Tag Archives: Kansas state government

Articles about Kansas, its government, and public policy in Kansas.

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

By Alan Cobb, State Director of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas

Many would describe that much of Kansas is in decline. Over 75 percent of the counties in Kansas have lost population just since 2000. Over half of Kansas’ counties have fewer residents today than 1900.

Recently, the Associated Press reported that Kansas is in real danger of losing a Congressional seat during the next reapportionment because of anemic population growth. Kansas population growth from 2000 to 2004 was only 1.7 percent while the nation as a whole grew 4.3 percent. Sedgwick County’s growth was only 2.3% during this time. Kansas’ annual growth of less than one-half of one percent should startle anyone concerned about the future of our fine State.

No matter how you measure growth, Kansas is struggling, particularly when compared to the other 50 states. Kansas is in the bottom ten among states in population growth, income growth and job growth.

Unbelievably, this century Kansas has lost 16,700 private sector jobs while the government sector actually added 15,000 jobs.

The same week it was reported that Kansas may lose a Congressional seat, the Tax Foundation released a study that stated Kansas has the 15th highest state and local tax burden. We are tied with New Jersey and higher than Massachusetts and California. Kansas has a higher tax burden than all of our neighboring states except Nebraska.

Recently the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas compared every Kansas County that borders another State. Except for the Kansas counties bordering Nebraska, the Kansas counties fared worse than their neighbors in Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma when measuring economic activity, income growth and population growth.

Of the top twenty states in population growth this century, all but two states, Utah and Hawaii, have lower tax burdens than Kansas.

I have heard a Kansas legislator comment that that’s just the way it is; Kansas is a rural, Great Plains state and rural, Great Plains states aren’t growing. I do not believe that is true, but even if it were, I am not ready to accept that.

What are we to do about our population predicament? First we must decide that the lack of economic growth is a problem. And we must be brutally honest about the solutions. Is more government spending and taxation the solution? Are more government owned and constructed buildings the solutions for Wichita or Salina or Lakin?

Are we, as a State, willing to honestly assess our State’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary policy changes needed for growth?

Without any changes to the path we’re on, rural Kansas faces a bleak future.

I am not willing to accept the declining status quo as the best we can do, and I don’t think most Kansans are either.

What are we prepared to do?

Kansas Attorney General Has it Right

TOPEKA — Alan Cobb, director of the Kansas chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, today released the following statement in response to the briefs filed in the State vs. Montoy case currently before the Kansas Supreme Court:

“As questions and concerns swirl about whether or not the Kansas Supreme Court can order a statewide tax increase, we applaud Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline for putting this issue to rest.

In a brief filed yesterday with the court and in response to questions from reporters, AG Kline said clearly that the Kansas Supreme Court does not have the authority to impose taxes or raises the current level of taxation.

From the summary of the brief filed by the Attorney General:

“The Kansas Constitution Prohibits the Supreme Court from Raising Taxes and Prohibits any Expenditure from the State General Fund from Occurring Unless Authorized by Laws Passed by the Legislature.” (emphasis added)

The bottom line is that the Legislature has the responsibility to tax and to fund schools appropriately. They’ve met that burden.

The Kansas Legislature and the Attorney General understand that our state’s taxpayers suffer the 15th worst state and local tax burden in the nation as a percentage of income. That’s an even heavier tax burden than citizens in the notoriously high-tax states of California and Massachusetts must carry! Also, our ranking this year is twice as bad as it was 20 years ago, when we ranked a much better 31st.

“The short-term solution to over-taxation in Kansas is for the legislature to continue rejecting any and all proposed tax increases, and the long-term solution is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. If Kansas had implemented a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992, taxpayers would have received $1.1 billion in tax rebates and reductions and we would have squirreled away $1.4 billion in Rainy Day funds that would have offset the budget shortfalls that occurred during the recent economic downturn. And Kansas taxpayers would have a little more money in their pockets as they file their taxes this week.”

The Decline of Kansas Documented By Census

By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

Kansas is in a decline. This state is shrinking relative to its peers in the other 49 states. However, some might say, and with some degree of accuracy, that this trend is nothing new. It is clear that the size and impact of this decline is likely to shape this state throughout the first part of the 21st century.

April 21 the U.S. Census Department issued projections for population growth showing that Kansas population will grow at less than 1/3 of the rate of the rest of the country over the next 25 years. This followed Census data showing that over 3/4 of the Kansas counties have lost population since the 2000 census.

The relative decline of Kansas is continuing and this is most vividly demonstrated in the declining numbers of Kansans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is a little known fact that over a 40 year period ending after the 1930 census, there were eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas. At one time, Kansans represented over two percent of the national population.

Recently, Kansas slid and became just under one percent of the national population and if the census population trends occur, Kansas will soon see that number drop by 1/4 in the next 25 years. As the population has declined with the rest of the country so has the congressional delegation.

Kansas lost members of congress following the 1930, 1940, 1960, and 1990 censuses and is shrinking like a Florida glacier. In mid-April an Associated Press report quoted Xan Wedel, a researcher at K.U.’s Policy Research Institute, saying the state was at risk of losing another member in the house in 2010. If you think the big first congressional district is large today when there are four members, let your imagination consider how large it will be if there are only three, or later in this century only two. If the census forecast is correct the decline in Kansas, as represented by our shrinking congressional delegation, is continuing.

Kansas would be on track for a decline that could shrink this state’s delegation down to the size of Idaho or Rhode Island during the next 50 or 60 years. At the same time Kansas’ population declines, the states in our region that have placed limits on state and local government taxes and spending growth are growing faster. Colorado, which once

lagged behind Kansas in congressional representation but now has seven, will grow more than 3.5 times faster than Kansas. Missouri and Oklahoma will grow 50 percent faster than Kansas while Arkansas will pass Kansas too. Arkansas is growing more than twice as fast as Kansas. Only higher tax Nebraska is projected to grow at a lower rate than Kansas among our four adjacent states at only 6.4 percent.

