Tag Archives: Kathleen Sebelius

Private sector employment growth in the states, year-over-year change, Kansas highlighted. Click for larger version.

Job growth in the states and Kansas

Let’s ask critics of current Kansas economic policy if they’re satisfied with the Kansas of recent decades.

Critics of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his economic policies have pounced on slow job growth in Kansas as compared to other states.

Private sector employment growth in the states, Kansas highlighted. Click for larger version.
Private sector employment growth in the states, Kansas highlighted. Click for larger version.
The nearby illustration shows private sector job growth in the states during the period of the Graves/Sebelius/Parkinson regimes. This trio occupied the governor’s office from 1994 to 2011. Kansas is the dark line.

At the end of this period, Kansas is just about in the middle of the states. But notice that early in this period, the line for Kansas is noticeably nearer the top than the bottom. As time goes on, however, more states move above Kansas in private sector job creation.

Private sector employment growth in the states, year-over-year change, Kansas highlighted. Click for larger version.
Private sector employment growth in the states, year-over-year change, Kansas highlighted. Click for larger version.
The second illustration shows the one-year change in private sector job growth, Kansas again highlighted. Note there are some years during the first decade of this century where Kansas was very near the bottom of the states in this measure.

Some Kansas newspaper editorialists and candidates for office advocate for a return to the policies of Graves/Sebelius/Parkinson. Let’s ask them these questions: First, are you aware of the poor record of Kansas? Second, do you want to return to job growth like this?

How to use the visualization.
How to use the visualization.
I’ve gathered and prepared jobs data in an interactive visualization. You may click here to open the visualization in a new window and use it yourself. Data is from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. This data series is the Current Employment Statistics (CES), which is designed to measure employment, hours, and earnings with significant industrial and geographic detail. More information about his data series is at Understanding the employment measures from the CPS and CES survey.

Kansas Open Records Act reform possible

This week a committee of the Kansas House of Representatives will hear testimony on SB 10, a bill which would make small but welcome reforms to the Kansas Open Records Act. Following is the testimony I plan to deliver. Citizens should be aware that cities, counties, and school districts will probably oppose these reforms.

Testimony to House Standing Committee on Federal and State Affairs as proponent of SB 10: Open meetings; minutes required; open records; charges limited.
Bob Weeks, March 19, 2014

Representative Brunk and members of the Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on problems with the Kansas Open Records Act regarding high fees for the production of records. In 2008 I personally encountered this problem, as reported in the Wichita Eagle:

Open Records Requests Can Spell High Fees

(Wichita Eagle, March 9, 2008)

Want information from the governor’s office? Get ready to pay up. That’s what Wichita blogger Bob Weeks says he discovered when he requested four days’ worth of e-mails sent and received by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and her staff.

To get the records , he was told he’d have to pay a lawyer in the governor’s office $27 an hour, for 50 hours, to read the e-mails to make sure they aren’t exempt from disclosure. That and 25 cents a page for copies or an unspecified extra charge to get the e-mails in electronic form. “Please make your check for the amount of $1,350 payable to the state of Kansas and reference your open records request,” said a letter Weeks received from JaLynn Copp, assistant general counsel to the governor.

State Sen. Timothy Huelskamp, R-Fowler, said he was aware of Weeks’ case. He said he thinks the fees are excessive. “It doesn’t mean much for it to be an open record if you can’t afford it,” he said. In addition, he said a sluggish response to the request from the governor’s office appears to have violated the state Open Records Act. Huelskamp said the law requires state agencies to fulfill records requests within three business days or provide a detailed reason why that can’t be done. Weeks mailed his request on Feb. 7 and got an initial response Feb. 13. His cost estimate didn’t come until Feb. 26, and neither letter explained the delay, Huelskamp said. “It’s really in violation of the letter and the spirit of the law and I’ve seen that happen more than once,” he said.

Based on this and other experience, I have found it is difficult to obtain email records at reasonable cost. If one makes a very narrowly-defined request that is affordable, there is a chance that the request will not produce the desired documents. If the request is broad enough to catch the records one needs, it is likely to be very expensive.

Kansas could use as a model the federal Freedom of Information Act (5 USC § 552), which provides for a limit on fees in certain cases: “Fees shall be limited to reasonable standard charges for document duplication when records are not sought for commercial use and the request is made by an educational or noncommercial scientific institution, whose purpose is scholarly or scientific research; or a representative of the news media.” (emphasis added)

Please do not be alarmed by government representatives making claims of abuses. Last year the Senate Committee that heard testimony on this bill was told that I made a request for 19,000 emails. My actual request was for emails to or from a certain official for a certain period of time. I had no way of knowing how many email messages this would entail. The City of Wichita denied this request as burdensome, so there was either no cost or very little cost for the city.

Finally, I would ask that the committee note that government records belong to the people, not the government, and that the people paid for their creation. I have additional information about the Kansas Open Records Act and its problems at wichitaliberty.org.

Respectfully submitted,
Bob Weeks
bob.weeks@gmail.com
wichitaliberty.org

2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State

2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State

By Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — It’s over, done, finalized, finito. With the final days and hours of 2013 ticking to a close, we figured it’s a good time for reflection on what the last 12 months have brought the Sunflower State.

So, without further delay, Kansas Watchdog presents its Top 10 stories of 2013.

Strip Club

1. Wayward welfare dollars

An in-depth investigation into howKansans spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in government welfare money came to a shocking conclusion: a striking number of transactions appear to be going toward anything but the basic necessities. From casinos and liquor stores to smoke shops and even strip clubs, Kansas Watchdog uncovered more than $43,000 in transactions at shady ATM locations around the state. To make matters worse, all this only took place over a three-month period.

Read It:
Kansans spent welfare cash on strippers, smokes and sour mash

Video camera

2. Camera-shy state lawmakers

Fun fact: Did you know the Kansas Capitol is capable of broadcasting live video online of some of the Legislature’s most important committee meetings? Don’t beat yourself up over it. A striking number of lawmakers don’t know, either. It’s the end result of years of apathy that has led the state to be one of only 11 nationwide that do not stream some form of live video. If some kid in the middle of nowhere can attract global eyeballs with nothing more than a camera phone, what’s keeping the Kansas Legislature off the air?

Read it:
Camera shy: Kansas legislators sidestep transparency
Eye in the sky: Kansas legislative leader won’t require streaming video

3. Judicial selection gymnastics

Here’s a shocking revelation: politics sway candidate commentaries, and Kansas is no exception. Gov. Sam Brownback’s pick for the Kansas Court of Appeals is a prime example of this, after the situation prompted his Democratic gubernatorial challenger to switch sides on his stance to oppose the new nominee. And how could we forget that, in their rush to criticize the conservative governor, Kansas Democrats conveniently forgot thatKathleen Sebelius did almost the exact same thing only a few years earlier.

Read it:
Democratic leader flip-flops on Kansas judicial nominee
Partisan politics fuel Kansas Democrat’s change of heart
Kansas Democrats use double standard on judicial nomination criticism

4. Follow the money

And as long as we’re on the topic of judicial nominees, how about we turn the spotlight on a few other critics of Brownback’s decision? Namely theLeague of Women Voters and Justice At Stake, both of which claim to be nonpartisan organizations while simultaneously accepting large sums of cash from George Soros’ liberal nonprofits, the Tides Foundation and Open Society Institute.

Read it:
Soros bankrolls ‘nonpartisan’ critics of Kansas governor
‘Nonpartisan’ critic says Soros cash hasn’t caused political bias
money-limit

5. Fiscal follies

Ever wonder just how much work goes into calculating the cost of a legislative proposal? Not that much, apparently. While state agencies claim they don’t pad their figures, government critics charge them with doing just that, and a close inspection of a few cost estimates only bolsters the case. Should it cost $17,000 for the state to put online a spreadsheet of data it already has? What about $20,000 for a program agency officials say could have been absorbed in-house? Yea, we thought so too.

Read it:
Fiscal follies: Kansas cost estimates draw criticism

 
money jail

6. Your money, behind bars

How much should Kansas spend to lock up individuals whose only crime is drug related? While lawmakers are struggling to figure out what that figure should be, the reality is that Kansas drops about $42 million annually to keep these men and women in prison. To make matters worse, state law enforcement statistics suggest it’s overwhelmingly because of Kansas continues to wage war against marijuana.

Read it:
Kansas spends millions to keep non-violent drug offenders behind bars
Twinkies-2

7. Raking-in the dough

Remember the media flurry surrounding the implosion of Hostess, one of America’s most iconic snack food manufacturers? Well here’s something you probably missed. According to the government, former employees were knocked out due to foreign trade pressure, and for that deserve extra benefits above and beyond standard unemployment insurance. But everything uncovered by Kansas Watchdog seems to point to the contrary. Curious? So were we.

Read it:
Former Hostess workers land sweet deal, taxpayers foot bill
Did foreign trade really cause Hostess’ demise?
Couch fire

8. Couch crackdown

If you’re looking for the nuttiest story of the year, look no further. The City ofLawrence, Kansas’ liberal bastion, only months ago brought us the headache-inducing mandate that city residents are not, in fact, capable of policing their own safety. Rather, officials passed a ban on front porch couches, despite the fact that local and nationwide statistics suggest it’s less of an issue than advocates would have folks believe.

Read it:
Kansas community cracks down on couches
Islam Display

9. Islamic fervor

Wichita-area school came under fire earlier this year after students and parents were greeted on the first day of school with a large display outlining the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The matter prompted emotions of all scope and size, and landed the school squarely in the national spotlight.

Read it:
Kansas lawmaker ‘appalled’ by Islamic display in school
KansasSeal

10. Counting for attendance

The legislative session is a busy time for any elected official, but some are less (or more) busy than others, it seems. After Kansas lawmakers headed for home in June, Kansas Watchdog took an in-depth peek at how they faired in the preceding months, and what we found was jaw-dropping. In all, seven members of the House of Representatives had missed more votes than all other members of the House combined.

Read it:

Handful of Kansas lawmakers outpace all others for missed votes

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

Shortchanging Kansas schoolchildren, indeed

School blackboardThis month the New York Times published an editorial that advocates for more spending on Kansas public schools. While getting some facts wrong, the piece also overlooks the ways that Kansas schoolchildren are truly being shortchanged.

Here’s evidence supplied by the Times (Shortchanging Kansas Schoolchildren, October 13, 2013): “State spending on education has fallen an estimated 16.5 percent since 2008, including $500 million in cuts under the Brownback administration, resulting in teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.” (Governor Brownback has responded to the editorial; see Kansas Governor responds to the Times.)

The Times editorial board doesn’t say how it calculated the 16.5 percent decline in spending, but it’s likely that it used only base state aid per pupil, which is the starting point for the Kansas school finance formula. Much more spending is added to that. A nearby table holds spending figures for recent years, and a similar chart with inflation-adjusted figures may be found in Kansas school spending rises.

kansas-school-spending-2013-10-table-02

Perhaps the Times didn’t notice that at the time base state aid was falling, total state spending on schools rose. Base state aid per pupil, adjusted for inflation, is lower than it was during the previous decade. Total Kansas state spending on schools, however, has recovered to the same level as 2006, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Total state aid per pupil this past school year was $6,984. Base state aid per pupil was $3,838. Total state spending, therefore, was 1.82 times base state aid. It’s important to consider the totality of spending and not just base state aid. It’s important because total spending is so much greater than base state aid. Also, total spending accounts for some of the difficulties and expenses that schools cite when asking for higher spending.

