing window is still being used. … Contact information for members seems to be fairly complete, even for the newest member who was elected just last week. … Bills seem to be more up-to-date, with history available for some. But so far I’ve not seen any bill’s fiscal note. … The search feature, which uses a Google site search, seems to be able to include recent material. … Too much to ask for? The website doesn’t have a mobile version, at least not for the Iphone.

Warden to speak. This Friday’s meeting (January 28th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Sam Cline, Warden of the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. His topic will be “An Overview of the Programs Offered at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

The plain truth about who owns the Democratic Party. The Washington Examiner is in the midst of a series of articles comprising a special report about the Democratic Party and who it serves. Writes editor Mark Tapscott: “The lawyers and three other special interests — Big Labor union leaders, Big Green environmentalists, and Big Insiders with billions of dollars in personal wealth and foundation grants — together essentially dictate what Democrats can and cannot support on many key public policy issues. Call them the Four Horsemen of the coming Democratic apocalypse.” The “home page” for the series is The plain truth about who owns the Democratic Party.

Why have your own state if you’re not special? Mike Hall in the Topeka Capital-Journal: “What makes Kansans different from people living in the other states? There must be some differences, or why mark us off inside our own boundaries? I have been intrigued with that question for years and have amassed a collection of observations by other Kansans also trying to describe the uniqueness of the geography and people of Kansas.” Hall goes on to list a few examples of “You Know You Grew Up in Kansas When.” Such as: “You know that the halves of the state are based on US-81 highway.” Actually, I had thought the dividing line between eastern and western Kansas was Wanamaker Road in west Topeka.

Kansas repealer. Kansas now has a repealer, according to Kansas Reporter: The job of repealing burdensome regulations and laws will fall to Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor. … He’ll be tasked with establishing a system that allows Kansans to point out laws that might be eligible for repeal, investigating Kansas laws to determine which ones aren’t needed, and making recommendations of repeal to the authority that has the power to do away with the regulation.” Hopefully this office will produce tangible results soon.

School choice in Kansas. “At some point in most school funding debates, someone will justify their position by saying ‘it’s all about doing what’s best for the kids.’ It’s not a partisan thing; I’ve heard it from people with opposite opinions on whether schools need more money. And that’s what should drive every education discussion — doing what’s best for kids, not the adults in the system. This week is National School Choice Week and there’s no better way to show that it really is about the kids than to support school choice. That’s not an attack on public schools. Public schools work very well for many students, but not all. Granted, that may be a subjective position, but who should decide whether a particular school or district is best for a child — the government or a parent?” More from Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert at Zip Code Shouldn’t Matter — Delivering An Effective Education For Every Child.

Kansas Days this week. This weekend marks the annual Kansas Days event, a gathering of Republicans in Topeka. More information is at Kansas Days Club.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday December 28, 2010

Hawker Beechcraft deal breaks new ground. When asked by KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas host Tim Brown if the Hawker Beechcraft deal was good for Kansas, Wichita State University professor H. Edward Flentje said that while the deal was “great news” in the short term, it raised policy questions in the long term. He said he didn’t think the state has invested in a company that is downsizing, with Hawker shrinking by one-third over the past few years. He added that he believed this is the first time the state has a provision of state law to retain jobs, rather than recruit new jobs. Flentje said that other aircraft companies and other businesses will be looking at this. He didn’t use the word “precedent,” but setting one is what has happened. Flentje has issued similar warnings before when he was interim city manager for Wichita. When Bill Warren, a theater owner, asked the city to make an interest-free loan to him, Flentje warned: “There are in this community much larger businesses with much larger employment who may see this opening as something that will open a door for those businesses to come and say, ‘You’ve done it before, you can do it for us.'”

TSA as fine literature. He grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone. He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice close to my ear. “Just relax.” Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong, callused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my calves slowly but steadily. My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn’t care. His touch was so experienced, so sure. When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply. Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my private area. … Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking “no” for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say … “Okay, ma’am,” said a voice. “All done.” My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse. “You can board your flight now.” (Source unknown, but obviously a brilliant person.)

Love, not yet seated in House, moves to Senate. In what must be one of the most rapid political promotions in history, Garrett Love, who just won a position in the Kansas House of Representatives, is selected to fill a vacancy in the Kansas Senate. The Hutchinson News reports. Love defeated incumbent Melvin Neufeld in the August primary election. Neufeld campaigned for the Senate seat, but lost to Love by a vote of 101 to 38. It would have been — unseemly? — for Neufeld to have lost to Love in an election, but yet be promoted instead of Love to what most would consider to be a better position in the legislature. … This action leaves the House position that Love won but never filled vacant. Will Neufeld attempt to win this seat, the one he lost? The precinct committeemen and committeewomen of that district will decide. Kansas House District 115 includes Dodge City and counties to the south and west.

Wichita historic preservation board. A governmental entity that few may know much about is the Wichita historic preservation board. The agenda for an upcoming meeting is here. On the agenda, there are many items like this: “HPC2010-00350 415 N Poplar Re-roof on commercial. ENV Johnson Drug Store.” In this case someone wants to put a new roof on their building. But, it is located within the “environs” of a property that is listed either on the National Register of Historic Places or the Register of Historic Kansas Places, so they need the permission of this board. For properties within a city, the “environs” is any property within a distance of 500 feet of the listed historic property. If you want to do much of anything to your property, you’ve got to get the permission of this board if it’s within a stone’s throw of a historic property.

Bureaucrats will do what Congress doesn’t. Promises from Congress mean little when the bureaucratic state simply does what it wishes — or what the President wants it to do. Thomas Sowell explains: “The Constitution of the United States begins with the words ‘We the people.’ But neither the Constitution nor ‘we the people’ will mean anything if politicians and judges can continue to do end runs around both. Bills passed too fast for anyone to read them are blatant examples of these end runs. But last week, another of these end runs appeared in a different institution when the medical ‘end of life consultations’ rejected by Congress were quietly enacted through bureaucratic fiat by administrators of Medicare.” Portland Progressive Examiner has more: “Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat, is celebrating a quiet victory: Under new health regulations recently issued by the Obama administration, Medicare recipients will be offered voluntary end-of-life planning, and an opportunity to issue advance health care directives.” The New York Times is blunt, starting its story this way: “When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over ‘death panels,’ Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.”