Nationally, states without state income taxes will be growing much faster than the states that penalize income earners. The nine states without personal income taxes are projected to grow at twice the rate of the rest of the country. There is a wide variance between these nine states’ projected growth rates but Texas and Florida are both projected to gain three additional members each to their congressional delegations following the 2010 census. Florida is also projected to overtake struggling New York to become the third largest state in population in 2010. Texas, which is the number one state that Kansans are moving to when they leave, is already the second largest nationally.

These census figures demonstrate that Kansans can and do vote with their feet. As business and industry move to more competitive parts of the country Kansas is being left behind and the political and judicial leadership in Kansas is busy trying to raise income, sales, and other Kansas taxes. The tax and spend formula for state government in Kansas is leading to an economic failure that will destroy our future.

Kansas Faces Challenges for Growth

By Alan Cobb, Americans For Prosperity Kansas State Director

Many would describe that much of rural Kansas is in decline. Nearly 60 percent of the counties in Kansas have lost population just since 1990. Over half of Kansas’ counties have fewer residents today than 1900.

Just this week the Associated Press reported that stated Kansas is in real danger of losing a Congressional seat during the next reapportionment because of anemic population growth. Kansas population growth from 2000 to 2004 was only 1.7 percent while the nation as a whole grew 4.3 percent. Kansas’ annual growth of less than one-half of one percent should startle anyone concerned about the future of our fine State.

No matter how you measure growth, Kansas is struggling, particularly when compared to the other 50 states. Kansas is in the bottom ten among states in population growth, income growth and job growth. While I do not like to scream crisis, we, as a State, clearly have urgent needs that must be addressed soon.

The solutions to our growth problems will take time. There are no overnight fixes. Thus, we need to get started immediately.

For most Kansas communities, if they do not grow, they die. We might like to think the quaint small Kansas town depicted in Hollywood never grows or shrinks, but stays the same. That isn’t reality.

The changes and population decline are gradual but unmistakable.

I have heard a Kansas legislator comment that that’s just the way it is; Kansas is a rural, Great Plains state and rural, Great Plains states aren’t growing. That is not the case, but even if it were, I am not ready to accept that. It simply isn’t a fact that Kansas can not grow.

So, what are we to do about it? How can we encourage real economic development? How can we encourage population and income growth? Do we want population growth and economic development?

There are those who don’t want growth and the problems associated with it. They want their town to stay the same as it has for years. They like the comfortable and familiar feel.

Kansans move to places that provide economic and professional opportunities for themselves and their families. While the residents of a small Kansas town appear to enjoy their seemingly unchanging community, the most capable leave for places providing better economic possibilities and their former hometown slowly decays. These place Kansans move to are frequently in other states, but certainly are not in rural Kansas.

What are we to do about this? First we must decide that the lack of economic growth is a problem. And we must be brutally honest about the solutions. Are government grants the solution? Is the new convention center for the county seat a key for reversing the fortunes of the community?

We must take a hard look at systemic change to Kansas to being reversing the alarming trend.

Recently the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas compared every Kansas County that borders another State. Except for the Kansas counties bordering Nebraska, the Kansas counties fared worse than their neighbors in Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma when measuring economic activity, income growth and population growth.

Clearly the Colorado counties of Cheyenne and Kiowa are no different that Greeley and Wallace Counties in Kansas, yet the Colorado counties have experienced more growth than their Kansas counterparts. Are Texas and Beaver County, Oklahoma really any different than Morton, Seward and Meade Counties in Kansas? Why are the Oklahoma counties growing faster than their Kansas neighbors?

Overall, more people are moving out of Kansas than moving in to Kansas. If not for our birth rate exceeding our death rate, we would actually have negative population growth. And without the growth in Johnson County, our State would not be growing at all.

Why is that? Are we, as a State, willing to honestly assess our State’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary policy changes needed for growth?

Without any changes to the path we’re on, rural Kansas faces a bleak future.

I am not willing to accept the declining status quo as the best we can do, and I don’t think most Kansans are either.

What are we prepared to do?

Tax funds finance Kansas school finance lawsuit

Contributed by Kansas Taxpayers Network


By Karl Peterjohn

There might not be funds for public school classrooms but for 15 Kansas school districts there is money for financing lawsuits. Since the 1998-99 school year, $2,095,020 has been spent in public funds to pay for the school finance litigation and lawsuit.

This outrage is a classic case of the school districts biting the state’s hand that fed the 300 Kansas school districts with over $2.7 billion in state funds. Of course, the state does not have any money that it has not taken from taxpayers so you and I pay our taxes to the schools and to the state paying for both the plaintiffs and defendants in this legal battle.

A portion of that money is taken by these school districts and then used to sue for more spending that will require higher taxes. Sadly, Kansas already has the highest property taxes on business in our five state region as well as the second highest taxes on homeowners too so this litigation worsens our tax climate.

This is not a new event. The school finance lawsuits stretch back into the late 1980’s. The lead attorney on the most recent lawsuit, Alan Rupe, has been involved in all of these cases going back to the 1980’s. The 15 school districts misusing their tax funds to finance these lawsuits are led by the Salina and Dodge City public schools. The other school districts financing this litigation are: Arkansas City, Augusta, Derby, El Dorado, Emporia, Fort Scott, Great Bend, Hays, Independence, Leavenworth, Manhattan, Newton, and Winfield (For a listing of the tax dollars spent for these lawsuits between 1998-to-2005 see www.kansastaxpayers.com).