For example, advocates for higher school spending often point to non-English speaking students and at-risk students as being expensive to educate. In recognition of this, the Kansas school finance formula makes allowances for this. According to the Kansas Legislator Briefing Book for 2013, the weighting for “full-time equivalent enrollment in bilingual education programs” is 0.395. This means that for each such student a school district has, an additional 39.5 percent over base state aid is given to the district.

For at-risk pupils, the weighting is 0.456. At risk students, according to the briefing book, “are determined on the basis of at-risk factors determined by the school district board of education and not by virtue of eligibility for free meals.”

Taken together, bilingual students considered to be at-risk generate an additional 85.1 percent of base state aid to be sent to the district, per student.

Teachers and class sizes

The Times wrote that under Brownback, Kansas experienced “teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.” Figures from the Kansas State Department of Education tell a different story. Considering the entire state, two trends emerge. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the pupil-teacher ratio has fallen.

Kansas school employment

The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio to pupils has fallen. Pupil-teacher ratio is not the same as class size, but it’s the data we have.

Here’s the question we need to answer: If school districts have been able to hire more teachers and other certified employees, and if the student to teacher ratio is improving at the same time, but there are still high class sizes, what are school districts doing with these teachers and employees?

Kansas school employment ratios

By the way, the Times editorial writers might be interested in learning that the declines in school employment occurred during the administrations of Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, Democrats both.

I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts. Click here for the visualization of employment levels. Click here for the visualization of ratios (pupil-teacher and pupil-certified employee).

If the Times really wanted to help Kansas schoolchildren from being shortchanged, it might have noticed that at a time when Kansas was spending more on schools due to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state weakened its already low standards for schools. This is the conclusion of the National Center for Education Statistics, based on the most recent version of Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales. More about that can be found in Why are Kansas school standards so low?

Another thing the Times could have done to increase the public’s awareness of the performance of Kansas schools is to investigate why Kansas schools perform relatively well on national tests. I and others have done this; see Kansas school test scores, a hidden story and Kansas and Texas schools and low-income students.

Kansas school employment trends are not what you’d expect

Listening to Kansas school officials and legislators, you’d think that Kansas schools had very few teachers left, and that students were struggling in huge classes. But statistics from the state show that school employment has rebounded, both in terms of absolute numbers of teachers and certified employees, and the ratios of pupils to these employees.

Kansas school employment

The story is not the same in every district. But considering the entire state, two trends emerge. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the pupil-teacher ratio has fallen.

Kansas school employment ratios

The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio to pupils has fallen.

By the way, the declines in school employment occurred during the administrations of Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, Democrats both.

Facts like these may not have yet reached those like Kansas House of Representatives Democratic Leader Paul Davis. On Facebook, he continually complains about the lack of funding for Kansas schools.

paul-davis-facebook-2013-04-14

It’s little wonder that Davis and others focus exclusively on Kansas school funding. If they were to talk about Kansas school performance, they’d have to confront two unpleasant realities. First, Kansas has set low standards for its schools, compared to other states. Then, when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered more spending in 2005, the state responded by lowering school standards further. Kansas school superintendents defend these standards.

I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts. Click here for the visualization of employment levels. Click here for the visualization of ratios (pupil-teacher and pupil-certified employee).

Data is from Kansas State Department of Education. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

As lawmakers, Kansas judges should be selected democratically

Kansas Judicial Center in snowWhile many believe that judges should not “legislate from the bench,” that is, make law themselves, the reality is that lawmaking is a judicial function. In a democracy, lawmakers should be elected under the principle of “one person, one vote.” But Kansas, which uses the Missouri Plan for judicial selection to its two highest courts, violates this principle.

A recent paper by Kansas University School of Law Professor Stephen J. Ware explains the problem with the process used in Kansas. The paper is titled Originalism, Balanced Legal Realism and Judicial Selection: A Case Study and may be downloaded at no charge. The Kansas courts that use the judicial selection described in the paper are the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court.

At issue is whether judges are simply arbitrators of the law, or do they actually participate in the lawmaking process. Ware explains: “This realist view that statutory interpretation often involves ‘substantial judicial discretion’ and therefore constitutes ‘judicial lawmaking, not lawfinding,’ had by the 1950s, ‘become deeply rooted.’”

A “‘balanced realism,’ to use Brian Tamanaha’s appealing label, recognizes both that judges’ policy preferences have little or no influence on many judicial decisions and that judges’ policy preferences have a significant influence on other judicial decisions. Empirical studies tend to support this balanced view.” In other words, there is some role for ideology in making judicial decisions. Politics, therefore, is involved. Ware quotes Charles Gardner Geyh: “In a post-realist age, the ideological orientation of judicial aspirants matters.” And the higher the court, the more this matters.

Since judges function as lawmakers, they ought to be selected by a democratic process. In the Kansas version of the Missouri Plan, a nominating commission dominated by lawyers selects three candidates to fill an opening on the Kansas Court of Appeals or Kansas Supreme Court. The governor then selects one of the three, and the process is over. A new judge is selected. This process gives members of the state’s bar tremendous power in selecting judges.

Ware presents eleven examples of judges on the two highest Kansas courts engaging in lawmaking. In one, a workers’ compensation case, the employee would lose his appeal if the “clear” precedent was followed. Justice Carol A. Beier wrote the opinion. Ware explains:

But this is not, in fact, what Justice Beier and her colleagues on the Kansas Supreme Court did. Rather they did what Kansas Judges Greene and Russell say never happens. Justice Beier and her colleagues engaged in lawmaking. They changed the legal rule from one contrary to their ideologies to one consistent with their ideologies.

Justice Beier’s opinion doing this started by criticizing the old rule, while acknowledging that it was, in fact, the rule prior to her opinion by which the Supreme Court made new law. Here again is the above quote from Coleman, but now with the formerly omitted words restored and italicized: “The rule is clear, if a bit decrepit and unpopular: An injury from horseplay does not arise out of employment and is not compensable unless the employer was aware of the activity or it had become a habit at the workplace.”

Who decided that this rule is “decrepit and unpopular” and so should be changed? Was it the Kansas Legislature? No, it was the Kansas Supreme Court. It was judges, not legislators, who decided that this legal rule was bad policy. It was judges, not legislators, who changed the law to bring it in line with what the lawmaking judges thought was good policy.

Beier wrote in her opinion: “We are clearly convinced here that our old rule should be abandoned. Although appropriate for the time in which it arose, we are persuaded by the overwhelming weight of contrary authority in our sister states and current legal commentary.”

The result: New Kansas law, made by people selected through an undemocratic process.

In conclusion, Ware writes:

Non-lawyers who believe in the principle that lawmakers should be selected democratically need to know that judicial selection is lawmaker selection to be troubled by the Missouri Plan’s violation of this principle. Non-lawyers who do not know that judges inevitably make law may believe that the role of a judge consists only of its professional/technical side and, therefore, believe that judges should be selected entirely on their professional competence and ethics and that assessments of these factors are best left to lawyers. In short, a lawyer who omits lawmaking from a published statement about the judicial role is furthering a misimpression that helps empower lawyers at the expense of non-lawyers, in violation of basic democratic equality, the principle of one-person, one-vote.

Prospects for Kansas

In Kansas, the process for selecting judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals is governed by statute, and can be changed by the legislature and governor. Last year the House of Representatives passed a bill to reform the process, but it was blocked by Senate Judiciary Chair Tim Owens. He said “I think this is the first time I did not hear a bill because I thought it was so bad. This is a terrible, terrible bill that’s hated by the courts; it’s an attempt to take over control of the courts.”

Owens, who ranked as the least friendly senator to economic freedom in the 2012 edition of the Kansas Economic Freedom Index, lost his bid for re-election in the August primary election. Many of the other moderate Republicans who voted against reform also lost their primary election contest.

Owens, it should be noted, is an attorney, and is therefore a member of the privileged class that has outsize power in selecting judges.

Sometimes legislators are simply uninformed or misinformed on judicial selection. An example is Jean Schodorf, who lost a re-election bid in August. In an interview, she was quoted as saying “We thwarted changes to judicial selection that would have allowed the governor to have the final say in all judicial selections.”

The bill that the senate voted on, and the one that Owens killed the year before, called for Court of Appeals judges to be appointed by the governor, with the consent of the senate. It’s actually the senate that has the final say.

Newspaper editorial writers across Kansas are mostly opposed to judicial selection reform. An example is Rhonda Holman of the Wichita Eagle, who in 2010 wrote: “Some critics may have a beef with past court decisions, perhaps even a legitimate one — which is no surprise, given that judicial decisions pick winners and losers. But they also may be motivated by politics — which is a problem, given that the judiciary is supposed to be fair, impartial and independent. In the absence of a strong case for change, Kansas should stick with what works.”

With the change in composition of the Kansas Senate, the climate is more favorable for reform for the way judges are selected for the Kansas Court of Appeals. The law governing how judges for the Kansas Supreme Court are selected is in the Kansas Constitution, and would require an amendment to alter the process. Such an amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature, and then a simple majority vote of the people.

By the way: For those who criticize the support for judicial selection reform as pure power politics, since Kansas has a conservative governor, remember this: When Professor Ware sounded the need for reform and convinced me of the need, our governor was the liberal Kathleen Sebelius. There was also a liberal senate at that time, one which would undoubtedly have rubberstamped any nominee Sebelius might have sent for confirmation.

Originalism, Balanced Legal Realism and Judicial Selection: A Case Study
By Stephen J. Ware

Abstract: The “balanced realist” view that judging inevitably involves lawmaking is widely accepted, even among originalists, such as Justice Scalia, Randy Barnett and Steven Calabresi. Yet many lawyers are still reluctant to acknowledge publicly the inevitability of judicial lawmaking. This reluctance is especially common in debates over the Missouri Plan, a method of judicial selection that divides the power to appoint judges between the governor and the bar.

The Missouri Plan is one of three widely-used methods of selecting state court judges. The other two are: (1) direct election of judges by the citizenry, and (2) appointment of judges by democratically elected officials, typically the governor and legislature, with little or no role for the bar. Each of these two methods of judicial selection respects a democratic society’s basic equality among citizens — the principle of one-person, one-vote. In contrast, the Missouri Plan violates this principle by making a lawyer’s vote worth more than another citizen’s vote.

This Article provides a case study of the clash between the inevitability of judicial lawmaking and the reluctance of lawyers to acknowledge this inevitability while defending their disproportionate power under the Missouri Plan. The Article documents efforts by lawyers in one state, Kansas, to defend their version of the Missouri Plan by attempting to conceal from the public the fact that Kansas judges, like judges in the other 49 states, inevitably make law. The case study then shows examples of Kansas judges making law. The Article concludes that honesty requires lawyers participating in the debate over judicial selection in the United States to forthrightly acknowledge that judges make law. Lawyers who seek to defend the power advantage the Missouri Plan gives them over other citizens can honestly acknowledge that this is a power advantage in the selection of lawmakers and then explain why they believe a departure from the principle of one-person, one-vote is justified in the selection of these particular lawmakers.