Brownback to focus on core. Incoming Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says his budget priorities the “core functions of state government,” specifically “Medicaid, K-12 education, higher education and public safety at the top, in that order.” In an interview with Kansas Reporter’s Gene Meyer and Rachel Whitten, Brownback also said consolidation of agencies may be in order, and that repeal of the one cent sales tax that started this year is “not an option.” He also said he wants to defend the school finance lawsuit more aggressively than the last suit.

Schools sue again, and again. Parents in Johnson County have sued the state asking that the local option budget cap be lifted. Essentially, the plaintiffs are asking for permission to raise their local property taxes so that more money can be raised for schools. But now Schools for Fair Funding, the coalition of school districts that are suing the state for more money, has intervened in that suit, saying it wouldn’t be fair to let the wealthy school districts raise this tax money. Kansas Reporter has coverage.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday December 1, 2010

Tax incentives questioned. In a commentary in Site Selection Magazine, Daniel Levine lays out the case that tax incentives that states use to lure or keep jobs are harmful, and the practice should end. In Incentives and the Interstate Competition for Jobs he writes: “Despite overwhelming evidence that state and local tax incentives are having little to no positive effect on promoting real economic growth anywhere in the country, states continue to up the ante with richer and richer incentive programs. … there are real questions as to whether the interstate competition for jobs is a wise use of anyone’s tax dollars and, if not, then what can be done to at least slow down this zero sum game?” As a solution, Levine proposes that the Internal Revenue Service classify some types of incentives as taxable income to the recipient, which would reduce the value and the attractiveness of the offer. Levine also correctly classifies tax credits — like the historical preservation tax credits in Kansas — as spending programs in disguise: “Similarly, when a ‘tax credit’ can be sold or transferred if unutilized it ceases to have a meaningful connection to state tax liability. Instead, in such circumstances the award of tax credit is merely a delivery mechanism for state subsidy.” In the end, the problem — when recognized as such — always lies with the other guy: “Most state policy makers welcome an opportunity to offer large cash incentives to out-of-state companies considering a move to their state but fume with indignation when a neighboring state uses the same techniques against them.”

Yoder: No business as usual. Kansas Watchdog reports on a speech by newly-elected U.S. Congressman Kevin Yoder from the Kansas third district. Said Yoder: “Business as usual has to stop in Washington.” They always say this. Let’s hope Yoder and the other new representatives from Kansas mean it, and can resist the inevitable pressures. Remember the assessment of Trent Lott, a former Senate majority leader and now a powerful lobbyist, as reported in the Washington Examiner: “‘We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,’ Lott told the Washington Post, referring to the conservative South Carolina senator who has been a gadfly for party leadership and a champion for upstart conservative candidates. ‘As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.'”

Kansas revenue outlook was mixed in November . From Kansas Reporter: “Kansas’ economy and the state government’s cash flow continued to struggle in November, preliminary tax revenue numbers indicated Tuesday. A Kansas Department of Revenue calculation of state tax receipts during November showed the state collected $384 million in taxes during the month, a whisker-thin $783,000, or 0.2 percent, less than forecasters calculated just three weeks ago, but nearly $30 million, or 8.5 percent more than in November, 2009.” The 8.5 percent growth from a year ago is partly from the increase in the state’s sales tax. “This suggests that actual retail sales activity, on which state officials are counting to hit future revenue targets, may be trailing year-earlier levels by about 2.4 percent.”

Teacher organization offers alternative to KNEA . “The Kansas Association of American Educators says it offers the benefits of a union membership, but doesn’t involve itself in partisan issues.” More at Kansas Reporter.

Kansas education officials may overstate student performance. Kansas schools claim rapidly rising test scores while other measures of student performance remain largely unchanged, even falling in some years. Kansas Watchdog reports: “There are nagging questions about the validity of claims based on state assessments and the tests are only one measure of the education system’s performance. Several national education watchdogs and the U.S. Department of Education have questioned the rigor of state tests, proficiency standards, graduation rates and graduates preparation for college and the workforce.” The story is Kansas Education Officials May Overstate Student Performance.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday November 16, 2010

Future of California. George Gilder, writing in the Wall Street Journal, lays out a grim future for California based on voters’ refusal to overturn AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. Of the requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state, Gilder writes: “That’s a 30% drop followed by a mandated 80% overall drop by 2050. Together with a $500 billion public-pension overhang, the new energy cap dooms the state to bankruptcy.” He says that AB 32 may not be necessary at all: “The irony is that a century-long trend of advance in conventional ‘non-renewable’ energy — from wood to oil to natural gas and nuclear — has already wrought a roughly 60% drop in carbon emissions per watt. Thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technological advance. The obvious next step is aggressive exploitation of the trillions of cubic feet of low-carbon natural gas discovered over the last two years, essentially ending the U.S. energy crisis.” … Referring to green energy radicals, Gilder writes: “Their economic model sees new wealth emerge from jobs dismantling the existing energy economy and replacing it with a medieval system of windmills and solar collectors. By this logic we could all get rich by razing the existing housing plant and replacing it with new-fangled tents.” Which reminds me of when I criticized those who promote wind power for its job creation: “After all, if we view our energy policy as a jobs creation program, why not build wind turbines and haul them to western Kansas without the use of machinery? Think of the jobs that would create.” An economic boom to those along the Santa Fe Trail, no doubt.

All the billionaires. An amusing commentary — amusing until you realize what it really means — by Scott Burns in the Austin American-Statesman takes a look at how long the wealth of America’s billionaires could fund the federal government deficit. The upshot is that there are about 400 billionaires, and their combined wealth could fund the deficit for about nine months. What’s sobering about this? All this wealth would go to fund only the deficit — that portion of federal spending above revenue for the year. There’s still all the base spending to pay for. And the wealth of these people, which in many cases is in the substance of the companies they founded or own — Microsoft, Oracle, Koch Industries, Wal-Mart, Google, etc. — would be gone.