If the legislative conservatives were serious about addressing the litigation crisis in Kansas public schools these expenditures would be stopped. This misuse of tax funds for trial attorneys should stop immediately. Any school finance legislation passed by the Kansas legislature that does not address this abuse of taxpayer funds is a disgrace.

Last year the Topeka public schools faced a financial scandal when it was revealed that roughly $1/2 million had been paid to pay fraudulent checks in central Asia. The schools had such lax financial controls that numerous bogus checks got paid. The schools continued to operate despite this long distance financial flim-flam. Sadly, the mainstream Kansas press outside of Topeka has largely ignored this scandal and treated it as an isolated event.

This is another indication that there are plenty of funds available for financing Kansas public schools. The latest federal data indicate that Kansans, despite having lower than average incomes, are paying substantially more than the national average for our public schools. Kansans are paying more per pupil than for public schools in our neighboring states too. Higher expenditures mean higher taxes. Being a high tax state is one of the reasons that Kansas has suffered the largest reduction in private sector jobs during this century according to federal data.

If the school districts can continue to litigate their way to higher taxes and spending by misusing tax dollars, the future of this state will be grim. Lawsuits promoting higher government spending and higher taxes will drive jobs and businesses to taxpayer friendlier states.

TABOR Criticism Analysis

From the introduction to an analysis by the Tax Foundation:

The state of Colorado is under assault. Opponents of Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) are waging a well coordinated but misleading attack on Colorado’s reputation. This attack takes the form of a number of rankings and statistics that purport to show that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights has decimated Colorado. These rankings and statistics are based on the assumption that if Colorado ranks poorly on things like the adequacy of prenatal care and education spending, then Colorado is failing to adequately care for and educate its citizens, and that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights must be to blame. A closer look at the attacks shows that they fail to prove that the amount a state spends on health care and education determines quality, and they also fail to tell the whole truth about the rankings and statistics of the state of Colorado.

The full article is here: An Analysis of Misleading Attacks on Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Taxed Out of Business

From the Junction City Daily Union, March 24, 2005

By Kay Blanken
Special to The Daily Union

Friday evening, many of us in Junction City opened our newspaper to the headline, “Local Alco Closing Its Doors.” The Kansas City Star reported that 20 Alco stores across Kansas were closing their doors. This is a Kansas corporation that began in Abilene.

I, as a business person, am not surprised. Not just Alco is closing its doors; Kansas has lost many stores and companies in the past four years. Is it bad business practices? I don’t think so. Many of the companies and businesses have been successful for many years. What then is happening? Starting three years ago, the state began raising the fees to Kansas businesses and companies trying to make up for the budget shortfall that our Legislature created by overspending. This overspending came from both Republicans and Democrats. Because the Kansas Constitution forbids ending a year without a balanced budget, legislators had to find a way.

To balance the budget, the Legislature hit many businesses with fees that do not pertain to their type of business. You paid the fees or you risked forfeiting your business. Many of us have our life’s blood in these businesses. We paid the fees.

This year we again received a new shock. Businesses pay a franchise fee for the privilege of doing business in Kansas. On Feb. 7, Kansas businesses received notice that the franchise tax would max out at $5,008. This is based on the gross your business does before you pay any expenses. Two weeks later we received notice the maximum would be $20,000 — plus a $55 fee for the secretary of state. Here is the letter we received:

Dear Business Customer:

Last spring the Kansas Legislature passed SB 147, which requires businesses to pay a franchise tax (we have always paid a franchise tax) to the Kansas Department of Revenue and a separate franchise fee to the Secretary of State. Both are due the 15th day of the fourth month following the tax year end — e.g. April 15, 2005, for entities with a December 31, 2004, tax year end.

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE — franchise tax (maximum $20,000.00)

Business entities that have $100,000.00 net worth or more must pay to the Kansas Department of Revenue a franchise tax of 0.125% of the total net worth. Business entities required to pay the tax will file a return with the Department of Revenue, which must be accompanied by taxpayer’s balance sheet. (I can’t find anyone who does not have to pay.)

Do not send your franchise fee and annual report to the Department of Revenue. Your business will forfeit if the correct annual report and franchise fee are not received by the Secretary of State on or before your forfeiture.

The letter goes on to tell us how to file and report. What it does not say is how we are to get the money to pay the franchise fee. Many of us in business are just now coming out of a very long downturn. Many have had to borrow money to keep their doors open, and then many have not made it.

Now many of you reading this will say, “This don’t affect me.” Sorry, but it does. Do you work for a business or company? If you do, you may not have a job for much longer. Or you may find yourself moving to a state that cares about the business and economic climate. Some of you may be saying, “This is only one tax. What’s the beef?” Wrong.

Businesses pay corporate income tax, which is 4 percent of net income. In addition, net income in excess of $50,000 is subject to a 3.35 percent surtax. The tax law goes on to say “Kansas corporate income tax is calculated using the apportioned net income and the corporate income tax rate of 4 percent for the first $50,000 and 7.35 percent for excess above $50,000.” Then businesses face insurance tax, 2 percent; intangible property tax, counties can tax up to 2.25 percent on intangible property; personal property tax; inventory tax; state sales tax 5.3 percent; city 1 percent; county 1 percent (at this time); unemployment insurance tax from 0.08 percent to 7.4 percent depending on our rating (our rating is based on the willingness of an employee performing his/her job); worker’s compensation insurance (premiums are calculated per $100 of annual employees wages; wonder why that pay raise didn’t come through?), property tax, 25 percent; Social Security tax, 7.65 percent — and I could go on with other licenses/permits and fees, both local and state. So why did Alco call it quits?

There are a lot of reasons why businesses cannot make it in today’s climate. Buying power is one. A small business pays more for goods than a large conglomerate. But we all pay the same type of taxes and have the same routine costs.