The complete paper may be downloaded at no charge here.

Kansas Democrats mailing again, and wrong again

It’s campaign season, and mail pieces are flying fast, replete with more Kansas Democratic errors.

Examples come from two mailers from the Kansas Democratic Party targeting Joseph Scapa, a one-term Republican incumbent seeking to return to the House or Representatives.

Here’s one: “SCAPA voted for the largest cut to school funding in Kansas history — schools are closing, class sizes are increasing and fees are going up on parents. Sub HB 2014 (HJ 5/12/11, p. 1570)”

This is a repeat of a mistaken claim made on other anti-Scapa mailings, for which Kansas Democrats have apologized.

Here’s something from another ant-Scapa mail piece from the Kansas Democratic Party: “The Brownback Agenda included the largest cut to public education funding in Kansas history in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.”

This claim is incorrect, too. As explained in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending, the claims of education cuts generally consider only Kansas state spending on schools, neglecting federal and local sources of funds. In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 schools years, federal aid soared as a result of the Obama stimulus program. These funds almost made up for the decline in state spending, meaning that total spending on Kansas schools declined only slightly.

(You’d think that Kansas Democrats would want to remind us of the supposedly wonderful things the Obama stimulus accomplished, but evidently not when the facts are inconvenient.)

Then, who was Kansas governor during the years that Kansas state spending on schools actually declined? Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. They’re Democrats, I believe.

Here’s something else from a mailer from the Kansas Democrats:

JOE SCAPA is just another rubber stamp for Sam Brownback.
JOE SCAPA VOTES WITH SAM
BROWNBACK 92.33% OF THE TIME.*
Instead of working to create jobs and improve education, Scapa has been nothing more than a rubber stamp for Governor Brownback’s irresponsible agenda.
*www.KanFocus.com, Republican Support Rankings

Most people don’t have access to KanFocus, a useful but expensive subscription information service. The rankings that the mailer refers to, according to KanFocus, “… show the percentage of votes on which each Representative voted with and against the majority of Republicans.”

So it’s not a measure of how closely Representatives’ votes align with Governor Brownback, but with the majority of Republicans. Oops.

Aside from that, Scapa ranked 56 out of 93 Republicans that cast votes in 2012. Then, consider that most of the Republicans who ranked “higher” than Scapa (meaning they voted less often with the Republican majority) are legislators who in most states would be Democrats.

An accurate assessment, then, of Scapa’s voting record is that he is relatively independent from the Republican majority in his voting. Which is not the same as the Brownback agenda, as the Democratic Party mailer erroneously claims.

Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending

While the Kansas Democratic Party apologized last week for misstating candidates’ voting record on two mail pieces, the party and its candidates continue a campaign of misinformation regarding spending on Kansas public schools.

Many of the allegations are made against Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for purportedly cutting school spending. An example is on the Kansas Democratic Party Facebook page, which can be seen nearby.

As part of the party’s website, on a page titled Restore Education Funding, Kansas Democrats make this claim:

An Education Fact

Between FY2008-2009 and FY2011-2012, general state aid to education was cut by nearly $400 million. In just thee [sic] years, that’s a reduction of $620 for every schoolchild in the state.

This claim is repeated on candidates’ web sites, such as this example from senatorial candidate Tim Snow, which reads: “In the last three years, conservatives in Topeka have slashed education spending by $620 per student.”

The problem is that these claims aren’t factual. Consider the numbers from the Kansas Democrat website. In 2008-2009 Kansas state spending on schools was $3,287,165,278, according to the Kansas State Department of Education. In 2011-2012, that figure was $3,184,163,559. That’s a difference of $103,001,719, which is a long way from $400 million, the number claimed by Democrats.

Looking at spending per pupil figures, the change was from $7,344 to $6,983. That’s $361, not $620 as Democrats claim.

The Democrats are also considering only Kansas state spending on schools, neglecting federal and local sources of funds. In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 schools years, federal aid soared as a result of the Obama stimulus program. These funds almost made up for the decline in state spending, meaning that total spending on Kansas schools declined only slightly.

(You’d think that Kansas Democrats would want to remind us of the supposedly wonderful things the Obama stimulus accomplished, but evidently not when the facts are inconvenient.)

Then, who was Kansas governor during the years that Kansas state spending on schools declined? Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. They’re Democrats, I believe.

There are more examples of Democrats misleading Kansans. Here’s Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley: “But Gov. Brownback is acting on the assumption that schools aren’t stretching every dollar to the last cent, even after he made the largest cut to public education in Kansas history.” (Dems seek input from parents, educators on impact of school funding cuts.) (emphasis added)

Paul Davis, the Kansas House of Representatives Minority Leader, was quoted in the Lawrence Journal-World as saying “Instead of hosting an online forum to complain about public schools, why not discuss all the innovative ways our teachers and administrators have done more with less since Gov. Brownback implemented the largest cut to education funding in Kansas history?” (emphasis added)

Hensley and Davis are two of the top Democrats in Kansas, absolutely so in the Kansas Legislature.

It’s easy to understand why Democrats focus on school spending. It’s easy to persuade parents — and anyone, for that matter — that if we want the best for Kansas schoolchildren, we need to spend more.

More spending in schools means more spending in largely Democratic hands, and more public sector union members, a key Democratic constituency.

The school spending advocates have done a good job promoting their issue, too. On a survey, not only did Kansans underestimate school spending levels, they did so for the state portion of school funding, and again for the total of all funding sources — state, federal, and local. Kansans also thought spending had declined, when it had increased. See Kansans uninformed on school spending. Similar findings have been reported across the country.

Spending more on schools is seen as an easy way to solve a problem. But the problems facing Kansas schools will require different approaches, and the Kansas school establishment won’t consider them. For a list of reforms that are needed, but resisted, see Kansas school reform issues.

Kansas Democrats should consider themselves fortunate that our governor isn’t pressing for the reform that Democrats really hate: school choice.

Huelskamp: Kansas needs Health Care Freedom Amendment

An open letter from Congressman Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district to Republican Kansas State Senators Pete Brungardt, Jay Emler, Terrie Huntington, Jeff Longbine, Carolyn McGinn, Steve Morris, Tim Owens, Roger Reitz, Vicki Schmidt, Jean Schodorf, Ruth Teichman, Dwayne Umbarger, and John Vratil. These are the “traditional,” “reasonable,” “moderate” Kansan Republicans.

July 31, 2012

Dear Senator:

While all Republicans in Washington are working hard to fulfill Kansans’ wishes to stop ObamaCare from destroying our liberties, I am disappointed that you and many other Topeka politicians are actually hindering our efforts.

The reasons to undo ObamaCare are countless. It carries a trillion-dollar price tag over the next decade. It increases family premiums, burdens our small businesses, invades our privacy, and stomps on our religious freedom. States like Kansas will continue to bear the costs of expensive federal mandates. And, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has refused to offer waivers she was more than willing to grant to unions and businesses connected to the Obama Administration.

As you may know, before being elected to Congress, I strongly supported adding the Health Care Freedom Amendment to our state Constitution. If passed, it would allow Kansans to have a say on a law they fundamentally oppose: ObamaCare. The citizens of Ohio were given this opportunity — so should the people of Kansas.

However, when this Amendment came to you during the 2012 Session, I was extremely disappointed that you refused to allow a vote of the people if the law was upheld by the Supreme Court. What a mistake. Kansans deserve to have a say on ObamaCare — whether you like it or not — and whether a narrow Supreme Court majority refuses to defend the Constitution.

As you know, ObamaCare is a significant threat to the wallets, the liberties, and health care access of Kansans. It was rammed through Congress behind closed doors, without public input, and many are still reading it “to see what was in it.” And for you to hide behind the Supreme Court and with Obama, Pelosi and Reid instead of the people of Kansas — that is very disappointing.

In closing, please reconsider your opposition to putting the Health Care Freedom Amendment to a vote of the Kansas people.

Sincerely,

Tim Huelskamp

Looking for Senator Reasonable

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

Looking for Senator Reasonable

By Alan Cobb, Americans for Prosperity Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday January 16, 2012

Tax cuts = extra income? Commenting on Kansas tax reform, Wichita Business Journal editor Bill Roy said “Certainly for business people, it’s the elimination of the income tax on business income. … They’ll appreciate having that extra income that they can use on other things in their business.” I don’t know how much thought Roy gave to these remarks, but his easy likening of lower taxes to extra income is symptomatic of the problem: We have become accustomed to government having a claim on our income. In the rare instances where government gives up part of that claim, we taxpayers are supposed to view it as a gift, as something extra. Roy’s remarks were broadcast on the KPTS television program Impact while discussing Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s tax reform plan. … Similar lines of thinking are revealed whenever it is said that tax cuts “cost” the government. The proper way of thinking is that government is a cost to the people, and whenever the cost of government is reduced, we experience a benefit. That is, we the people, as contrasted to the political class. If the government cuts taxes, the government gives us nothing. It simply takes less of what is ours in the first place. … I’m also reminded of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who when commenting on a reduction of the Kansas business machinery tax, said “We’re not giving away money for the sake of giving it away.”

Revenue-neutral tax reform. If Kansas tax reform is to be revenue-neutral, that — by definition — means that if one person pays less, someone else has to make up the difference. Peter Hancock of Kansas Education Policy Report has such an example in his post Winners and Losers in Brownback’s Tax Plan. A low-income family would experience a tax increase of $442 (mostly through loss of the Earned Income Tax Credit), while a middle class family with business income would save about $300. These examples were released by Kansas Democrats. … Hancock also reports that the Brownback administration’s projections assume 5.9 percent annual growth, instead of the standard 4 percent used by the Consensus Estimating Group. A common criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration is that its projections are based on an overly-optimistic rate of future economic growth. We shouldn’t do the same in Kansas.

Peterjohn to speak. This Friday (January 20th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. He says he will speak on “critical national problems we are facing with a historical perspective.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On January 27, 2012: The Honorable Jennifer Jones, Administrative Judge, Wichita Municipal Court, speaking on “An overview of the Wichita Municipal Court.”

Southwest to fly to Wichita. Since it gobbled up AirTran, the question has been: Will Southwest Airlines provide service in Wichita? Now we know the answer is yes. While the airline has recently started service in some markets without the large, ongoing subsidies that Wichita and the state provide, that won’t be the case in Wichita, according to news reports. … Last year I reported on Southwest starting service in Charleston, South Carolina, whose metropolitan area population is similar to that of Wichita: “In the Charleston situation, there evidently won’t be the massive state-supplied subsidy as we have in Kansas. But Southwest will still get a leg up: A USA Today story quotes a Charleston airport official saying ‘Southwest didn’t want a state subsidy, but was interested in the airport’s incentives a temporary waiver of landing fees, up to $10,000 to market new flights, and up to $150,000 for other start-up costs.’” That’s a lot less than what Wichita and Kansas offer. .. Will the need for subsidies last? About this time last year, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said “The Southwest business model doesn’t require subsidies over a long period of time.” Of course, we were told that the subsidy for AirTran would be required for only a short period, but the program grew and grew until it is now considered part of our state’s transportation infrastructure.