Kansas has sold assets before. In this year’s session of the Kansas Legislature, there was a proposal to sell state-owned assets in order to raise funds and reduce costs. Kansas Reporter’s Rachel Whitten reports it’s been done before, with success.

Where are the airlines? James Fallows of The Atlantic regarding the new “groping” TSA screenings at airports. Echoing Wichitan John Todd from last week, one reader writes: “And again, where are the airlines? When TSA begins to drive away customers, they’ll react, is the stock answer. I would argue that it already does drive away customers (certainly if the emails I receive are any indication), but what of those it ‘merely’ makes angry? There’s something wrong with a business model that accepts angry and harassed customers as an acceptable option to no customers at all.” Wichitan Mike Smith writes in: “Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate is having a hearing regarding the TSA’s new procedures that I hope results in the procedures being rescinded. If your readers want to make last minute contact with Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback (who is on the committee with TSA oversight), I urge them to do so.”

Next for the tea party. Patrick Ruffini in National Review looks at the future of the tea party. Ruffini notes the difficulty in maintaining the momentum of grassroots efforts. Both Bush and Obama have faced this. He cautions: “The experience should provide a cautionary tale to the Tea Partiers, with their more humble origins: Hitch yourself to established power institutions at your own peril.” But other, newer organizations have sprung up to help tea party activisits: “Ned Ryun, executive director of American Majority — one of the more promising new institutions that have risen up around the Tea Party movement — wants to ignore Washington and go local. ‘What the movement is really about, quite frankly, is the local leaders, and I’ve made a point with American Majority of going directly to them, and ignoring the so-called national leaders of the movement,’ he told me. ‘I think the national leaders are beside the point; if they go away, the movement still exists. If the local leaders go away, the movement dies.'” Kansas is one of the states that American Majority has been active in since its inception. American Majority plans to be involved at the local government level in the 2012 elections.

The new naysayers. President Obama and others have criticized Republicans for being the party of “No.” Now that some of the president’s deficit reduction commission recommendations are starting to be known, there’s a new party of “No.” Writes Ross Douthat in the New York Times: “But Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson performed a valuable public service nonetheless: the reaction to their proposals demonstrated that when it comes to addressing the long-term challenges facing this country, the Democrats, too, can play the Party of No.”

Community Improvement Districts spread to Overland Park. As reported in Kansas Reporter, Overland Park is considering whether to create its first Community Improvement District. In this case, the district — which allows merchants within to charge extra sales tax for their own benefit — would benefit a proposed residential and retail complex. More about these tax districts may be found here.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday November 4, 2010

The future of politics is here, now. After noting how California reached way back to the past to elect a governor, Denis Boyles writes in National Review Online about the future, and how it’s being made right here: “If you want to see the bright and shining politics of the future, you have to go to the country’s heartland, and specifically to Kansas, a place most Democrats only know from Thomas Frank’s liberal folklore. There, the election has yielded two new congressmen — Mike Pompeo and the remarkable Tim Huelskamp — who were not created by the Tea Party movement because their politics were already ahead of that helpful wave. Here‘s a local paper’s coverage. Pompeo is a natural leader, while Huelskamp is something even more — an inspiration, maybe. (He’s briefly sketched in Superior, Nebraska). Mark these guys. Politically, they’re how it’s going to be.”

Schools hope we won’t notice. Kansas Reporter tells of the new Kansas school funding lawsuit, filed on Election Day. Schools must have hoped that news of the filing would get swamped by election day news, which is what happened. The remedy asked for is more money, which has been shown not to work very well in terms of improving student performance … but it makes the education bureaucracy happy. I would suggest that students sue the Kansas State Department of Education for the inadequate education many have received. For a remedy, ask for things that have been shown to work: charter schools and widespread school choice.

Kansas House Republicans. Yesterday I reported that Republicans gained 15 seats in the Kansas House of Representatives. Double-checking revealed that I had made a data entry error. The actual number of Republican gains is 16, for a composition of 92 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

Kansas House Conservatives. In the same article it was noted that since some Kansas House Republicans — the so-called moderates or left-wing Republicans — vote with Democrats more often than not, there was a working caucus of about 55 conservatives. It is thought that conservatives picked up four seats in the August primary, bringing the number to 59. With most of the Republicans who defeated Democrats expected to join the conservative cause, it appears that conservatives now fill over 70 seats, constituting a working majority in the 125-member Kansas House of Representatives. Conservatives do not enjoy a majority of votes in the Kansas Senate, however.

Local smoking bans still wrong. As noted in today’s Wichita Eagle, there might be a revisiting of the relatively new Kansas statewide smoking ban. Incoming Governor Sam Brownback believes that such decisions should be left to local governments, presumably counties or cities in this case. For those who believe that the proper foundation for making such decisions is unfoundering respect for property rights — plus the belief that free people can make their own decisions — it doesn’t matter much who violates these property rights.

GOP: Unlock the American Economy Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal on spending and what Congress really needs to do: “It is conventional wisdom that what voters, tea partiers and talkers want the Republican Party to do is cut the spending. … Getting the spending under control matters a lot.” But Henninger says controlling spending is not enough: “The new GOP has to find an identity beyond the Beltway power game, a way to make the nation’s most important activity not what is going on in Washington, as now, but what is done out in the country, among the nation’s daily producers and workers. The simplest way for the Republican Party to free itself and the economy from this unending Beltway hell is by reviving a core belief of one of the country’s most successful presidents: If the government will get out of the way, Ronald Reagan argued, there’s no limit to what the American people can achieve.” Government getting out of the way was one of freshly-minted Congressman Mike Pompeo’s campaign themes. National figures are warning Republicans that they have one chance to get things right in Washington or risk losing the support they won in this election. And Pompeo urged his supporters, more than once, to hold him accountable in Washington. Maybe Raj Goyle might want to linger in Wichita for a few years to see how things work out.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday October 26, 2010

Karl Rove. “Former George W. Bush aide Matt Latimer was there to observe the dealings of Karl Rove during the previous administration, and he writes that there’s no secret why most conservatives have now come to view Rove as a fraud. Latimer says that Rove has become symbolic of a GOP establishment that’s known for its utter betrayal and ruin of the Party that Reagan had left so strong. Now that his secret is out, Rove’s influence will only continue to diminish as time goes on and the Tea Parties take over.” A fascinating look at the legacy of Rove, and illustrates the tension between the tea party and the Republican establishment. From Karl Rove’s Flameout.