With Alco closing, Junction City, Geary County and USD 475 will still receive property taxes, but they will not receive the sales tax revenue Alco generated. And our community will no longer receive Alco’s charitable donations, leaving a lot of good projects to suffer.

At a town hall meeting on Saturday, a candidate for the local school board asked about school finance. The response from state Rep. Barbara Craft was, “We know we need more funding for schools, and maybe we will have to go to the businesses. Oh, maybe I had better rephrase that.”

The state’s mission statement is, “Our state is constitutionally restrained from overspending, providing a foundation of fiscal integrity for our business climate.” So what happened to throw the state so far off of its budget? Why are so many businesses closing or going out of state to do business? The last count I had was more than 1,300 businesses over three years, and I have no idea of how many jobs were lost. Why are cities raising the fees for services?

What affects business also affects you. It’s time we all became concerned and start asking our elected representatives the “why” questions.

Kay Blanken is a Junction City commissioner and co-owner of B&K Enterprises.

Clunker law epealed, surliness not

I received this message from someone who applied for the refund of overpaid sales tax that many in Kansas paid as part of the “clunker law.” That law attempted to prevent cheating on sales tax by those who self-reported the price they paid for a car. Some people lied and paid less sales tax than they should have. The state started assessing sales taxes based on an assessment system that sometimes overvalued a car. This year the legislature passed a law allowing those who overpaid to seek refunds. A good idea — but sometimes, as this story illustrates, a bit difficult to take advantage of.


Last July I purchased a automobile from a gentleman in Missouri. It was an old clunker that needed much repair as a school car for my daughter for $500. The car had several mechanical problems, had been wrecked and had hail damage. It was worth $500, no more, no less. Even though it had 210,000+ miles, I thought we could have some fun fixing it up. When I went to get a tag for it, they county office informed me that I would have to pay sales tax on $3,400! After much unsatisfactory explanation from the clerk, her supervisor stated “If I wanted a tag, I would have to pay the money”. Sounds like extortion to me. I, then, had to pay sales taxes on the repairs also.

Our great legislature has since decided that they over stepped their authority and a rebate is in order. I went out to the Kansas State Government website to read the process of getting my money back. They stated that I need a copy of the receipt that the county gave me when I overpaid the taxes along with one of the following list:

Copy of the bill of sale.
Copy of the cancelled check used to purchase the car.
Copies of both the front and back of the title.

Sounds easy enough. I went to the county courthouse and stood in line for over an hour, finally having the clerk tell me “we don’t keep any records of the taxes you paid and cannot help you with a copy of the receipt”. She did inform me that the title I needed copies of, was the title from the ORIGINAL owner, which they took from me when I overpaid the taxes, and sent to the State of Kansas.

When I returned home, I spent a couple of hours digging through all my records and finally found the original receipt for sales taxes overpaid. Since I paid cash (the gentleman from Missouri would not accept a personal check, go figure) and in Missouri, the title IS the bill of sale, I came to the realization, that the State had me in a catch 22. I found a phone number on the trusty web site, and gave the department of vehicle taxes a ring. They acknowledged the problem, but gave me a solution. I could write to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicle Records (downstairs from them) and request a form from them to request that they send a copy of my original title to me. I could then send the copy of the title back to the Vehicle tax department along with the copy of the county tax receipt to get my money back!?????

I thought about it for a while and decided to give the Vehicle Tax department another call, just to get it straight. I was up to the second level of supervisor and asked him if he really wanted me to—–

Send a request for vehicle registration and history to the Motor Vehicle Records Department (downstairs from him).
They would send me a form.
I would fill out the form (did I mention the $15 fee) and send it back to the Motor Vehicle Records Department (downstairs).
They would send me a copy of the original title from the gentleman from Missouri.
I would send it to the Vehicle tax department along with the copy of the tax overpayment receipt (back upstairs).

I asked him if the process sounded as ridiculous to him as it did to me. I also asked that if I just sent a copy of my title, maybe he could walk downstairs to the title office and cross check it with the original. He said “I will have to get back to you on that one” an after about a week, I actually receive a call from him on my machine! He indicated that I would indeed have to request the title history from the office downstairs and pay the $15.

Senator Ruth Teichman, Republican in Name Only?

This is an interesting analysis that I received from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network. What Karl doesn’t mention is that Senator Teichman is a Republican.


Bob,

This response is so interesting and the timing is so remarkable that I want to submit it for Wichita Liberty. Sen. Teichman responds to my mid-February email that I sent her opposing SB 58. Shortly thereafter, she voted to APPROVE SB 58 on the floor of the Kansas senate. March 22, 2005 the Kansas house votes for SB 58 in an unamended form so it will go directly to the governor for her signature.

Today, March 24, I received her response to my February 15 e-mail! The timing of this response provides a fascinating insight into the Kansas legislature in general and Senator Teichman in particular. You might also find it interesting to know that Sen. Teichman’s lifetime KTN fiscal vote rating is only 9.7%, and is now the lowest of the currently serving Kansas senators. Sen. Buhler’s was 3.9% but he was beat last November. Her fiscal vote rating is going to continue to be low as Senator Teichman continues to mistreat taxpayers.

Karl Peterjohn

Ruth Teichman wrote:
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 13:25:50 -0600
From: “Ruth Teichman”
To:
Subject: Re: SB 58 Arena tax bill

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your concerns.
Senator Ruth Teichman

>>> kpeterjohn 02/15/05 12:58 >>>

Senators:

A quick reminder of six reasons why the Kansas Taxpayers Network testified in opposition to SB 58 in senate tax committee earlier this month.

1) SB 58 makes a bad law, KSA 12-187 worse.

2) SB 58 adds a retroactive provision to KSA 12-187. KTN is adamant in opposing retroactive provisions to state tax law.