Kansas economic development incentives. In an Insight Kansas column, Professor Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University concludes: “No state will abandon the tax-incentive recruitment strategy for fear of being the only business suitor with nothing to offer. But the tax-incentive strategy remains a risky one, and perhaps it is time for Kansas and other governments to re-evaluate the practice.” … Earlier in the article he cites the lack of oversight among the states: “States and localities are regularly in competition with one another for scarce jobs. However, a 2001 article in Economic Development Quarterly reported that, despite the billions distributed annually as incentives, states were doing little evaluation of incentives’ effectiveness or their return on investment.” (Kansas has done a little of this; see here. A quote from the Kansas audit: “Most studies of economic development incentives suggest these incentives don’t have a significant impact on economic growth. The literature we reviewed concluded that, thus far, negative and inconclusive findings are far more numerous than positive findings. Most reviews of economic development assistance find few results are achieved — a theme that audits in Kansas and other states commonly find, as well. Findings of ineffectiveness include promised jobs weren’t created, return on investment is low or negative, and incentives offered weren’t a determining factor.” But also: “The literature also suggests that economic development incentives must be offered to remain competitive with other states.”) … But I think there is a way out. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business wrote this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that are the subject of Rackaway’s article: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

Story is broken. “Prof. Art Carden responds to ‘The Story of Broke,’ a recent video by the creators of ‘The Story of Stuff.’ In ‘The Story of Broke,’ Annie Leonard claims that the government isn’t actually broke. Rather, the government just wastes resources on the wrong things like subsidies to the dinosaur economy and war. She claims that the government should change its ways, and instead, subsidize firms that will bring us the future we really want. Art Carden agrees with Leonard that war and subsidies are wasteful, but is skeptical of notion that there is one unified vision for the future. To Carden, everyone has a different vision for the future. Our path to the future, he argues, is determined by the interactions of billions of unique individuals pursuing their own objectives. … Carden concludes that government spending won’t buy a brighter future. A brighter future will emerge when people are allowed to spend money on things they care about. Put another way, positive change will come from billions of people cooperating freely and voluntarily with one another, not from pushing trillions of dollars through a broken political process.” This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

Huelskamp on spending, health information database, and Buffett

Addressing members and guests of the Wichita Pachyderm Club last Friday, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp of the Kansas first district updated the audience on national spending and debt, a health information database that poses privacy risks, and Warren Buffett’s taxes.

On being a new member of Congress, Huelskamp said people ask me “is Washington everything you thought it would be?” And I answer yes — and much worse.

He told the audience that the Washington Post newspaper has identified him as a member of the “Apocalypse Caucus,” a group of twenty lawmakers that have voted no for almost everything, including raising the debt ceiling. The Post says these lawmakers would be willing to shut down the government simply to make a point. Huelskamp told the audience “The point we need to remember is there is an apocalypse ahead unless we rein in spending, unless we rein in this president, unless we rein in the regulations.”

Huelskamp said that for every dollar spent in Washington, 41 cents is borrowed money. And while some in Washington say that there is a plan to get things under control, he said this is not happening yet.

He described a budget committee hearing in which four economists testified. He asked how long do we have until we reach the point of no return such as Greece is at presently, where they can’t pay back their debt? The first economist, a conservative, said “act as if you have no time left.” The other three economists — moderates and liberals — said they agreed with the first economist’s assessment.

During a series of budget negotiations in the spring, Huelskamp said that initially House leadership had started with the idea of cutting $100 billion. But that number was thought to be too much, and eventually Congress and the president settled on cuts of $25 billion. But the actual spending that was cut was only $350 million, or just about one-third of a billion dollars.

Huelskamp described the debt ceiling negotiations in the summer as a situation where the president had to have Congress’s permission to raise the debt ceiling. But he said Congress agreed to no cuts at all, despite having this power. He didn’t want to vote to just “kick the can down the road,” and that’s why he voted against raising the debt ceiling in August.

He also told of hearing from a high-ranking Chinese official at a budget committee hearing. The official — Huelskamp reminded the audience that China is a communist country — told the committee members the things they would have to do with the budget. While Huelskamp agreed with the official’s assessment of what the U.S. needed to do with its budget, he wondered how do we get in this position, where we turn over, often, our sovereignty to foreign nations.

Huelskamp cited a national poll that found that 48 percent believe the American dream is dead. In his town hall meetings — he’s held about 70 so far — he estimates 90 percent believe the American dream is gone, or soon to be gone. “Most Americans, including Kansans, as optimistic as we are, are worried about what’s going on in Washington. And they don’t know who to blame, and they’re going to start blaming everybody. I’m one of the few who believe the American dream is still alive and well.”

Switching topics, Huelskamp described former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of Health and Human Services, as the third-most powerful person in Washington, due to her position implementing national health care.

Regarding health care, Huelskamp is troubled by a database HHS is proposing that will be used to regulate insurance companies. If insurance companies sign up healthy people, they will be taxed, and they will receive subsidies for insuring sick people. Huelskamp said the only way to determine this behavior by insurance companies — are they insuring the healthy or sick? — is by looking at the health insurance histories of the individual people each company insures. He views this as a threat to patient privacy.

According to Wichita Eagle reporting, HHS will collect only information that is not personally identifiable.

But in a Washington Examiner op-ed on this topic, Huelskamp wrote: “The federal government does not exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to managing private information about its citizens.” He provided several examples of data being lost.

As ObamaCare is evolving in the rule-making process overseen by Sebelius, we can’t be sure what requirements, regulations, or uses might be found for this patient health history data.

On Warren Buffett, Huelskamp said that Buffett sheltered $24 million from taxation on his most recent tax return. “Mr. Buffett doesn’t want Mr. Obama to have his money, either. It’s called hypocrisy. He doesn’t trust him with his money. Which is why — you’ve got to give him credit — he’s planning to give every single last dime to charity.”

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday August 10, 2011

Kansas House Appropriations Chair to speak. This Friday’s meeting (August 12th) of the Wichita Pachyderm Club Kansas Representative Marc Rhoades, Chair of the Kansas House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, speaking on the topic “The impact of the freshman legislators on the 2011 House budgetary process.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club … Upcoming speakers: On August 19, Jay M. Price, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director of the public history program at Wichita State University, speaking on “Clashes of Values in Kansas History.” His recent Wichita Eagle op-ed was Kansas a stage for “values showdowns.” … On August 26, Kansas State Representatives Jim Howell and Joseph Scapa speaking on “Our freshmen year in the Kansas Legislature.” … On September 2 the Petroleum Club is closed for the holiday, so there will be no meeting. … On September 9, Mark Masterson, Director, Sedgwick County Department of Corrections, on the topic “Juvenile Justice System in Sedgwick County.” Following, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Pachyderm Club members and guests are invited to tour the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center located at 700 South Hydraulic, Wichita, Kansas. … On September 16, Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, great grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, will present a program with the topic to be determined. … On September 23, Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute, speaking on the topic Why Not Kansas,” an initiative to provide information about school choice. … On September 30, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita on “An update from Washington.”

Sebelius responds to waivers inquiry. In June U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, along with others asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for information about the Obamacare waivers HHS has been granting. He got a response — except it’s not a response. In a statement, Huelskamp said “No details and no additional information about the Annual Limit Waivers were provided, so again we remain in the dark about this secretive process. Candidate Obama promised to be the most ‘open and transparent’ in history — a far cry from President Obama. The American people have a right to know why this new health care law is unfairly applied and what they can do to be exempted from ObamaCare. If one person, labor union, state, or business can get a waiver, then everybody should be able to get waivers.” … Huelskamp is not alone in noting the lack of transparency in the Obama administration.

Brownback to Sebelius: No thanks. Speaking of Secretary Sebelius, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has decided to return a grant the state received for being an “early innovator” in implementing portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), better known as Obamacare. A statement from the governor’s office reads: “There is much uncertainty surrounding the ability of the federal government to meet it’s already budgeted future spending obligations. Every state should be preparing for fewer federal resources, not more. To deal with that reality Kansas needs to maintain maximum flexibility. That requires freeing Kansas from the strings attached to the Early Innovator Grant. … “Federal Medicaid mandates have cost Kansans over 400 million in the past 2 years alone. Full implementation of the mandates in the President’s health care law would cost billions more,” said {Lieutenant Governor] Dr. [Jeff] Colyer. “We will work to find innovative Kansas based solutions to Kansas challenges and be very selective in the federal funds the state applies for and receives. We look forward to working with legislative leaders and Insurance Commissioner Praeger as we develop Kansas solutions.”

‘Nullify Now’ tour in Kansas City. The idea that states can nullify unconstitutional laws passed by Congress is gaining traction as a way to reign in the federal government. Next week an event in Kansas City will help citizens learn more about this possibility. Writes the event’s organizers: “Crushing debt, health care mandates, ‘super’ congress, and more. The list of constitutional violations from DC never seems to end. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for DC to fix itself. As Thomas Jefferson told us, state nullification is “THE RIGHTFUL REMEDY” to unconstitutional actions by the federal government. … At Nullify Now! Kansas City, you’ll hear nationally-renowned speaker Thomas Woods (and nine others) present the constitutional case for nullification. You’ll learn: the constitutional basis for nullification, how nullification has been used in history, how nullification is being called upon right now vs Obamacare, to protect gun rights, against the TSA, and more, and what YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW to get your state to put a stop to the Feds.” The event is Saturday August 20, and tickets, ranging in cost from free to $75, are required. For more information click on Nullify Now! Kansas City.

‘Birth of Freedom’ screening. On Monday (August 15th) the film The Birth of Freedom will be shown for free in Wichita. The film is a product of the Acton Institute, whose mission statement describes the institute as “[promoting] a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” This free event is Monday from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. The event’s sponsor is Americans for Prosperity, Kansas. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415. … I’ve been told by those who have viewed the film that it is a very moving presentation. A trailer or preview may be viewed below.

KDHE, Sunflower Electric, Earthjustice, Center for Climate Strategies: different peas in the same pod

Evidence that a business seeking regulatory approval of its project enjoyed an apparently close relationship with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment should not be surprising.

Reporting in the Kansas City Star leads with “Hundreds of emails document that officials of a Kansas power plant enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Kansas regulators who issued them a building permit in December.” (Kansas agency, utility worked closely on permit for plant)

A press release from Earthjustice, the legal advocacy arm of the Sierra Club, proclaimed “A new report reveals Sunflower Electric (Sunflower) enjoyed a cozy relationship with Kansas regulators during the permitting process for the highly controversial coal-fired power plant Sunflower seeks to build in Holcomb.”

This incident — the details are not important for understanding the broad lesson — may be looked on as an example of regulatory capture. As defined in Wikipedia, “regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.”

In more detail, the Wikipedia article explains: “For public choice theorists, regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether. Regulatory capture refers to when this imbalance of focused resources devoted to a particular policy outcome is successful at ‘capturing’ influence with the staff or commission members of the regulatory agency, so that the preferred policy outcomes of the special interest are implemented.”