Waiting for Superman. The Kansas Policy Institute will host a free screening of Waiting for Superman on Thursday November 4th. Of the film, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The new film ‘Waiting for ‘Superman'” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact. Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools.” In Kansas, the Wichita Eagle printed an op-ed penned by the education bureaucracy status quoSharon Hartin Iorio, dean of the Wichita State University College of Education in this case — to inoculate Wichitans against the effects of what I am told is a powerful film. Let’s hope this film gets Kansans to thinking about public schools in our state, as Kansas is way behind the curve on innovation, compared to other states. The film will be shown at 7:00pm at the Warren Theatre East (11611 E. 13th St.). KPI asks that you RSVP by Tuesday, November 2 to James Franko at james.franko@kansaspolicy.org. Space is limited.

Brownback at Wichita Pachyderm. Friday’s meeting of the Wichita Pachyderm club will feature United States Senator and candidate for Kansas governor Sam Brownback. The public is welcome at Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Right to work = economic growth. In The Daily Caller, Emporia State University’s Greg Schneider looks at the history of unions in America and right-to-work laws. The number of union jobs has declined as unionized companies became less competitive, not because of right-to-work laws.

Kansas private sector loses jobs, government grows. “Roughly 7,600 private sector jobs in Kansas disappeared from August to September, while government jobs grew by 21,000 over the same time period.” Most of the government jobs were in schools, writes Rachel Whitten in the Kansas Reporter.

Tea Party plans to exert influence. As newly-elected members of Congress arrive in Washington to assume their seats, a tea party group plans to lay down expectations. “The meeting of newly elected officials, the date of which hasn’t been set, is designed to keep new representatives connected to ‘what we expect from them,’ according to the memo. Incumbent Republican members of Congress and the party’s national leadership won’t be invited, said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. ‘The incumbents have allowed us to get into the problems we are in now,’ he said. ‘We hope to get to the freshmen before the incumbents get to them, and start twisting their arms.”” The full story in the Wall Street Journal is Group Plans to Keep Pressure on Newly Elected Conservatives. There is definitely conflict between the Tea Party and the Republican Establishment.

Goyle numbers explained by rats and cats. Candidate for U.S. Congress from the Kansas fourth district Raj Goyle says he has voted with Republicans in the Kansas House of Representatives 80 percent of the time. While a detailed analysis of the votes would be difficult and time-consuming, the majority of measures voted on by legislatures pass nearly unanimously — the so-called “rats and cats” bills. The important cases this year where Goyle voted against his party — the big-spending budget and the statewide sales tax increase — represent either a genuine change in Goyle’s political philosophy, or election-year window dressing. Voters have to make the call.

Holland claim doubted. In an interview with the Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas governor hopeful Democrat Tom Holland said “Now I have a proven track record in the Kansas Legislature of reaching across the aisle and working with Republicans.” Evidence, however, points the other way. In the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for this year, Holland is the only Kansas Senator that earned a score of 0 percent. KEFI is not designed to group legislators into Republican or Democratic camps, but Holland ranks alone at the extreme end of the spectrum — voting against economic freedom in all cases.

Arts in Wichita promoted. Today John D’Angelo, manager of Wichita’s Division of Arts and Cultural Services, contributes a piece to the Wichita Eagle titled How can Wichita sustain, grow arts sector? The answer to this question is: reduce government involvement in the arts, first by abolishing Mr. D’Angelo’s department and city taxation for spending on the arts. This will force arts organizations to meet the demands of consumers as expressed in free markets. Currently, a board of cronies dishes out tax money to arts organizations using political rather than market criteria. This process lets these organizations exists by appealing to Wichita’s cultural elites, rather than the broad market. See Government Art in Wichita. Economic fallacy supports arts in Wichita provides background to D’Angelo’s claim of the economic benefit of the arts, at least government spending on arts.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Tuesday October 12, 2010

Wichita Visioneers in Louisville. The Wichita Business Journal’s Emily Behlmann reports on a trip by Wichitans to Louisville to get ideas on transforming Wichita’s downtown. Hopefully they won’t get this idea, as reported yesterday by the Louisville Courier-Journal: “The heavily subsidized 4th Street Live entertainment district has come under criticism from locally owned businesses for receiving millions of dollars in tax breaks and government subsidies — including a controversial, $950,000 city loan that won’t necessarily have to be repaid.” According to Wichita planner Goody Clancy, heavy subsidy isn’t supposed to be necessary in Wichita. And, I hope all the planners read Jack Cashill’s take on Louisville’s planning: Good intentions, and planners, can sap a city’s soul.

Lynn Jenkins: Don’t try to make Koch Industries a scapegoat. From today’s Wichita Eagle: “Koch management is dedicated to keeping the company growing. It reinvests 90 percent of company profits back into the businesses, allowing them to expand product lines and hire more employees. That is good for consumers and for workers. However, the company has come under fire because its owners support free-market principles inconsistent with the current Democrat leadership.”

Should candidates bother to debate? Rasmussen finds that nearly half of likely voters have watched at least one debate, and about half find them informative.

Costly approach to Kansas economic development — or defense. “Insiders were still not talking Wednesday about the potential cost of saving 6,000 aircraft workers’ jobs in Wichita. Outsiders say that some circumstances at their employer, Hawker Beechcraft, are so different from other companies Kansas has fought to keep that it may be impossible to gauge what it might cost to help prevent the 80-year-old Wichita firm from moving lock, stock and avionics to Baton Rouge, La., and cashing in on Louisiana incentive packages rumored to be worth as much as $400 million.” From Kansas Reporter.