3) SB 58 treats Kansas citizens as second-class to local units who can ignore state law with impugnity if this law is passed.

4) One of the reasons that this vote won by a very small margin (52-to-48)city, county, and state tax funded organizations donated over $45,000 for the “Vote Yea” campaign conducted by the arena tax hike proponents. This misuse of tax funds outspent the “Vote No” campaign by better than 2-to-1. This was a gross misuse of tax funds including turnpike and regents spending.

5) The arena will be a money losing failure if it is built using the current plan. The plan itself projects annual losses in the range of $800,000 a year. I frankly believe the losses will be larger than projected. This would be added to a large number of governmentally financed projects that are losing money in downtown Wichita.

6) This bill should be amended to extend the requirement in KSA 12-187 requiring voter approval of local sales taxes to be extended to cover local property taxes too.

We have had some folks ask about SB 58 appearing on Kansas Taxpayers Network’s 2005 vote rating. This will be a vote that is included for the reasons cited above.

A better way to pick judges

Contributed by John Todd and William T. Davitt. I fully agree.


A recent editorial in The Wichita Eagle discussed how trial court judges in Kansas are selected by either election or appointment. We favor neither method.

Election of judges invites corruption because attorneys and other special-interest groups contribute money to judges’ election campaigns. It is doubtful whether one voter in 10 could even name two of the 25 judges currently on the court. And if they could name two judges, would they have any idea regarding their job performance? Thus it appears that voters do not make an “informed choice” in the voting booth, and instead select judges based on name recognition, party affiliation or yard-sign count.

Appointment of judges invites corruption because attorneys and other special interests maneuver their members onto the selection committee that sends the names to the governor, and then they go behind the scenes and tell the governor which one they really want.

We favor a third way of selecting judges as advocated by Gerry Spence in his book “From Freedom to Slavery.” Mr. Spence favors having our judges drafted from a pool of trial lawyers who would serve on the bench for a “limited calendar of cases” before being returned to their private practices. Every trial lawyer would be required to support the system in the same manner, as citizens are now required to serve as jurors.

Court dockets would soon clear out, because enough judges could be drafted as were needed to clear the dockets. Mr. Spence states: “If judges were drafted, we would no longer be saddled for life with the political cronies of those in power, or be faced with judges who have received campaign contributions from our opponents. To be sure, we would experience some bad judges. But, Lord knows, we have them now — and often for life! On the other hand, we would benefit from the best minds in the legal business, who under our present system rarely seek the judiciary.”

Democracy requires full faith that justice will be administered with absolute impartiality. That faith is certainly challenged if we enter a courtroom knowing that our opponent has contributed substantial money to our trial judge’s last election campaign or that the judge was endorsed for appointment by a group or corporation that opposes our position in court. The current methods of electing or appointing judges offer little comfort in view of their corrosive effect on public confidence in the court system.

John R. Todd is a Wichita real estate broker. William T. Davitt is a Wichita lawyer.

HCR 5009: An attempt to drive down property taxes

From Representative Frank Miller


The Kansas Legislative Research Department provided information substantiating that property taxes increased by 126 percent since 1993, yet the inflation rate adjusted for population growth increased only 43 percent! I don’t see how the appraised value of residential property could have risen 2.75 times faster than inflation adjusted for population growth! I would suggest that appraisers are encouraged to over-appraise property in order to satisfy the need for increased property taxes without increasing the mill levy. I authored this bill in the hopes of restraining appraisers from adjusting the value of your property to a value that is higher than market value. Is not the selling price of your home the only true value for “MARKET VALUE”?

The key wording in the resolution would change the Constitution as follows: “The legislature shall provide that the appraised valuation of real property used for residential purposes which has been sold shall be adjusted to an amount equal to the average of the appraised valuation of such real property when sold determined pursuant to law and the sales price of such real property when sold.”

The clearest way to explain what this resolution would do is to offer an example. Assume that the latest appraised value of your home is $50,000, but during the year you put your home up for sale. Let’s further assume that your asking price was $55,000, but after much time the best price you could get was only $40,000. The county appraiser would be required by this change in the constitution to reduce the appraised value to half the difference or to $45,000. Is not the closest value to true market value the price a house is sold for on the market? This change reduces, or in like manner increases, the appraised value of residential property in a fair manner and in a manner that mirrors much closer the true market value of property.

There is nothing in the bill prohibiting appraisers from adjusting the appraised value of your home the following year. However, property owners will have a much stronger argument if the new appraised value represents an unreasonable increase, and this is at the heart of this resolution. The resolution will check the tendency to over evaluate the appraised value of residential property.

What kind of sales does this apply to? This bill would apply to arm’s-length sales. You could not sell your house to a relative (i.e. son, wife, etc) in order to manipulate artificially the appraised value of your property. I think this bill would be very beneficial to Kansans in trying to keep the escalation of property taxes in check. Unfortunately, the resolution at this moment is stuck in the House Taxation Committee and likely will not get out of committee this year. I will be pushing this resolution again next year. Let me know what you think.

To contact Rep. Frank Miller write, telephone, or email to P.O. Box 665, Independence, KS, 67301, Tel: (Home) 620-331-0281; Topeka office 785-296-7646, Email [email protected] or [email protected] Take a look at Frank’s updated webpage www.frankmiller.org.

Court Sets Trap for Legislature

I received the following, which I thought was interesting, so I present it. I do not entirely understand the author’s argument, so if anyone can help me understand, I would appreciate it.