Regulatory capture — or at least the heavy-handed attempt by special interest groups to influence public policy to fit their interests — is a non-partisan sport. We shouldn’t be surprised to see this form of government failure taking place at all times, no matter which party or politicians are in power.

As an example on point, the same type of activity happened during the administration of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius regarding the same electric plant that is the focus of controversy today. Her regulator, former KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby, denied the permit for the plant based on its carbon dioxide emissions, the first time that had been done in the United States.

Radical environmentalists rejoiced. Sebelius was invited to speak at an Earthjustice conference held in Denver in June, 2008. Here are a portion of her written remarks, as supplied to me at that time by her press office, thanking Earthjustice for all it had done in Kansas to help Sebelius and mold her regulatory regime:

When Big Coal pumped their money and politics into Kansas, EarthJustice was there to fight back:

  • Provided litigation and public support
  • Helped shape the media messaging and outreach
  • Rallied supporters and engaged the public to get involved

It was a victory for all of us and I appreciate their help.

About that time Sebelius established the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group, or KEEP. The activities of this group were managed — at no cost to the state — by the Center for Climate Strategies, a group that expressly advocates for energy policies and regulations based on an extremist view of climate science.

The invasion of Kansas — at least the Sebelius administration — by Earthjustice and Center for Climate Studies proves the point: Regulatory capture is a non-partisan opportunity.

In Kansas, prosperity is achievable — if we’re willing to change

The health of the Kansas economy — past and future — is the subject of some debate, with supporters of big government like the Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman thanking outgoing Governor Mark Parkinson for his promotion of the increase in the statewide sales tax and other forms of economic interventionism. These policies, with the exception of the approval of the expansion of a coal-fired electrical plant, largely carried forward the programs of his predecessor Kathleen Sebelius. As a result, Kansas is in the situation that Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute describes below.

Prosperity Is Achievable — If We’re Willing To Change

By Dave Trabert, President, Kansas Policy Institute

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” — Thomas Sowell, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Sowell’s point about the scarcity of resources is essential to understanding economics, which may be as much about human behavior as supply, demand and other commonly-associated factors. Taxpayers have finite resources, so the more they must pay in taxes, the less they have to spend on goods and services. Accordingly, raising taxes always has a negative impact and especially so when taxes rise faster than the ability to pay.

Unfortunately, the last ten years were defined by Sowell’s first law of politics. State and local governments in Kansas ignored the implications of finite resources and significantly increased the tax burden. From 2000 to 2009, state and local taxes increased 59 percent but personal income available to pay taxes only rose 44 percent. (The 2010 figures aren’t yet published but last year’s increase in sales, unemployment and property taxes certainly didn’t ease the burden.)

Predictably, we suffered the consequences.

Kansas had 18,800 fewer private sector jobs in 2009 than in 2000, a reduction of 1.7 percent. There was job growth prior to the recession but it was well below the national average. From 1998 to 2008 (Kansas employment peaked in April, 2008) private sector jobs increased 7.9 percent nationwide but only 5.2 percent in Kansas. And comparing the performance of low-burden and high-burden states (as ranked by the non-partisan Tax Foundation) makes the implications of defying Sowell’s first law of economics even more clear. The ten states with the highest combined state and local tax burden averaged 6.1 percent private sector job growth, whereas the ten states with the lowest burdens averaged a remarkable 16.5 percent gain.

Domestic migration (U.S. residents moving in and out of states) is another good measure. Between 2000 and 2009, the ten states with the lowest tax burdens averaged a 3.8 percent population increase from domestic migration; the ten states with the highest burdens lost an average of 3.3 percent. Kansas lost 2.5 percent population from domestic migration.

Jobs and people naturally gravitate toward low-burden states where they get to keep more of their hard-earned, finite resources. The next ten years must therefore be defined by Sowell’s first law of economics or Kansas will continue to suffer the consequences. In order to compete for jobs and attract new residents, the state and local tax burden must be reduced — and that means government must spend less.

Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce spending and still provide essential services. Ineffective and unnecessary programs have to go and government must operate much more efficiently.

Change won’t be easy but the choice is simple — reduce the tax burden and create an environment that attracts jobs and new taxpayers or preserve big government and continue to suffer the consequences.

Kansas Governor Parkinson says “thank you”

This week outgoing Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson released a “thank you” to Kansans that has been commented on — favorably — in many Kansas newspapers and media outlets. The entire piece may be read at the governor’s site at Thanks So Much.

The governor’s list of “achievements” — his language, not mine — is a reminder that under Parkinson and his predecessor Kathleen Sebelius Kansans have lost economic and personal freedom. It’s nothing that we should thank Parkinson for, and nothing he should be proud of.

Under achievement number one (“Steering the state budget through a very challenging time”) Parkinson wrote “Suffice it to say that I cut state spending more than any governor in Kansas history.” He doesn’t mention that he was forced to make these cuts, as Kansas can’t run deficits like the federal government.

Achievements two, three, and four have to do with his promotion of wind power in Kansas. It’s almost impossible to overstate how unwise these policies are. See Wind power: a wise investment for Wichita and Kansas? for a recent discussion of why wind power is a bad investment. Relying on the manufacturing of wind power equipment as an economic development strategy is an even worse idea. The governor praises legislation that requires utilities to increase their usage of renewable power such as wind. But I’d ask the governor this: If electricity from wind is so desirable, why do utilities have to be forced — and heavily subsidized — to produce it?

Achievement seven highlights “Economic development wins,” mentioning Black and Veatch, Cerner, Bombardier LearJet, and Hawker Beechcraft in particular. Each of these “wins” required large subsidy from the state. Worse, these taxpayer giveaways cement our practice of bureaucratic management of economic development instead of creating a vibrant Kansas business climate where innovation and entrepreneurship thrive. This state policy filters down to counties and cities, to the point where the first consideration for businesses and entrepreneurs is not is this something that will create value for customers and profit for me and my investors but rather what type of government help can I get?

Achievement eight is the statewide smoking ban. Parkinson’s championing of it means that he doesn’t believe that adult Kansans can decide for themselves whether they want to be around smokey places, and that he has little respect for private property rights.

Achievement nine is the new transportation plan. The governor claims it will create or keep 175,000 jobs. Most of these must be highway construction jobs, as it is that industry that heavily supported the plan. As usual, the governor and other advocates of government spending fail to see the jobs that are lost due to the government spending and the taxes necessary to pay for it. Veronique de Rugy explains: “Taxes simply transfer resources from consumers to government, displacing private spending and investment. Families whose taxes have increased will have less money to spend on themselves. They are poorer and will consume less. They also save less money, which in turn reduces the resources available for lending.” In addition, Kansas roads rate very well, even number one among the states in one highly-publicized study. Why the need to so much new investment?

Finally, achievement number ten is “Keeping Kansas a great place to do business.” If this is true, I wonder why do we have to spend so much on subsidies to keep Kansas companies from expanding elsewhere or packing up and leaving entirely, as with Hawker Beechcraft?

Kansas primary election analysis

At State of the State KS, Fort Hays State University Political Science Professor Chapman Rackaway contributes analysis of the statewide and Congressional races.

Rackaway notes that the Kansas first and fourth Congressional districts were expected to be very close races, but both Tim Huelskamp and Mike Pompeo won going away with large margins.

The big message of the night, he writes, is this: “[Jerry] Moran’s win in the Senate primary suggests that the Kansas GOP prefers a more centrist message. But Moran’s win was an anomaly. Kobach, Pompeo, Brownback, and Huelskamp suggest that the state has taken a turn to the right.”

At National Review Online, Denis Boyles, author of the insightful book — despite its name — on Kansas politics Superior, Nebraska: The Common Sense Values of America’s Heartland, contributes (Mostly) Good News from Kansas. he starts by laying out the essential facts of the Kansas political landscape: “In Kansas, local politics is often made confusing by the powerful presence of very liberal RINOs [Republicans In Name Only]. They constitute a third party, and their half-century of influence has done some nasty work, most recently insuring the victory, twice, of Kathleen Sebelius.”

Boyles is enthusiastic about the first Congressional district result: “But for people who like their conservatism straight up — no glass, no ice — the best news may be the victory of state Sen. Tim Huelskamp.”

About the fourth district, Boyles wrote: “In Tiahrt’s district, a very liberal Democrat named Raj Goyle will spend a lot of his own money to try to defeat the GOP’s Mike Pompeo, a local businessman with a military career (he graduated first in his class at West Point) behind him. The Wichita newspaper, a McClatchy thing, has always been loyal to Goyle. Fortunately, fewer and fewer readers will notice.”

But for the Kansas statehouse, the picture is not as bright. He presents a message he received from an unnamed Kansas legislator, who wrote: “Overall though, I am very disappointed … we did not change the left-wing Republican margin in the House.”

Boyles concluded: “It’s true that the state senate and the house are both at the mercy of liberal Republicans. RINOs really do tear up the landscape.”

For results of statewide races and other state offices, click on 2010 unofficial primary election results at Kansas Secretary of State.

Kansas coal plant public hearings

This week the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will hold public hearings on the expansion of the coal-fired steam electricity generating unit at Holcomb. This plant became controversial when KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby denied a permit on the basis of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions. That was the first time a permit had been denied for that reason.

While former Governor Kathleen Sebelius opposed the plant, one of the first things new Governor Mark Parkinson did last year was to negotiate a permit for a smaller plant than had been originally requested.

According to a KDHE news release, here is the schedule for hearings:

Overland Park: Monday, August 2 at 2 pm and 6:30 pm at Blue Valley Northwest High School, 135th and Switzer, Overland Park

Salina: Wednesday, August 4 at 2 pm and 6:30 pm at Highway Patrol Training Center Auditorium, 2025 East Iron, Salina.

Garden City: Thursday, August 5 at 2 pm and 6:30 pm at 801 Campus Drive, Garden City

Written comments may be submitted before August 15 by email to sunflowercomments@kdheks.gov, or in writing to: KDHE Bureau of Air, Attn.: Sunflower Comments, 1000 S.W. Jackson, Suite 310, Topeka, KS 66612-1366 or presented at the hearing.

Holland/Kultala ticket endorsed by Kansas Governor Parkinson

At an event this afternoon in Wichita, bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle — plus some Sam Brownback bashing — was the theme as outgoing Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson endorsed the team of Kansas Senator Tom Holland of Baldwin City and fellow Senator Kelly Kultala of Kansas City for the Democratic Party nomination for Kansas governor.

Parkinson, who became governor last year when Kathleen Sebelius took a position in the Obama cabinet, declined to seek election to his current office. The Holland/Kultala ticket will not face opposition on the August 3rd primary election ballot. The likely Republican nominees are Sam Brownback and Kansas Senator Jeff Colyer as lieutenant governor.

In his remarks, Parkinson said that Kansas has made “remarkable progress” in the last eight years in working through a recession, creating jobs, and “bringing people of all parties together.” He said that Holland would continue that work.

He told the audience that Holland is a successful businessman, experience that he said Holland’s likely opponent did not have. He said that Holland has a record of working with people of all parties, and that Holland has worked for Kansans in the legislature.