FiveThirtyEight. More about the political site FiveThirtyEight, which I took a look at on Sunday, especially its coverage of Kansas races. Here, James Taranto discusses FiveThirtyEight, concluding: “The recent acquisition of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com makes for a striking contrast with the paper’s uneven news reporting and dreadful op-ed columnists.”

No Wichita city council today. It’s the League of Kansas Municipalities conference in Overland Park this week. LKM is a special interest group working in favor not of the citizens who live in Kansas towns and cities, but the politicians and bureaucrats that run them — and their cronies — who benefit from the LKM’s advocacy of things like TIF districts, STAR bonds, tax abatements, and eminent domain for economic development.

County commissioner forum tonight. Tonight at 7:00 pm at Gloria dei Lutheran Church, 1101 N. River Blvd. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Richard Ranzau will appear.

Parkinson is moderate — he says again. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson — yet again — engages in self-congratulation over “how Kansas has weathered the economic recession by setting politics aside and working together to find moderate, common-sense solutions.” He’s done this several times since the legislative session was over — so many times that I’ve lost count. Evidence of a guilty conscience, perhaps? Parkinson’s abandonment of the Kansas Democratic Party by not choosing to run for reelection has put that party at a tremendous disadvantage in this year’s elections.

Bureaucracy vs. Bureaucracy? “Andrew Gray, Libertarian Candidate for Kansas Governor, says that simplifying or repealing unnecessary statutes and regulations is a key part of his administration’s plan to empower the private sector to create jobs and prosperity in Kansas. He also says he’s pleased that Senator Brownback is at least talking about similar actions. However, Gray finds it ridiculous that Senator Brownback is actually planning to create more bureaucracy in order to cut bureaucracy.” I think he’s got a point. But anything that is necessary to reduce the size of government is what we need to do.

The impossibility of an informed electorate. D.W. MacKenzie writing for Mises Daily, reacting to a John Stossel suggestion that uninformed people have a duty not to vote: “The problem with voting in modern America is that we have a politicized society, and modern society is extraordinarily complex. Stossel suggests that only people who follow politics should vote. However, even those who follow politics very closely do not understand the implications of changes in public policy. The lesson here is that efforts to incrementally reform government policies and programs through the democratic process are futile. To the extent that we vote at all, rational people should vote to depoliticize the economy. … What this means is that we need to reintroduce the price system as the primary method of economic communication, and the profit-and-loss sorting mechanism as the primary method of social reform.”

Gallup: Americans negative towards federal government. “More than 7 in 10 Americans use a word or phrase that is clearly negative when providing a top-of-mind reaction to the federal government.” Details here: Americans’ Image of “Federal Government” Mostly Negative.

A minority opinion, or a delusion? Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “Here’s the narrative you hear everywhere: President Obama has presided over a huge expansion of government, but unemployment has remained high. And this proves that government spending can’t create jobs. Here’s what you need to know: The whole story is a myth. There never was a big expansion of government spending. In fact, that has been the key problem with economic policy in the Obama years: we never had the kind of fiscal expansion that might have created the millions of jobs we need.”

Kansas tax burdens getting heavier, studies show

While Kansas ranks in the middle of the states in total tax burden, the state’s take is getting larger, compared to other states.

This finding is important as Kansas and its largest city are increasingly using favorable tax treatment to centrally plan and manage economic development. When the state allows a company’s employee withholding taxes to be used for its own exclusive benefit — as outgoing Governor Mark Parkinson recently granted to Wichita’s Bombardier Learjet — it increases the cost of government for everyone else.

The Kansas PEAK bill that the legislature passed this year allows this practice to be extended to more and smaller companies.

In cities like Wichita, the city council routinely grants tax abatements and other favorable tax treatment to companies that it believes are deserving.

The result of all this intervention is that the tax base is narrowed, and the high cost of government is born by a smaller group of taxpayers.

To top it off, the result of this centralized planning and management of economic development is: pretty much zero.

In 2008 the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit looked at the use of economic development incentives in Kansas, examining some $1.3 billion in spending over five years. In examining the literature, the auditors found: “Most studies of traditional economic development incentives suggest these incentives don’t have a significant impact on economic growth.”

It also found: “The majority of research concludes there is a lack of demonstrated impact from the typical types of economic development assistance, and that incentives aren’t cost-effective.” The audit can be read at Economic Development: Determining the Amounts the State Has Spent on Economic Development Programs and the Economic Impacts on Kansas Counties. The document has an executive summary.

The concentrating of the cost of government on a shrinking tax base spells trouble. One solution that I proposed to the Wichita city council is that when tax incentives are given, the city reduce its spending by the cost of the incentive: “The harmful effect of this tax abatement is this: When someone escapes paying taxes, someone else has to make up the difference. … As long as this body is willing to grant tax abatements and other special tax favors, I propose this simple pledge: that when the City of Wichita allows a company to escape paying taxes, that it reduce city spending by the same amount. By following this simple rule, the City can be reminded of the cost of granting special tax favors, and the rest of us won’t have to pay for them.”

Kansas tax burdens getting heavier, studies show

By Gene Meyer, Kansas Reporter

(KansasReporter) TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansans’ state and local sales taxes are now 12th highest in the nation, though their total tax burden is nearer the middle of the pack in 24th place, say two new reports released Thursday.

But, as investment companies always remind us when pitching their new products, your actual results may vary.

“Even within a state, it can be difficult to know what the average tax rate is when there can be hundreds of different jurisdictions charging different rates,” said Kail Padgitt, an economist at the Washington, D.C. based Tax Foundation, which calculates Kansas’ 7.95 percent average state and local sales taxes are 12th highest in the nation.

Within that average, though, actual local rates in some 790 different county, local and special tax districts across Kansas vary from 6.3 percent where only the basic state rate is charged to more than 10.5 percent in a few special taxing districts.

The ranking, one of the first nationally to include Kansas’ recently raised 6.3 percent statewide sales tax that became effective July 1, puts the 12th ranked Sunflower state higher than its neighbors in 15th ranked Missouri, 25th ranked Colorado and 29th ranked Nebraska. Only Oklahoma, where an average 8.33 percent sales tax burden clocks in at seventh highest in the nation, comes in higher.