Kansas Legislative Education And Research
827 SW TOPEKA BLVD TOPEKA, KS 66612
PHONE: 785 233 8765 EMAIL: ks [email protected]

Contact: Bob L. Corkins

Court sets Trap for Legislature

The Bait:

“The Kansas Constitution thus imposes a mandate that our educational system cannot be static or regressive…

“…there is substantial competent evidence, including the Augenblick & Myers study, establishing that a suitable education, as that term is defined by the legislature, is not being provided.”

“…we need look no further than the legislature’s own definition of suitable education to determine that the standard is not being met under the current financing formula.”

“…the legislature has failed to “make suitable provision for finance” of the public school system as required by Article 6 § 6 of the Kansas Constitution.”

“It is clear increased funding will be required…”

The Snare:

The Supreme Court requires additional funding and implies that the legislature must do so because constitutional standard of “suitable education” has not been achieved. Increasing funding for this reason would be like walking into a trap.

Did the Supreme Court say the constitution requires “suitable education”?

*No*

The Court said the constitution requires “improvement’ and that the legislature has interpreted this to mean
“suitable education”.

The Court merely asserts that Article 6 refers to an improving educational system.

The Court itself is not making the connection, it’s just claiming that the legislature has interpreted “improvement’ ‘to mean “suitable education”.

The Court does not even explicitly say it agrees with the legislature’s alleged interpretation.

Is there anything in the Kansas Constitution that requires a minimally acceptable level of education quality?

No

All the Court’s references to minimum quality standards are to those now set (or may have at one time been set) by the legislature, not by the constitution.

The Court repeatedly states that the legislature failed to satisfy its own standards, not that the legislature failed to satisfy any constitutional standard.

A statutory standard does not equate to a constitutional entitlement.

The constitution’s mandate for “improvement” logically refers to students’ opportunity for personal self ‘improvement as compared to their ability to do so in the absence of public schools.

Suitable education indeed, even uniformly excellent education is a worthy and legitimate public policy goal even if it is not compelled by the state constitution.

To Avoid the Trap:

Financing must be increased, but do not do so because current funding violates any constitutional “suitable education” standard.

All current, and all future, statutory definitions of “suitable education” must make abundantly clear that the legislature is not defining the term as the result of a constitutional mandate, and that “suitable education” is distinct from the true constitutional mandate of “suitable provision for finance”.

Rep. Loganbill Advocates More Tax Brackets

On Saturday February 12, 2005, I attended a meeting of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation. State Representative Judith Loganbill made remarks that included the fact that the maximum Kansas individual income tax rate becomes effective at taxable incomes of $30,000 for singles and $60,000 for married couples. A member of the audience spoke and expressed astonishment to learn this. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I now realize that Rep. Loganbill was advocating more tax brackets with higher rates.

Latest Federal School Finance Spending Revealed

Here is an article from the Kansas Taxpayers Network that reports on school spending: http://www.kansastaxpayers.com/editorial_fedschool.html.

On Saturday February 12, 2005 I attended a meeting of the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation. Lynn Rogers, USD 259 School Board President, and Connie Dietz, Vice-President of the same body, attended. There has been a proposal to spend an additional $415 million over the next three years on schools. Asked if this would be enough to meet their needs, the Wichita school board members replied, “No.”

Legislative Delegation, Saturday February 5, 2005

On Saturday February 5, 2005 I attended the meeting of the local legislative delegation regarding the arena tax. Representative Tom Sawyer chaired the meeting. The audience wrote questions on notecards, and Representative Brenda Landwehr read them. To the best of my recollection, the people allowed to answer questions were Sedgwick County Commissioner Tom Winters, Sedgwick County Assistant County Manager Ron Holt, Sedgwick County Director of Finance Chris Chronis, Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans, and Wichita Downtown Development Corporation President Ed Wolverton. All of these are arena supporters. No one with an opposing view was allowed to speak, except for near the end when Kansas Taxpayers Network Executive Director Karl Peterjohn spoke from the audience for a moment.

The news that was made during this event was that it was totally scripted by arena supporters, and except for Mr. Peterjohn’s brief remarks from the audience, there was no balance.

I created a handout for the legislators. A link to it is here.

From John Todd: Testimony regarding Senate Bill No. 58

February 3, 2005

Members
Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee
State Capitol
Topeka, Kansas 66612

Subject: Testimony in OPPOSITION TO SENATE BILL #58 (Sales Tax Increase For The Proposed Wichita/Sedgwick County Arena).

My name is John Todd. I am a self-employed real estate broker from Wichita, and I come before you in opposition to the enabling legislation that would allow Sedgwick County to raise the local sales tax 1% to fund a new Downtown Arena.

The reason why I am here in opposition to this government driven plan is my basic belief that individuals know best how to spend their own money, and that they should be allowed the freedom to spend the fruit of their own labor as they wish, and not as government dictates, particularly when it involves mandatory spending for an elective entertainment venue like the proposed downtown arena.

If the need for a Downtown Arena were market driven, the private sector would already be building it, and the taxpayers would be left out of the loop. Obviously, it is not, and so the proponents want the taxpayers to build it and absorb the losses. I believe their plan calls for over $20 million in operational losses. This does not count the business property that will be taken off the tax rolls for a county owned facility. If the Wichita Eagle’s pre-election numbers of $40 million in property value was correct, those losses in real estate taxes could amount to $1 million more in lost taxes per year, and I would bet that that shortfall will be spread back over the other real estate property taxpayers.

How did we ever get the idea that the road to prosperity is built on government spending and the heavy taxation of our people? How far from the truth can this be?

Anyone who has read the Eagle in recent months can attest to the massive number of so called “economic development” projects in downtown Wichita that are losing money, and that the taxpayer is being asked to cover. One only needs to read of the $1.00 per year 99 year leases that are being awarded for the millions of dollars taxpayer owned land and the $7 million dollars needed to lure a second or third choice anchor retailer downtown to grow disenchanted with local government’s ability to “manage” anything, particularly if it is related to real estate development.