He praised Holland’s and Kultala’s role as leaders in passing the budget this year.

Parkinson said the election will be an “uphill climb,” but that a Holland/Kultala victory is possible.

Holland said that the next governor will need to work with the coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, who he said have been leading the legislature for the last few years. He said that only he and Kultala — the “moderate and pragmatic leadership” — can continue with this tradition.

He blasted Brownback as a “career Washington politician” who deregulated the banks and “put the Kansas economy in a tailspin.” He said Brownback opposed the budget this year, and he opposed paying for the transportation plan.

He said that Brownback “sits on the extreme fringe of his party” and has no interest in working with moderate Republicans or Democrats.

In a question after the event, Parkinson expressed confidence that the increase in the sales tax that took effect today will roll back in three years as scheduled, despite the failure of a sales tax increased passed in 2002 to live up to its rollback schedule.

Parkinson also said he did not know of Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, who was recently critical of Parkinson’s decision not to seek election to his current office, saying he “left his party high and dry.” In his analysis Sabato described the Kansas Democratic party as “imploding.”

Analysis

Holland makes the argument that he and Kultala are “pragmatic and moderate.” Evidence from the candidate’s voting records is different, however. In the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for this year, Holland earned a score of zero, the only senator to do so. Kultala earned a score of seven percent, earning her a tie for 36th place among the 40 senators. She voted in favor of economic freedom only once.

In a score card just released by the Kansas Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, Holland again earned a score of zero percent. Kultala matched that “perfect” score.

It might seem that someone interested in bipartisanship and reaching across the aisle might vote that way just once in a while.

As to the governor’s portrayal of Holland and Kultala as leaders reaching across the aisle, background discussions with several Republican members of the Kansas Senate could produce no recollection of any significant issue where Holland or Kultala played a leadership role. Both have served in the Senate for just two years and are in the minority party.

The portrayal of Brownback as “fringe” must be examined. Brownback’s record in the U.S. Senate, according to National Journal vote ratings for 2009, places him near the middle of Senate Republicans in terms of voting for conservative positions.

Kansas Democrats described as ‘imploding’

Larry J. Sabato, who is director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, is a respected national political analyst who publishes Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an informative look at campaigns and races around the country.

In the most recent issue Sabato takes a look at 2010 gubernatorial races and concludes that “There’s now no question that the gubernatorial turnover in November will be historic.” He estimates that Republicans will add six or seven states to the count of those states with Republican governors.

In Kansas, Sabato is pointed in his criticism of Kansas Democrats and Governor Mark Parkinson:

Kansas: Gov. Mark Parkinson (D), who succeeded Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) when she joined President Obama’s Cabinet as Health and Human Services secretary, has left his party high and dry. He refused to run in 2010, and to add insult to injury, he picked as his new lieutenant governor a Democrat who also pledged not to run. Despite a respectable Democratic candidate in Tom Holland, the election is all but over. Republicans will re-take the governor’s office with current U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback. This is a remarkable example of the governing political party imploding. The GOP can count this one as in the bag.

Sabato rates Kansas as a “solid Republican takeover.”

While Sabato describes Kansas Senator Tom Holland as “respectable,” if Holland was attempting to use his votes in the senate this year to establish a record that might appeal to moderates, he failed in that effort. In the Kansas Economic Freedom Index, Holland is the only senator who scored 0%, meaning that voted against economic freedom in all votes considered by this index.

While it may be that the Kansas Democratic party is imploding, it has done very well in placing its members in statewide office. Considering Kansas statewide elected offices, five of the six are held by Democrats, and none were elected to their current positions.

Governor Parkinson, while elected lieutenant governor in 2006, rose to his present position when Kathleen Sebelius resigned as governor to take a position in President Obama’s cabinet.

Lieutenant Governor Troy Findley was appointed by Parkinson to replace himself.

Secretary of State Chriss Biggs was appointed by Parkinson when Republican Ron Thornburgh resigned earlier this year.

Attorney General Stephen Six was appointed by Sebelius when the incumbent, a Republican-turned-Democrat resigned.

Treasurer Dennis McKinney was appointed by Sebelius to replace Republican Lynn Jenkins, who won election to the United States Congress.

On the Kansas Supreme Court, there are three Republicans and three Democrats, with one Justice being unaffiliated, according to a Kansas Liberty story. In 2005, an analysis by the Kansas Meadowlark had the breakdown as five Democrats and two Republicans.

Kansas news digest

News from alternative media around Kansas for January 20, 2010.

Letter form the Newsroom — Tax Exemptions Edition

(State of the State Kansas) “This week we will also look at the issue of tax exemptions where we will hear from a number of people, including, Revenue Secretary Joan Wagnon, Representative Marc Rhoades (R) and the Kansas National Education Association.”

Republican Candidates For Congress In The 4th District Debate

(State of the State Kansas) “The Great American Forum hosted the first debate between the Republican 4th Congressional District Candidates Friday night. We put in a word from each of them here starting with ladies first in reverse alphabetical order.”

Investments alone won’t restore KPERS deficit

(Kansas Reporter) “LAWRENCE, Kan. – Better investment results alone will not pull battered government pension plans out of the financial ditch, according to some new research by a University of Kansas economist. Fundamental reforms will be needed in both how investment targets are calculated and how individual states determine what will be required to keep promises made to retirees.”

Don’t expect another $40 million from tax settlements

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas legislators shouldn’t count on millions of dollars more from tax settlements to balance the budget, Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Joan Wagnon told House Appropriation committee members Tuesday.”

Sales tax rates go up in Kansas, not down

(Kansas Reporter) There’s a danger in “temporary” tax increases: “TOPEKA, Kan. – What goes up in Kansas doesn’t always have to come down, especially when it comes to the sales tax rate, according to research on the history of sales tax increases.”

Gov. Sebelius assisted AFSCME-CCPT in unionizing child care providers in Kansas

(Kansas Watchdog) “Gov. Kathleen Sebelius helped the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) unionize as many as 7000 family child care providers.”

Spending limit proposal quietly makes the rounds

(Kansas Reporter) “TOPEKA, Kan. – With a projected budget deficit of nearly $400 million on the horizon, there is a lot of talk around the Kansas Capitol of a constitutional amendment to set up a rainy day fund to have money set aside for when the next recession arrives. But the most prominent proposal — introduced by state Sens. Jon Vratil, a Leawood Republican, and Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat earlier this month — is not the only one.”

Waiting lists for state services expected to grow

(Kansas Health Institute News Service) “TOPEKA – More than 5,700 Kansans with physical or developmental disabilities are waiting for Medicaid-funded services designed to help keep them out of a nursing home or state hospital. About 2,000 people on the waiting list are developmentally disabled children or adults who are receiving some government-funded services but are waiting for others for which they are eligible.”

Taxpayers Shouldn’t Be Burdened with Solving Government’s Spending Problem

(Americans for Prosperity, Kansas) “‘Considering that over a six-year time frame, from FY 2004 to FY 2009, spending increased by a staggering 40 percent, it was disappointing to once again hear Gov. Parkinson fail to identify excessive spending as being the real reason why Kansas is facing a budget shortfall,’ said AFP-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag. ‘The budget crisis we are currently experiencing is a direct result of our state government living beyond its means, thus it is simply unacceptable for Gov. Parkinson to call for tax increases on Kansas families and businesses.’”

Sebelius takes cover in loving union arms

“Possibly to avoid any confrontation with concerned citizens who have read the proposed health care legislation in Congress, HHS Secretary Sebelius will hold a conference call on Friday with health care activists and SEIU members.”

SEIU — that’s the Service Employees International Union — recently called for higher taxes in Wichita through Harold Schlechtweg, its local business representative.

Now this union will provide a friendly audience for former Kansas governor, now Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

Read more background at the Kansas Meadowlark post HHS Secretary Sebelius to use safe SEIU conference call for “myth busting.”

By the way, why does a union who, on its website promotes itself as “The Union for Kansas Public Employees,” have a leader with the title “business representative?”

Earthjustice meddles in Kansas again

The radical environmentalist group Earthjustice is again meddling in Kansas energy policy. They’ve sent a “warning letter” to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. You can read it at Proposed Kansas Coal Plant Draws Warning Letter.

Earthjustice opposes the building of a coal-fired power plant in Kansas. Our former governor Kathleen Sebelius, because she opposed the plant, was a darling of Earthjustice. See Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at Earthjustice.

Earthjustice is simply misinformed in many ways. For example, the press release states: “The truth is building a new, dirty coal plant really only serves the interest of a few while overlooking the virtually free wind energy resources of Western Kansas.”

Consider that the “virtually free” wind energy is supported by a federal subsidy with each spin of the turbine blades.

Consider that Westar’s investment in wind power plus the natural gas plants necessary to back up the unreliable wind has caused the utility to ask for several rate increases in the past few years.

What was that about “virtually free” again? The inexpensive energy a coal plant would produce is a benefit to all Kansans, especially low-income Kansans, as they can least afford the expensive energy produced by alternative sources.

Then, the press release states “The Holcomb coal plant will send most of its power out of state while leaving pollution all over Kansas.”

The writer doesn’t state specifically what type of pollution she means. But the plant was not refused a permit because of what we traditionally consider pollution: sulfur dioxide, mercury, etc. That’s because coal plants now are quite clean with regard to these pollutants.

So that leaves carbon dioxide as the “pollutant” in question. Which, of course, isn’t a pollutant at all. And if it’s a problem, it’s a problem on a global scale, not just “all over Kansas.”

Hopefully our governor will disregard the call of the leftists at Earthjustice and let Kansas get on with its business.

Kansas loses private sector jobs as government grows

Today the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy reports on the rapid growth in government jobs in Kansas. This is taking place at a time when the private sector is rapidly shedding jobs.

Kansas continues to lose jobs in the private sector as the number of government employees grows. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Kansas lost another 10,500 private sector jobs in April but added 800 state and local government jobs.

Over the past 12 months Kansas added 2,300 local and 100 state government jobs; during the same period the state lost 26,500 private sector jobs. BLS includes public school administrators in local government totals. Teachers are included in private sector totals.

The complete report is at Kansas loses private sector jobs as government grows, or it may be read below.

The shift of job growth from the private sector to government has been a problem in Kansas for some time. See the posts Kansas Continues to Suffer from Job Growth Deficit and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Kansas Jobs.

(This is a Scribd document. Click on the rectangle at the right of the document’s title bar to get a full-screen view.)

Maybe props are stimulus, too

The Kansas Meadowlark wonders about construction equipment moved into place apparently just for effect: Tax dollars for props for Biden’s visit to Overland Park? Wasteful spending for Biden to avoid?

By the way, why was it necessary for our former governor Kathleen Sebelius, now Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to travel to Kansas for this event? Doesn’t she have national health care to plan for, or at least swine flu to stomp out?

KNEA’s attitude towards Kansas taxpayers

The Kansas National Education Association — that’s the teachers union — shows again that it has little respect for Kansas taxpayers.

The issue of Under the Dome for April 17, 2009 reveals this organization’s appetite for tax revenue is large, and they’re always on the prowl for more.