Continue reading at Kansas Reporter

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for March 22, 2010.

Republicans on the left help defeat Health Care Freedom Amendment

(Kansas Liberty) “Greg Ward, co-founder of the Kansas 9.12 Project and founder of the Kansas Sovereignty Coalition, was disappointed in the outcome, but said he was especially concerned about the actions of the Republican members who voted against the measure. ‘I am amazed at the number of Republicans working to limit the liberties we have instead of limiting the overreaching government on both the federal and state level that seeks more and more control of our lives,’ Ward told Kansas Liberty.”

House, Senate committees take a stand against increasing taxes

(Kansas Liberty) “The House Appropriations Committee adopted a budget plan today that could patch the state’s deficits for fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2011 — without raising taxes. The proposal would leave the state with positive balance of more than $300 million in fiscal year 2011 and would cut approximately $360 million. The Republican plan would create a 1 percent across-the-board cut, excluding education and health and human services caseload.”

Tax on sugary beverages could still be considered

(Kansas Liberty) “The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee made it clear yesterday that it was not interested in several of the tax-increasing proposals brought before the committee — including a proposal to create a tax on sugary beverages. For legislation to be voted on during a committee meeting, a member has to make a motion for the legislation to be passed out of committee, and that motion has to be seconded. However, the Senate Taxation Committee did not even have enough tax-supporting members for the majority of the proposals to be considered for a vote.”

Day-care bill passes GO in Senate

(Kansas Liberty) “Voice vote in general orders indicates Kansas Senate wants all child-care providers licensed and inspected by state.”

Kansas tax panel offers balanced budget, no new taxes

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas House Appropriations committee members unveiled a new plan Thursday for balancing next year’s state budget without raising taxes.”

Exemptions severely erode Kansas’ tax bases, audit finds

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas property tax exemptions for machinery and equipment created in 2006 have significantly eroded local tax bases across the state, state auditors reported Wednesday.”

KOSE seeks more protection for whistleblowers

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Some state employees feel they have a way to gain more revenue for Kansas. Two members of the Kansas Organization of State Employees (KOSE) testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday that strengthening whistleblower protection for state employees would mean less waste.”

Debunking Myths in the School Funding Debate

(Kansas Watchdog) “Protesters pushing for tax increases to end education funding cuts chanted, ‘We want what’s right, not what’s left’ at the State Capitol Tuesday.”

3rd District Candidates Debate

(Kansas Watchdog) “Overland Park, Kan. – A candidate debate and forum of eight 3rd Congressional District candidates was held Saturday at the Blue Valley Northwest High School. About 300 people attended to listen to 7 Republicans and a Libertarian candidate.” Related: Closing Statements from 3rd District Debate (video).

Sun Editor Steve Rose Needs Facts and Figures not Fear Mongering about Schools

(Kansas Watchdog) “Steve Rose in his ‘Memo’ this week, ‘Teachers, programs slashed. Thanks, Ray,’ needs more hard facts and figures instead of fear mongering about ‘slashing’ school budgets.”

Congressional Candidates Debate at Hope For America Meeting in Overland Park

(State of the State KS) “Republican and Libertarian candidates for Congress debated in Overland Park Saturday in the race for Congress in the 3rd District.”

U.S. House passes historic health reform legislation

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – The U.S. House has spoken on health reform, approving 219-212 a Senate-passed health reform bill that now goes to the president for signature into law. But the debate in Kansas, and across the country, continues.”

Menu labeling discussed

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – It’s not clear what will happen to federal health reform legislation that would require chain restaurants to label menu items, but the Kansas Legislature won’t take any action on the measure this year.”

Kansas sugar tax testimony heard, bill doesn’t advance

Wednesday’s meeting of the Kansas Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee heard testimony on SB 567, which would increase taxes on drinks sweetened with sugar. At the next day’s meeting, the bill didn’t advance out of committee.

Several hundred employees of soft drink companies, many wearing clothes with logos of their companies, were in the statehouse, and many attended the hearing.

In his opening remarks, Senator Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican, said that his intent is to revise the bill so that the tax is four-tenths of a cent per teaspoon of sugar instead of one cent, saying that to the audience of soft drink company employees “that should relieve 60% of your anxiety.”

He added, as he has said in other recent meetings of this committee, that he doesn’t want to have to ask people for more taxes. But he contended that the budget has been “slashed” many times, and that more tax revenue is required.

Proponents of the bill generally cited two reasons for their support: First, it would raise more revenue for the state. Second, it would improve the health of Kansans, a claim that some opponents of the bill disputed.

Kathy Cook, Executive Director of Kansas Families for Education Foundation, said the state’s children, disabled, and elderly can’t afford any more cuts. It’s more than a political decision, she said, it’s really now a moral decision. Her written testimony suggested increasing income taxes on those making over $100,000 per year.

Jason Eberhart-Phillips, the Kansas State Health Officer, said that sugar-sweetened beverages are “not a necessary part of anyone’s diet.” The drinks generally deliver many calories but few nutritional benefit.

Opponents of the bill raised the cross-border shopping issue. Written testimony from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce noted that “Our peer states are already salivating at the prospects of both a sales tax and a tobacco tax increase. You can now add the proposed doubling of the liquor gallonage tax and this bill to the list of tax increases our competitor states would like to see Kansas enact.”

The Kansas Beverage Association in its written testimony noted that the bill is not really about fighting obesity, as no money from the proposed tax is earmarked for obesity programs. (A California bill that is the model for this legislation places all the tax revenue collected in a fund for improving the health of children.)

The Association also said in its testimony that the American Beverage Association has set voluntary standards for beverages sold in schools, and that in three years, the number of calories from beverages sold in schools has been reduced by 90%. The testimony added that kids in schools are still eating pizza, cheeseburgers, candy bars, and ice cream.

The owner of a restaurant and bar in Olathe said that the competitive nature of the restaurant combined with the recession means that the ability to earn money on food sales is reduced, meaning that the beverage side of the business becomes more important. He said that this tax increase might drive him to reduce his employee count.

Some opponents noted the large number of businesses that would be affected by this tax, and the job losses that the tax would cause.

