All posts by Bob Weeks

Rep. Todd Tiahrt and BTK

Congressman Todd Tiahrt has secured $1 million for use by the Wichita Police Department in the omnibus appropriations bill that goes before the House of Representatives on Monday.

The bill has already passed the Senate, Tiahrt spokesman Chuck Knapp said, and approval by the House is expected to be a formality.

While there are safeguards in place to make sure the money is used for certain purposes, Knapp said, “we’re just not able to comment on the details of the funding.” — From “BTK ‘clues’ breed theories” in The Wichita Eagle, December 2, 2004.

Here The Wichita Eagle reports that U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt secured one million dollars from the federal government to help pay for costs related to the investigation of the BTK serial killer. Rep. Tiahrt was widely praised for this.

We should remember where that money came from. It didn’t fall out of the sky. It wasn’t free. It came from the taxpayers of the entire country. I suspect that many people in Wichita thought it was good that we got the nation as a whole to pay for the BTK investigation.

But think about what had to happen behind the scenes. Rep. Tiahrt must have lobbied for the money. Then the federal government collected tax money, only to send it back to Wichita. That, right there, is inefficient. A bureaucracy had to exist to perform that.

Then, of course, Rep. Tiahrt and Wichita aren’t the only ones looking for a federal handout. When other cities or states receive money in this way — a special payment to one locality for a special project — we in Wichita call it pork barrel spending. That’s exactly what Rep. Tiahrt engaged in to get us the money for BTK. He should be ashamed, and we should not laud him for it.

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are we prepared to do?

Ethics Require Recusal in School Finance Lawsuit

We should be thankful that there are people like Karl Peterjohn to tell us of things like the conflict of interest he reports in this article. An important question we should be asking is why our newspapers and other news media in Kansas have not reported this.

Ethics Require Recusal in School Finance Lawsuit
By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of Kansas Taxpayers Network

The Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments again in the school finance lawsuit brought against the state by 15 Kansas school districts. The May 11 oral arguments will eventually be followed by a written decision by the court.

On January 3, 2005 the court delivered an unsigned 3 1/2 page edict that created a fair amount of head scratching at the statehouse over what exactly the court meant at that time. Now that the court has shrunk with the death of one judge, Justice Gernon, the Kansas Supreme Court’s six remaining members will be deciding this case. However, there is a problem with one of the judges.

The Kansas Supreme Court’s second canon of rules requires that its members, “shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”

This rule goes on to state, “A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.” These are important principles for the administration of justice in this state.

These rules bring us to Justice Don Allegrucci, a long time member of the Kansas Supreme Court who needs to recuse himself from this case because of his family situation. Justice Allegrucci’s wife Joyce is Governor Sebelius’ Chief of Staff. His son, Scott, has until recently been a high level appointed official in the state Department of Commerce.

Governor Sebelius’ position on the school finance law is clear. April 5 she said, “I believe the legislature’s school funding plan is neither responsible nor sustainable.” Governor Sebelius criticized the legislature for not increasing state public school spending by more than the $140 million approved by the 2005 legislature. Sebelius has clearly sided with the plaintiff’s position in this lawsuit. That is fine in a political, public policy debate but is problematic with her chief of staff’s husband being on the court where this case is being litigated. Judge Allegrucci needs to recuse himself from this lawsuit.

Governor Sebelius is still hoping to get her package of proposed property, income, and sales tax hikes enacted into law so that state spending will begin growing faster. This is in addition to the rapid 7.3 percent increase in state spending that was approved by the 2005 legislature. The legislature’s budget, which largely followed the governor’s guidelines, puts this state within a few million of having the first $5 billion General Fund budget. This would be another state spending record in addition to having the first All Funds state budget that exceeds $11 billion too.

Justice Allegrucci is no stranger to politics either. In 1978 Allegrucci was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the Kansas fifth district congressional seat. That is why the complaint by the Kansas Supreme Court in their January decision complaining about statehouse politics was laughable. While everyone admits to politics at the statehouse there is certainly more than a significant amount of politics, albeit conducted largely outside of public view, when it comes to the courts and judicial appointments dominated by the Kansas bar and the appointment committee dominated by members of the bar.

The family ties that Justice Allegrucci has to the Sebelius administration indicate that he should recuse himself in the name of impartiality from the school finance litigation as called out by the court’s own canon and rules. Justice Allegrucci’s continued participation in this school finance lawsuit raises a host of troubling ethical problems about judicial impartiality with his family ties to Governor Sebelius’ administration.

Because Government Should Have Accountability

Because Government Should Have Accountability
Paul M. Weyrich, Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation (Click here to read the article.)

In an article from The Wichita Eagle published on May 3, 2005 titled “Ice rink figures don’t add up, records show” we find this quote: “Ice Sports Wichita has been on a downward slide longer than the city staff admits in a report the City Council is scheduled to act on today, records show.” These records were obtained through a request filed under the Kansas Open Records act. My understanding of this news story is that City of Wichita staff has been misleading everyone — including the mayor and city council — about the true state of the ice rink’s financial affairs. If not for the reporters who obtained the records, this deception might be continuing.