After last week’s bad news about Kansas revenues, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius reminded legislators they had “left a significant amount of money on the table by not considering revenue adjustments that she had proposed in her budgets.”

Just look at the perspective of Sebelius and the KNEA. They can’t bring themselves to use the phrases “tax hikes” or “delay tax cuts already signed into law.” Instead, they use the euphemism “revenue adjustments.”

Also, by not increasing taxes they “leave money on the table.” They don’t view money as belonging to the people of Kansas. They view it as theirs, and they’re being short-sighted when they don’t rake it in.

KNEA and Sebelius also want Kansas to “decouple” from the federal tax code. That’s because when the federal government cuts taxes, Kansas taxes get cut too because of the coupling. The KNEA reminds us that if Kansas had decoupled, it could have saved $80 million from the effects of last year’s federal stimulus bill.

There it is again — the attitude the state has first claim on your money. If the state was able to avoid giving its citizens tax cuts, it’s called “saving” by the KNEA.

KNEA likes to hide behind a unimpeachable motto like “Making Public Schools Great for Every Child.” We need to realize, however, that this teachers union works to keep the public school monopoly on the use of taxpayer funds in education, and they always want more.

Articles of Interest

Wichita TIF development, Kansas coal, Carl Brewer on downtown, Dick Coe on crash and recovery, Fox’s Glenn Beck

Parkstone hits milestone: Building almost complete on four townhouses (Wichita Eagle) Describes progress and plans for a Wichita real estate development project. Let’s hope this project sells well and quickly, as the taxpayers of Wichita are on the hook, due to this project’s use of tax increment financing.

Parkinson firm against coal (Tim Carpenter in the Topeka Capital-Journal) Kansas Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson has promised to veto a bill that authorizes a coal-fired power plant if he is governor. The Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives says he has enough votes to override a veto by either Parkinson or present governor Kathleen Sebelius. Sources in the House and Senate tell me that few members — Democrats or Republicans — trust Parkinson.

Mayor asks Wichitans to dream about downtown’s future (Bill Wilson in the Wichita Eagle) Says Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer: “I want to provide everything you want to possibly imagine.” More evidence of local government’s desire to plan everything for us. I’m really surprised that young people are in favor of this.

J. Richard Coe: U.S. Paying Price for Overindulging (Wichita Eagle) The head of a Wichita financial services firm provides analysis of how the United States got in its current mess, and what must happen to recover. What happened? “Largely as a result of the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates too low for too long, there was a huge increase in borrowing (credit). Individuals, businesses and governments responded to an incentive to borrow, but the incentive was a temporary illusion.” Coe sees problems with the measures the administration is taking: “Massive government spending and increased regulation will make it more difficult for the private sector to recover.” He gives free markets their due: “Markets are more reliable than governments, and markets are in the process of correcting for government-incentivized excessive borrowing.”

Fox News’s Mad, Apocalyptic, Tearful Rising Star (New York Times) A profile of new Fox News television show host Glenn Beck. “Mr. Beck presents himself as a revivalist in a troubled land.” Some see “sinister meanings in his commentaries” and say he’s “stirring up a revolution.” “Let me be clear,” Mr. Beck said. “If someone tries to harm another person in the name of the Constitution or the ‘truth’ behind 9/11 or anything else, they are just as dangerous and crazy as those we don’t seem to recognize anymore, who kill in the name of Allah.”

Sebelius Taxes

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, now nominated to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, released a statement yesterday, which reads in part:

“As a result of these amendments to our 2005, 2006 and 2007 returns, we paid a total of $7,040 in additional tax and $878 in interest.”

A few thoughts, resisting the obvious cheap shots:

1. The federal tax code is way too complex. Politicians simply can’t resist using tax law for social engineering and to reward and punish. Simplification is essential.

2. I think the governor gave in too easily. But that’s understandable in today’s political climate where tax problems have derailed other nominations and careers. For example, she couldn’t locate the acknowledgement letter for some charitable donations she made. So she eliminated these deductions. Me, I would have asked the charity to reissue the letter. But, there’s probably a rule against that.

3. Hiring a CPA as Sebelius did to review three years of tax returns is probably expensive. That’s on top of what they may have spent to have the returns prepared in the first place.

4. The cost of complying with the federal tax system is huge. In 2005, the Tax Foundation estimated that individuals, businesses, and nonprofits spent $265.1 billion complying with the tax code. That cost represented 22% of the amount of tax collected.

5. In Kansas for 2005, compliance costs for the state income tax were estimated at 27.1% of the tax collected. That’s $877 per person. Compared to other states, Kansas ranks about in the middle on these measures.

6. The cost of complying with the federal tax code is highly regressive. Those earning less than $20,000 spent nearly 6% of their income on compliance. Those earning $200,000 and over — that’s the Sebelius family neighborhood — spent about 0.5%.

Kansas ranks low in economic competitiveness, but is improving

American Legislative Exchange Council has released a report titled Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.

In this report, states are ranked on 15 policy factors that influence economic growth and competitiveness. The difference between the good and bad states is shocking in some cases. For example, over the past ten years the ten highest-ranked states had population growth of 20.4%. The ten lowest-ranked states grew by 4.4%.

In a table titled “ALEC-Laffer State Economic Performance Index: 1997-2007″ Kansas ranks 42nd. It’s a historical measure, taking into account what’s happened in the past.

Fortunately for Kansas, things are looking better. Our state’s “Economic Outlook Rank” is 24. That’s an increase from 29 the year before.

Some of the factors that produced this relatively favorable rating include “remaining tax burden,” which seems to be the taxes to pay other than personal income tax, corporate income tax, property tax, and sales tax. Kansas ranks about average or worse than average on these factors, but well compared to other states on the remaining taxes.

Also, “recently legislated tax changes” is a good measure for Kansas. This undoubtedly refers to some of the business taxes that are being phased out in Kansas. Spending lobbies such as the Kansas National Education Association want to eliminate or roll back these tax cuts, however.

A measure where Kansas ranks very poorly is “public employees per 10,000 population.” Kansas ranks 48 among the states in this measure. We’ve known that during the Kathleen Sebelius administration that Kansas job growth has been greatest in the government sector, and here’s evidence of that.

Besides the rankings, the report contains a useful section titled “The 10 Principles of Effective Taxation.”

The report may be viewed by clicking on Rich States, Poor States:ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index. A press release announcing the report is at New Report Shows Path to Economic Recovery for States.

Green energy policies causing harm in Europe

In their Washington Times article Lessons from Europe, Iain Murray, Gabriel Calzada, and Carlo Stagnaro warn us in the United States about “green” energy policies that have been implemented in Europe. These harmful policies are just like the ones we are considering here.

The cap-and-trade system that’s been in place in Europe has done little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The scheme has been repeatedly gamed and manipulated by industry and governments so that emissions have actually increased faster than the those of the United States, with none of the big reductions promised materializing.”

Meanwhile, electricity bills are going up, and Europe has become more dependent on natural gas imports from Russia.

Spain has gained experience with the costs of green jobs. Large government incentives meant that the renewable energy sector in Spain grew rapidly — at a large cost that taxpayers and consumers will continue to pay for a long time.

Furthermore, it turns out that green jobs are expensive. Here’s what Bloomberg reported about a study released by one of the authors of the Times article:

The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power – - which are charged to consumers in their bills — translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.

“The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices,” he said in an interview.

The Times article notes that “most of these ‘green jobs’ were transitory, anyhow, mostly connected with construction, not operation.” This is a common criticism made of the proposal to build a coal-fired power plant in Kansas. Yes, thousands of jobs will be created, but only for a year or two, say the critics. It turns out that green jobs have the same life cycle.

It turns out that cap-and-trade has not worked out well for Europe. Neither has heavy government subsidy worked to create jobs at a cost that we can afford.

We have to wonder, then, why President Obama is so committed to cap-and-trade in the United States.

Furthermore, have outgoing Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius and soon-to-be governor Mark Parkinson thought of things like this?

The Cronyism of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius

The Kansas Meadowlark has a post holding links to “articles written from Jan. 2005 through March 2009 about how Gov. Sebelius helped her political friends, appointed her donors to state boards, judicial nominating commissions, district courts, and even the Kansas Supreme Court.”

It’s okay for an elected official to appoint friends, but with friends like hers, freedom-loving Kansans have plenty of enemies.

Read the entire story by clicking on Sebelius’ Cronyism.

Kansas Governor in 2010

Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia has a great website and accompanying email newsletter. In its own words: “Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball features analyses of presidential elections, Senate, House and gubernatorial races.” Here’s what he has to say about the gubernatorial race in Kansas next year:

KANSAS — Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), to be succeeded shortly by Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson (D-KS): PROBABLE OPEN SEAT. This contest is in flux on the Democratic side, which in this case helps the GOP. Two-term Governor Sebelius has been popular but had to retire after she reached the two-term limit in 2010. She might have run for the Senate seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R)–who is leaving to run for Governor. But Sebelius recently accepted the nomination of President Obama to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services. As her successor as Governor, Sebelius had wanted to help her lieutenant governor, Mark Parkinson, who switched from the Republican party to run with her as a Democrat in 2006. But Parkinson earlier decided not to run for Governor, leaving state Treasurer Dennis McKinney (D) as the possible nominee. Now Parkinson will become Governor, and he is under renewed pressure to run for the Democrats in 2010. Surprisingly, Parkinson still says he won’t run, and one suspects it is because he knows how difficult it will be for any Democrat to defeat Brownback. Brownback easily won his 1996, 1998, and 2004 contests for Senate, though he has a primary challenge from Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh (R). The critical unknown is the identity of the new Democratic lieutenant governor, to be appointed by Gov. Parkinson. He or she could end up being the Democratic candidate for Governor in 2010. LEANS REPUBLICAN TURNOVER.

Academic Study Challenges Projections of Green Jobs

Global warming alarmists often argue that transforming our economy to reliance on “green” sources of energy is good because millions of jobs will be created. These new green jobs, it is claimed, will drive our economy forward and create wealth.

In Kansas, our governor believes in green jobs. She was a keynote speaker at a recent “Good jobs, green jobs” conference. Our likely incoming governor Mark Parkinson speaks the same language.

A just-released study from the University of Illinois adds to the critical body of evidence that shows that many of the claims made about green jobs aren’t true. From the press release announcing this study:

While acknowledging the importance of energy conservation and ongoing research and investment into new technologies, the authors set out to evaluate the fundamental soundness of green job claims. In aggregate, the academic team’s study concludes that a lack of sound research methods, erroneous economic assumptions and technological omissions have routinely been utilized to lend support, rather than provide legitimate analysis, to major public policies and government spending initiatives. Furthermore, the reports that were reviewed have been issued without the benefit of peer-reviewed analysis or transparency of their models and calculations. (emphasis added)

Furthermore:

Key findings of the study show that no definition for green jobs exists causing great discrepancy in how numbers are counted; that green job estimates often include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic and administrative positions that do not produce goods or services for consumption; and that problematic assumptions are made about economic predictions, prices and technology advancements leading some to ultimately favor mandates over free market realities. These serious flaws, as well as the failure to include technical data, render the prevailing green job estimates virtually unreliable.