The fiscal note the accompanies the bill notes some difficulties in enforcing the tax: There are many distributors of the products to be taxed, and some don’t have a business location in Kansas. There are very small companies producing products that will have to be taxes, and there are private label products that are shipped directly to companies in Kansas. The note estimated that there could be 500 to 600 products that would be subject to this tax, and that ensuring compliance with the law may be difficult.

Senator Karin Brownlee, an Olathe Republican, said that the link between sugar pop and obesity is not clear. Taking issue with Chairman Donovan’s contention that revenues must be raised, she said that some legislators realize that spending is the problem. There were four years in a row, she said, where spending increased by 9 percent. “Until the state gets a handle on our spending, we don’t need to be talking about new taxes.” She asked that when businesses are not making money, how do we take more from them?

Donovan, who owns an automobile dealership, interjected that he will have to charge customers an additional three or four hundred dollars if the Kansas sales tax — based on his actions — is raised. “It’s not good for me, it’s not good for my business, but we are out of options, the way I see it.” He said he didn’t disagree with the claim of government bloat and that government spending has gone up faster than income lately, but the state has cut billions in taxes for both. business and individuals.

Brownlee said that it appears the majority is headed towards tax increases, but this should not be the first response to the budget problem.

The committee took action on this bill and other proposed tax bills on Thursday. As reported in Kansas Reporter and Kansas Liberty (Senate Committee says no to new taxes, House, Senate committees take a stand against increasing taxes) the tax bills did not advance out of committee.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for March 16, 2010.

School consolidation measures deliberated in House

(Kansas Liberty) “The Kansas House tentatively approved a plan today that would allow three or more school districts to consolidate into two districts. House Bill 2704 originally included two consolidation-promoting components, but one of the components was stripped off on the House floor under the direction of Rep. Bill Light, R-Rolla.”

Concealed-carry bill stalls in committee

(Kansas Liberty) “Legislation promoting an alteration to the state’s concealed-carry law has been sitting in the House Federal and State Affairs committee since its February hearing. House Bill 2685 would require any state building that posts a sign prohibiting concealed-carry to have adequate security measures in place.”

Debate — who decides supremacy of Health Care Freedom Amendment?

(Kansas Liberty) “Conferees testifying on the Health Care Freedom Amendment butted heads today on whether the measure would provide the state with adequate protection from being forced to comply with any health-care mandates that could be passed by the federal government.”

Sales tax exemption repeals a possibility for nonprofits, other organizations

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas business owners and non-profit service organizations urged lawmakers Monday to reject proposals that would require groups as diverse as utility customers, Girl Scouts and coin-operated laundry owners to pay more sales taxes.”

Mega school districts would save millions, panel told

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Consolidating Kansas’ nearly 300 school districts into a fraction of that number, with 10,000 students in each district, would cut potentially hundreds of million of dollars in duplicative administrative costs, backers of such a plan told a Kansas House panel this week.”

KDOT looks at Amtrak expansion

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas House voted 115 to five Thursday to give Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller the ability to prepare for expanded rail service in the state. That same day, Amtrak released a study concerning the feasibility of such passenger rail service, which was presented to the House Transportation committee.”

Tobacco tax plan hurts mom-and-pop stores, opponents say

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Tom Palace considered wearing a bulls-eye costume to testify before the Kansas Senate Assessment and Taxation committee hearing Wednesday. As executive director of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association of Kansas, Palace feels that the legislature’s proposed options for additional revenue target his industry at every turn. Cigarette, liquor, fuel and sales taxes are all options that the legislature is examining to cover an estimated $400 million budget shortfall.”

Kansas panel changes proposed property tax lid

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas House Taxation committee members voted to send a proposed lid on new property tax increases to the House floor Tuesday after first changing a key condition in the plan.”

Spokesmen for developmentally disabled ask Supreme Court to halt spending cuts

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – A restraining order against the State of Kansas was requested Friday by advocates for the developmentally disabled, who said recent budget cuts are harmful and in violation of federal laws and the state constitution. ‘Thousands of people are hurting out there,’ said Tom Laing, executive director of Interhab, a group representing community programs for the developmentally disabled. ‘We should not want to live in a state where these things are allowed.'”

Legislature wades into tax bills this week

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – After weeks of talking about weak revenues and budget cuts, the Legislature this week takes up various tax proposals ranging from elimination of sales tax exemptions to a new levy on soda pop and other sugared drinks.”

Governor says votes there for major tax increase

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – There are enough votes to pass a $300 million to $400 million tax increase, the governor told KHI News Service. But still uncertain, he said, is the specific mix of taxes legislators will settle on. They currently have before them proposals to increase the general sales tax but also tobacco and alcohol. The Senate also is considering a measure that for the first time tax the sugar in soft drinks and other sugary beverages. The Senate and House this week also are looking at bills that would repeal sales tax exemptions.”

Sunshine Week 2010: Sunshine is the Best Disinfectant

(Kansas Watchdog) “Our nation’s founding documents state clearly that the people, endowed with fundamental, inalienable rights, are the masters of government, which derives its just power from the consent of the governed. But, can consent be given without knowledge of what is consented to? Citizens are in an uphill battle against the inertia of decades of apathy. Adding urgency to the battle is the dramatic growth of government influence, power and complexity both nationally and locally.”

A Look Inside the Kansas State Board of Education

(Kansas Watchdog) “The March meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education made no headlines in the major media but the future of Kansas’ youth, the financial future of the state and its citizens’ freedoms all depend, in part, on how the Board works and the decisions it makes. A few glimpses into the Board’s operation are telling.”

My view: Campaign Finance should cover judicial retention elections

(Kansas Watchdog) “Regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, open government, open records and transparency are issues that everyone can agree on. When Tom Witt from the Kansas Equality Coalition asked me to speak in favor of transparency in judicial retention elections, I knew that was an issue I had no choice but to embrace.”

Governor Mark Parkinson on the Economy, the Budget and Kansas Health

(State of the State KS) “Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson (D) addresses budget shortfalls, key Capitol legislative issues and the need for bipartisan work in Kansas and Washington.”