And why should anyone be concerned with these boondoggles? We can’t continue to take $184.5 million here and $140 million there, and $100 million yonder out of our economy and hope to favorably compete with other cities, counties, and states in our region.

There are numerous excellent examples of free market economics at work in our city. One only needs to look north and south on Rock Road in Wichita to observe the benefits of this privately funded system that expands the tax base, creates jobs, and is indeed true “economic growth”, and best of all, the taxpayer is not liable if any of these business ventures fail. Will a 1% sales tax that will remove $184.5 million from the Sedgwick County economy hurt these local businesses? Absolutely! And according to an article in the March 2001 issue of “FedGaxette,” published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis entitled “Stadiums and convention centers as community loss leaders” contains this quote:

“Current research indicates that stadiums and arenas have a particularly bad track record when it comes to delivering on promises of community economic windfalls. University researchers Mark Rosentraub and Mark Swindell found that three decades worth of studies ‘lead to the inescapable conclusion that the direct and indirect economic impacts of sports teams and the facilities are quite small’ and do not create much in the way of new jobs or economic development.”

The proponents of this Bill here today will tell you that 52% of the voters voted for the arena. That is true; however, they ignore the fact that our County elected officials were less than forthcoming in advising voters that the arena vote was an advisory election only, and is not binding. The County is not authorized to raise sales taxes without first obtaining legislative approval prior to any vote. Sedgwick County broke state law! The legislature is now faced with the dilemma of passing enabling legislating, and making it retroactive to the November 2, 2004 election and calling that election binding. This is wrong, and you should not let it happen. At the very least, if you pass the enabling legislation, a subsequent public vote should be required before allowing the County to raise the sales tax.

Before you pass this Bill into law, several matters need to be considered.

1. Is the $184.5 million dollar price tag excessive?

2. What is the real impact of taking $184.5 million dollars out of the private economy in terms of retailer profits and potential job losses?

3. The arena vote was won by a narrow margin. Rural Sedgwick County voters voted against the arena as did voters in the less affluent neighborhoods. Perhaps the sales tax should be optional at the check out stand. Those who want to pay the arena tax could and those who don’t could simply ‘opt out’.

4. What will happen to the Sedgwick County economy if the Legislature or the Supreme Court mandates a statewide sales tax to meet the Court’s requirements for school financing?

5. What is the specific location for the proposed arena? Who owns the land? Is the land going to cost $1.00 per square foot or $20.00 per square foot? And is the $20 million for land acquisition going to cover the actual cost, or will it be double or triple that amount? Would not an astute “private” investor already own the land or control the price under an option to purchase contract? If the Legislature allows the County to fill its checkbook, will not the price of land double or triple?

6. No one knows what the proposed arena will look like since it has not been designed. Should not the taxpayers have known what they are voting for?

7. Before you authorize giving the Sedgwick County Commission a blank check with $184.5 million of taxpayer money deposited in it, perhaps you need to consider placing some “controls” over how they spend the money?

8. Will the people who contributed to the pro arena campaign be allowed to bid on the construction work, participate in the design work, earn commissions for the sale/purchase of the land, or will these be considered a “conflict of interest”?

9. Will the Sedgwick County commissioners be required to explain why they voted for a $55 million dollar renovation for the Kansas Coliseum and then decided that it was too expensive? What did they do with the long-term capital improvement fund(s) that should have been earmarked for this project? And how do they explain that only $25 million in private funds were needed to renovate a similar size arena at Wichita State University? Does it always cost the public sector twice the amount to do the work as the private sector? Perhaps we need to enlist the business acumen of the private sector to build the arena for half of the proposed cost?

10. Perhaps our voters need better information in order for them to make an informed decision regarding a new arena or a renovated Coliseum? Property taxes were made an issue in the arena campaign. Many votes expressed their frustration to me that they were not given the opportunity to vote for “none of the above”, and since they were more opposed to property taxes than sales taxes, they were forced to vote for the arena. Perhaps the legislature needs to enact legislation requiring a public vote before local governments can raise local property taxes?

11. Are not government directed projects like the arena the antitheses of the free market system? Does anyone else tire of working until April or May of each year to pay his or her taxes? Is government really the answer?

Too many questions need to be answered before you decide pass this Bill into law. A non-binding public vote for a downtown arena in 1993 failed to pass by a wide margin. Since the 1993 vote was ignored, you have the necessary precedence and current state law on your side to ignore this vote, and at the very least amend this Bill to require another public referendum.

Thank you for allowing me to speak. I would be glad to answer questions.

Sincerely,

John R. Todd

Letter to Kansas Legislators regarding Sedgwick County arena tax

January 25, 2005

Dear Senator or Representative:

I am writing to express my opposition to the legislature granting Sedgwick County the authority to raise its county-wide sales tax in order to fund the proposed downtown Wichita arena.

I realize that the voters in Sedgwick County voted for the tax. Still, I believe there is ample reason why you should vote against the tax.

The primary reason is that the idea of the arena came about so fast in the summer that there was little thought given to the underlying issues. The Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University produced a study showing a large positive economic impact for a downtown arena. I found much academic research that showed otherwise, that taxpayer-funded facilities such as the proposed downtown Wichita arena rarely live up to their expectations, and instead become a burden on the taxpayers. I also uncovered the fact that the WSU study was flawed in that it omitted important factors such as depreciation, the accounting for which is now required by Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 34. Incredibly, the CEDBR at WSU was not aware of this requirement when they prepared the study that was used to promote the economic benefit of the proposed arena. They admitted this when I called it to their attention.

Thus, what is presented as an economic boon for all the people instead becomes the county as a whole subsidizing the interests of a few.