These are the myths identified by the authors:

  • Everyone understands what a “green job” is.

  • Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.
  • Green jobs forecasts are reliable.
  • Green jobs promote employment growth.
  • The world economy can be remade by reducing trade and relying on local production and reduced consumption without dramatically decreasing our standard of living.
  • Government mandates are a substitute for free markets.
  • Imposing technological progress by regulation is desirable.

The study comes out of the University of Illinois College of Law. An article about the study with an easy-to-read (short) summary of the myths may be read by clicking on 7 Myths About Green Jobs. The full study is at Green Jobs Myths.

How does Kansas fare in freedom, compared to other states?

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has just published a fascinating paper that ranks the states in several areas regarding freedom. According to the authors, “This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres.”

What is the philosophical basis for measuring or determining freedom? Here’s an explanation from the introduction:

We explicitly ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.

It’s something that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius wouldn’t understand. At least she doesn’t want to trust us with these freedoms.

According to the authors, “No current studies exist that measure both economic and personal freedom in the fifty states.” So this is a ground-breaking work.

How does Kansas do? Surprisingly, not too badly. Not outstanding, but not as bad as I might have thought.

For the four areas measured, here’s how we did: In fiscal policy, Kansas is 28. In regulatory policy, 4. In economic freedom, 18. In personal freedom, 15. (In all cases, a ranking of 1 means the most freedom.)

Our overall ranking is 12.

Some of our neighbors do pretty well in the overall ranking. Colorado is 2, Texas is 5, Missouri is 6, and Oklahoma is 18.

Nebraska is not as good at 28.

In case you’re wondering, for overall ranking, New Hampshire is best. The worst? It’s no surprise that it’s New York by a wide margin, with New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland rounding out the bottom five.

The full study contains discussion of the politics surrounding these rankings, and a narrative discussion of the factors present in each state.

You may read the entire study by clicking on Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom.

Earl Watkins, Sunflower Chief Executive, speaks at AFP event

Earl Watkins, President and CEO of Sunflower Electric Power Corporation recently spoke to a group of citizen activists as part of AFP – Kansas Day at the Capitol. Here’s a few notes from his talk.

Did you know that Sunflower Electric is a not-for-profit organization?

The demand for electricity changes constantly, moment-by-moment, throughout the day. Since electricity can’t be stored, matching generation to consumption of electricity is a challenge. Adding wind power makes this an even more challenging job, as wind power is very erratic.

Watkins told a story of how a group of Kansas University students contacted him as part of their investigation of the “slothful and wasteful” practices of excess electricity consumption. Watkins told how when he attended KU, he had a radio and an electric typewriter in his dorm room, not to mention the forbidden hotplate. Today, however, these students have many electrical devices in their dorm rooms — refrigerators, microwave ovens, televisions, and computers, for example. Electrical power is a huge factor in the increased quality of life, especially for college students.

The average age of Sunflower’s natural gas-powered plants is almost 40 years.

While Kansas is often portrayed as having rich wind resources, the wind doesn’t always blow when power is needed. “The fact of the matter is, of the four seasons for harvesting wind, the summer in the day is the worst,” Watkins said. The highest demand for electrical power, of course, is on hot summer afternoons.

It is the cost of the various forms of power generation that Sunflower uses that drives the decision as how to generate power and invest in capacity. These costs per kilowatt-hour are 1.5 cents for coal, 5 cents for wind, and 9 cents for natural gas.

If the permit for the new coal plant is denied, Sunflower will be forced to build new wind and natural gas capacity. It’s estimated that the extra cost to consumers — remember these forms of generation are more expensive to build and operate than coal — is about $600 per household per year.

Afterwards I asked Watkins a few questions. One concerned Cessna Aircraft Company chairman, president and chief executive officer Jack Pelton and his role as leader of the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group (KEEP). How, I asked, does Pelton expect to build airplanes in Wichita when the wind isn’t blowing? The answer is that it’s easy for him to trade Western Kansas for a relationship with the Sebelius administration. This relationship has paid off handsomely for Pelton and Cessna, with $33 million in state money heading his way, and potential for more. My post Jack Pelton, Leader of Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group explains.

Also, does the fact of Governor Sebelius’ impending departure from Kansas have any potential impact on the Kansas House of Representatives and its voting? He indicated that perhaps it would.

Kathleen Sebelius: taxation and contributions

Here’s summaries of some information about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, recently nominated by President Obama to become Secretary of Health and Human Services:

Michelle Malkin’s blog has a summary of Sebelius’ tax increase proposals over the years. Click on Meet new HHS nominee Kathleen Sebelius — or rather, Kathleen Taxelius.

At the Kansas Meadowlark, read about Sebelius’ connection to a late-term abortion provider. Click on Summary of Gov. Sebelius, Dr. George Tiller, ProKanDo PAC information.

From the Voice For Liberty in Wichita, coverage of the Cato Institute‘s ranking of Sebelius compared to governors of other states. Click on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius Scores Low Again. “In the Cato Institute’s Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors for 2006, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius earns the grade of “D.” She earned the same grade on their previous survey.”

Kathleen Sebelius Goes to Washington

“The most demonstrative pro-abortion governor in the history of the United States has been selected by President Obama to become the Health and Human Services Secretary. Even though I am excited to have our Governor ‘out of Dodge’ due to her horrible tax and spend policies as well as liberal thoughts on energy, I have great concern for the impact she will have in our nation regarding health care.”

That’s commentary by Sheriff (Ret) Currie Myers about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at the Kansas Federalist. Click here for the entire commentary.

When the mainstream national media writes things about Sebelius like “has a reputation of reaching across the aisle” (New York Times) they should ask some Kansans first. Kansas Liberty put it well:

You can tell where the post-announcement puffery surrounding the nomination of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as HHS secretary comes from by looking or the tell-tale phrase, “works across party lines.” If it’s in the piece, the writer’s from someplace far from Kansas. NPR’s pretty far from Kansas (even when they’re in Kansas). Here’s their take:

“In tapping Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for the role of secretary of health and human services, President Obama has selected a Democrat who has been able to work across party lines and maintain high approval ratings in an overwhelmingly Republican state.”

Other than fostering the image of Sebelius as a keg of Bud, there’s a problem with this analysis. Sebelius is the most polarizing governor in Kansas history. So, some background for outlanders: Kansas is a two-party state. One party represents conservative and centrist Republicans. The other party represents Pat Colloton, John Vratil, Mark Parkinson, all the Democrats, and Steve Morris when he’s talking to the national media. It’s simple.

Mark Parkinson, Potential Kansas Governor

A few items, present and past, about Mark Parkinson, who may be the governor of Kansas before long:

Parkinson prepares to fill governor role (Wichita Eagle)

Parkinson, former GOP rising star in Kansas, could become governor as Democrat. A look at Parkinson and his career by David Klepper of the Kansas City Star.

Mark Parkinson Wikipedia entry. At one time this was a fawning testimonial, the background section opening with “A successful businessman and former legislator, Mark is a native Kansan who grew up in Wichita and now resides in Olathe. Mark’s family has its roots in Scott City, where they still operate a family farm.”

Ex-Kansas GOP Chair Switches Affiliation

Parkinson’s party switch causes debate: Conservatives don’t see move as sign of pendulum shifting

Mark Parkinson’s ex-stepmom posed in Playboy

Sebelius Names Parkinson as Lt. Governor Candidate. Coverage from the Kansas Democratic Party website.

Where’s the dirtiest coal plant in Kansas?

Right north of Lawrence, home to many of our state’s global warming alarmists, stands a very dirty coal-fired power plant. James Meier explains and describes the irony in the video commentary Most Polluting Regions Among Greatest Objectors to Coal Plants.

Which Kansas power plant was ranked the state’s dirtiest by the Environmental Integrity Project? The answer might surprise you.

Since, the Sebelius administration blocked the Holcomb Plant Expansion, there has been a flood of special interest money attempting to influence the political process.

Many of the activists from Lawrence don’t want the plant built because they insist there will be environmental problems that would affect the rest of the state, all coal power plants in Kansas, except Holcomb, are located in eastern Kansas .

Pollution knows no boundaries, and yet common sense dictates those closest to a plant will experience the most adverse effects. which power plant is the state’s dirtiest?

Westar’s Lawrence Energy Center produced over 4 million tons of carbon dioxide and 3 million megawatts of electricity in 2006 to be ranked the 12th dirtiest in the nation per kilowatt hour.

Articles of Interest

Socialism is Evil (Walter E. Williams) A reminder from Professor Williams of George Mason University as to why taxation is wrong, and it’s both political parties that are guilty. “The essence of socialism is the attenuation and ultimate abolition of private property rights. Attacks on private property include, but are not limited to, confiscating the rightful property of one person and giving it to another to whom it doesn’t belong. When this is done privately we call it theft. When it’s done collectively we use the euphemisms: income transfers or redistribution. It’s not just left-wingers and Democrats who call for and admire socialism but right-wingers and Republicans as well.”

Luck has played a key role in Sebelius’ political ascent (Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star). From 1994 to the present, how events shaped the political career of Kathleen Sebelius. This reminded me of Fletcher Bell, whose story is reported in At the Bar; Lifting a briefcase can be a terrific strain. But a little cash can ease the pain.

Exploring a ‘Deep Web’ That Google Can’t Grasp (New York Times) Naive Internet users often think that using a search engine like Google returns all available information about the topic. But that’s far from true. For example, the Sedgwick County website lets you search for property tax information by entering an address or range of addresses. But entering a Wichita street address into Google won’t find this data — you have to do that at the Sedgwick County website itself. This information is part of the “deep web” that search engines can’t access. Even though Google now has over one trillion web addresses in its database, it’s thought this is just a fraction of all information on the web.

Educational patchwork: States should cooperate on ending the glaring inconsistencies among academic standards (Las Vegas Sun). “A new study has confirmed what many critics of the No Child Left Behind federal education law have said all along, that many school districts judged as failures would be judged as successes if only they were located in a different state.” This article calls attention to the difference in standards among states.

Governors v. Congress: The stimulus sets a long-term budget trap for the states (Wall Street Journal). “Mr. Perry [Texas Governor] sent a letter to President Obama last week warning that Texas may refuse certain stimulus funds. ‘If this money expands entitlements, we will not accept it. This is exactly how addicts get hooked on drugs,’ he says.” The danger, of course, being that just as states get used to higher levels of spending, the federal stimulus finds stop flowing. Some Kansas legislators have expressed concern. Governor Sebelius? Her recent column says the stimulus is “the action we need to put America back to work.” She’s already put together a task force for planning how to spend the stimulus funds, and was quoted in the Lawrence Journal-World thusly ““Though the timeline for enactment of this stimulus package is unclear, it is crucial that we begin planning for implementation of the Act now, to ensure funds directed to Kansas are used most effectively within the framework of the legislation.”

States put spending details online (USA Today). Highlights that Kansas was “the first state to pass a law requiring creation of a website detailing state expenditures in 2007.” Legislators responsible for this breakthrough in Kansas are Kasha Kelly and Tim Huelskamp. Also, video at Rep. Kasha Kelly discusses transparency in government.