Budget Director Duane Goossen On This Year’s $106 Million Problem

(State of the State KS) “Budget Director Duane Goossen talks about new information the state is short $106 million for 2010 and what should be done to fix it.”

School Consolidation Considered as Solution To Budget Crisis

(State of the State KS) “The House Education Budget committee heard debate on a bill Thursday that would consolidate the current 293 school districts to about 45 across the state.”

Kansas Senate blocks new journalism

Does the application for press credentials to the Kansas Senate contain questions designed to limit or restrict the types of organizations that apply?

A bit of background: In a New York Times op-ed from a year ago (News You Can Endow), the authors tell of the financial troubles of newspapers: “Today, we are dangerously close to having a government without newspapers. American newspapers shoulder the burden of considerable indebtedness with little cash on hand, as their profit margins have diminished or disappeared.” The reaction of newspapers: “News organizations have cut costs, with grave consequences.”

It’s an important issue. As the article states: “If [Thomas] Jefferson was right that a well-informed citizenry is the foundation of our democracy, then newspapers must be saved.” I would argue that it doesn’t matter much if newspapers survive in their present form of physical delivery — as the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund has said, on dead trees.

But newspaper-style journalism must survive. Former editor of the Wichita Eagle W. Davis “Buzz” Merritt wrote a book that chronicles some of the changes in newspapers over the past decades (Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism Is Putting Democracy At Risk). My review of the book contains Merritt’s summary of the properties of newspaper-style journalism that separates it from other forms: “… newspaper journalism is ‘not shaped by a limiting technology,’ such as a television broadcast; it values completeness over immediacy, it is lengthier and deeper than other sources of journalism, its goal is relevance rather than entertainment, and opinion and analysis is presented separately from news.”

Returning to Kansas: Newspapers in Kansas have suffered financially. The Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star have reduced their staff. Morris Publishing, owner of the Topeka Capital-Journal, recently filed for bankruptcy.

Now some organizations have been created and are stepping up to fill the void. These organizations are of the type that the Times op-ed recommends as a way to save newspapers: non-profit organizations.

Specifically, Kansas Watchdog and Kansas Reporter, both started last year, provide coverage of Kansas issues. Both are staffed by experienced journalists, some with reporting backgrounds in Kansas newspapers. Similar efforts are springing up in many states.

They’re both non-profit organizations, and that has created a problem.

Here’s a question on the application for Kansas Senate press credentials: “Please list below the organization’s shareholders, owners or major contributors: (Shareholders, owners or major contributors of 5% or over)”

The problem is that many people who donate to non-profit organizations prefer to remain anonymous. Donors may prefer anonymity for any number of reasons.

Regarding donor-funded journalism, some argue that anonymous donors will require that the news be produced in a way that advances a political agenda. That’s possible, and equally so for news outlets on both the political left and right. It can happen whether donors are anonymous or known. It happens in traditional media, no matter what the structure of ownership.

These issues — primarily how newspaper-style and investigative journalism will survive — are vitally important. It’s likely that the answers will be known only after a period of experimentation where answers are hammered out in public.

But Stephen Morris, who is president of the Kansas Senate, seems determined not to let this happen.

You can read all the questions the Kansas Senate President’s Office asks by clicking on 2010 Kansas Senate Press Credentialing Application.

‘Kansas Reporter’ launched

This week the Kansas Policy Institute announced the launch of KansasReporter, a news service covering Kansas government. Combined with some other relatively new sources of news, analysis, and commentary — Kansas Liberty, Kansas Watchdog, State of the State, Kansas and a few older sources like Kansas Meadowlark and Voice For Liberty in Wichita — Kansans should be better-equipped to know what’s going on in our state, and to become more involved in our state and local governments.

Following is its press release.

KansasReporter launches online news service

Topeka, Kan., Dec. 9 – KansasReporter is pleased to announce the December 9 launch of its state capital news bureau.

KansasReporter is an online news service providing original reporting on Kansas government. The state capital bureau in Topeka is staffed by two full-time, experienced journalists. Their work will be published online at and accessible for everyone to read. It is also available as a free “wire service” to all media outlets.

KansasReporter is a project of Kansas Policy Institute. KPI President Dave Trabert says, “We launched this service to help fill a void created by the unfortunate reduction in media resources devoted to state government news coverage. The closing of Harris News Service’s Topeka bureau earlier this year and other cutbacks have reduced information available to citizens and media outlets outside the Topeka area at a critical time. The mission is to ensure that government is held accountable to all Kansans and to examine issues from all sides. We recognize that being founded by a public policy organization raises legitimate questions of balance. The purpose of KansasReporter is not to promote a particular viewpoint but to provide vigorous and credible reporting on all sides of stories. We encourage readers to hold us accountable to our mission and welcome their constructive criticism.”

Brian R. Hook leads the coverage as bureau chief. He will oversee editing and also report on a daily basis. With more than 15 years of journalism experience, he worked as a freelance journalist for the last ten years. He reported for dozens of publishers, including Financial Times, Dow Jones, McGraw-Hill, Kiplinger’s and U.S. News & World Report. He started his career in TV news at KAKE-TV in Wichita, before moving to Oklahoma City and then to St. Louis, helping to launch a new, prime-time newscast at KTVI.

Gene Meyer is the new reporter for KansasReporter.org. Meyer spent 25 years reporting for the Kansas City Star. While at the Star he reported and co-wrote a series of stories regarding Kansas pension fund investment practices that led to enactment of state legislation to increase safeguards for public employees’ retirement savings. In addition to reporting for a commodity news service out of Leawood, Kan., Meyer worked for the Wall Street Journal from its Chicago bureau covering agricultural futures markets for the newspapers and Dow Jones News Wire.

Kansas Policy Institute
Kansas Policy Institute is a non-profit organization that advocates for free enterprise solutions and the protection of personal freedom. It also operates KansasWatchdog, KansasOpenGov and KansasVotes.

Contact information for KansasReporter is Brian R. Hook, Bureau Chief
Topeka Office: 785.408.6100
Email: brhook@kansaspolicy.org