I presented my findings to many news outlets in Wichita, but there was little interest. Because I experienced such resistance to my message I started a website, the “Voice for Liberty in Wichita.” It is located at wichitaliberty.org. Much of the research I uncovered is posted there. As an example I am enclosing an article that I recently wrote. It is based on what was found to happen in Pulaski County, Arkansas (Little Rock), when they built an arena funded in part by taxpayers.

I would be happy to provide you with any additional information that I can.

Thanking you in advance for your time,

Bob Weeks

A Taxpayer Bill of Rights for Kansas, Please

Taxes in Kansas are high, and may increase this year. The recent school finance ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court and the passage of the downtown arena sales tax referendum in Sedgwick County are just two reasons why.

We should act now to restrain the growth of state government spending. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, has shown to be effective in Colorado. We in Kansas could have this, too.

The law is quite simple: state spending and debt could not grow faster than the rate of annual population growth plus inflation. It doesn’t prescribe how the state should raise or spend money, just that real (inflation-adjusted) spending can’t grow faster than the state’s population grows.

On the Americans for Prosperity web site there is an excellent analysis of what could happen in Kansas if we adopt such a law. You may read about it at this link: A Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights for Kansas.

Other helpful information is at the Cato Institute: Fiscal Trail Blazer: Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights is leading the way, Reforming TABOR in Colorado, and States Face Fiscal Crunch after 1990s Spending Surge.

As our state legislature prepares to start the 2005 session, I urge you to contact your representatives and make them aware of your support for this important law.

Tom Daschle’s Defeat, Media Filters, and Kansas

(Reprinted with the permission of the author, Karl Peterjohn, of Kansas Taxpayers Network.)

Enclosed is a December 13, 2004 Wall Street Journal opinion piece by John Fund (How Daschle Got Blogged) demonstrating how the bloggers went past the media filters in South Dakota to help knock off Tom Daschle last month.

This is relevant to Kansas for several reasons: This state has a similar one party news media like South Dakota’s that provides unbalanced information — as was well demonstrated by the critical letter to the editor that appeared in the Wichita Eagle December 13 criticizing an Americans For Prosperity report that the Kansas press — with one exception in the Lawrence Journal World — had not bothered to mention in print.

The Eagle editorial page found it worthwhile to publish a letter from Wisconsin blasting AFP-KS’ position on TABOR without bothering to report on the basic study or mention it in their editorial page. In fact, the Eagle has an unpublished editorial piece from Alan Cobb on TABOR.

Ironically, despite this recent flaw in their coverage, I consider the Eagle to have the least bad level of imbalance in both its editorial and news coverage when compared with the major newspapers in this state.

There are even worse examples coming out of the Kansas City area as well as the Topeka newspaper. The smaller dailies, lead by the Harris chain as well as Dave Seaton’s two Cowley County papers are usually even worse.

Second, these media filters allow distortions, like the 2002 Sebelius campaign, to get away with remarkable prevarication on their position concerning key issues, like taxes. Another example of flawed Kansas media coverage is the non reporting of the Missouri money flowing into Kansas campaigns at many levels. See the last minute, third-party hit pieces that occur at the end of the campaign and get no negative coverage if the Left blasts Phill Kline in the last week of his campaign but is major news if the conservatives find a 527 vehicle that runs paid media ads in this state.

In the 2002 campaign Sebelius kept claiming that she was not supportive of raising taxes. No one in the mainstream press bothered to ask her about her repeated legislative votes for raising taxes while serving in the Kansas house in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Now that she has spent the last year proposing numerous, large tax hikes it would seem worthwhile for someone in this state’s news media to bother to mention her flip-flop. I’ve complained about it in my editorials that I post on KTN’s web site and I send out on-line but I believe that the statehouse press corps is concerned about losing access inside her office if they press her on this as well as other key issues.

Third, there are already a few good bloggers at work in this state. “The Kansas Meadowlark” is regularly providing excellent public document information that is regularly ignored in the “mainstream” Kansas press. We need more Meadowlarks and we need ways to disseminate his work more widely to Kansas netizens. There was another blogger, I believe it was “Kansas Citizen” operating out of Johnson County too.

Fourth, I’m tired of the rotating door between the media and its sources and the political Left in this state. Jim MacLean leaves the Topeka Capital-Journal for the Sebelius administration. This occurred only a year or so after the head of the KS Associated Press statehouse office “retires” and is then appointed to the Kansas Board of Regents as well as serving on other boards appointed by the governor.

More recently the most commonly quoted-by-the-press academic in this state, Burdett Loomis, takes a position with the Sebelius administration without fully leaving his position at KU! I was recently surprised to find out from the Kansas Meadowlark that his son had been active in the 2002 Sebelius campaign as well as joining her staff after Sebelius became governor. I wonder who the media will find to become the next Burdett Loomis to quote in “news” stories or if they will continue to quote him since he still is part time at KU’s Dole center.

Fifth, this is a national as well as statewide problem. Tom Daschle’s wife is a Washington lobbyist. Could a Dennis Hastert or Bill Frist spouse do this? Of course not, the media would howl. Newt Gingrich was forced by the news media to surrender book royalties after he became speaker while HIllary Clinton had no problem taking her book royalties to her bank. Fortunately there are several groups like the Media Resource Center and Accuracy in Media as well as numerous bloggers operating in Washington. Unfortunately, the only methodical effort to hold the media accountable in this state that I know of is through bloggers like the Kansas Meadowlark.

Many of you receiving this email distribute your own material and others to your own lists. This effort needs to expand and grow. If you have a web site, I strongly urge you to link up with the Kansas Meadowlark’s. If you find other web sites, please spread the word. I’m sending this to you not in the belief that I have all of the answers, but only because I think I know some of the questions and you need to read Fund’s editorial.