The commentary by Paul M. Weyrich referenced above contains examples of where the Federal Freedom of information Act has been used to uncover governmental misdeeds. The article also mentions a bill titled the OPEN Government Act, designed to “ensure that government acts promptly and efficiently in responding to FOIA requests.”

Revolving Door Between Press and Government Turns Again

Mr. Van Williams, Wichita Eagle city hall reporter for the past three years, will become Wichita’s public information coordinator.

I believe there needs to be a tension between the press and the government officials it covers. The press needs to hold officials accountable. It needs to dig deep to uncover facts officials don’t voluntarily concede. It needs to ask them tough questions. It needs to make them angry from time to time.

Would the City of Wichita hire someone who had been doing that?

Wichita City Council Meeting, April 19, 2005

Some quotes and my remarks from the April 19, 2005 meeting of the Wichita City Council, where the AirTran subsidy was considered. Representatives from Delta attended and spoke.

Allen Bell, Economic Development Director for the City of Wichita:

Previous contracts had a dollar amount cap on them. The new contact, we refer to it as a no-cap contract. There is not, in the terms of the agreement, a specific dollar amount that is the not-to-exceed amount. In place of that there is a termination clause that allows the City to terminate its contract with 75 days notice for whatever reason. And the reason, of course, the major reason, would be that we know that within that 75 days, we will deplete the funds that the City believes is appropriate to spend on this.

I was startled to hear this information, that the new contract has no dollar cap, as this has not been, in my memory, reported. It has been reported that AirTran sought a no-cap contract, but that Wichita would not agree to that. But it turns out that the city has agreed to what, in effect, is a no-cap contract. Yes, I believe Mr. Bell when he says that Wichita can cancel the contract, with notice, if the city believes it will spend more than the $2.5 million it has committed to. I would submit, however, that if the City spends the $2.5 million and realizes it needs to spend more to keep AirTran in town, the City Council would vote to do so. Therefore, the no-cap contract is in effect.

Councilmember Schlapp extracted an admission from the Delta representative that Delta is not profitable on the Wichita route now, but they believe they will be soon. Ms. Schlapp concluded that there is no need, then, for a subsidy to Delta.

Mayor Mayans said we have been discriminated against, rate-wise.

Mayor Mayans: “Many of us, actually, are opposed philosophically to government interventions, because we feel that sometimes tilts the playing field.” The Mayor says one thing, but acts in a different way. What good is it to have a philosophical belief if it doesn’t guide your actions?

Mayor Mayans and the Delta representative disagreed on who made telephone calls to whom and at what time. (Mayor Mayans: “So you didn’t call me back!” “Communications is a two way street!” Delta: “My recollection of it differs slightly from yours.” “I don’t recall it was my responsibility to get back to you.”) It is disheartening to realize that major public policy decisions may be made based on incomplete information, because someone didn’t get a telephone message.

Councilmember Martz:

“I guess to me, when I look at competition, if you’re losing money, then you ought to raise your rates enough so that you’re not losing money.”

“I’m a firm believer in competition.”

“I would prefer not having any financial help from the city, but rather through pure competition, all carriers reduce their rates to a level that they number one, can make a profit, at the same time make it economical for the citizens of the whole state of Kansas to be able to fly in and out of Wichita …”

Like the mayor, Mr. Martz says one thing but acts in a different manner. His advice to airlines on how to set their fares is misplaced. We have to assume that businesses act in their best interests, and let it go at that.

Sam Williams, Chairman of Fair Fares, who evidently is so well-known to Council members that he doesn’t introduce himself when he started to speak:

“You know, Kansas in 1861 became a very important state in the history of this country, just before we went into the great dark area of the civil war. You know, we were a key state. What we did at that time had a lot to do with what happened and where we went from there. I would submit that little old Wichita, Kansas is doing that to the airline industry right now. Because of your vision, you are looking at different ways to bring fair pricing in an industry that is kind of broken, in getting them to look at themselves, us to look at ourselves, and how can we partner together to do this. Kansas again is a key, integral part of a change in this country.”

First, to equate our state’s role in the civil war with subsidizing an airline is ludicrous. Second, I feel very sad that Kansas may become the leader in subsidies, and that business leaders applaud this. Mr. Williams, I would ask you if you would welcome a governmental body deciding whether the rates that your business charges are fair, and if not fair, subsidizing your competitor?

I, Pencil

I, Pencil
Leonard E. Read (Click here to read the article.)

Do you think there exists a single person who knows how to make a lead pencil? In this article, Mr. Read shows us how there is no one who knows even a small fraction of what is necessary to produce even this simple, everyday item.

How, then, does a lead pencil come to be manufactured? Through the uncoordinated actions of many people, each exchanging their own small amount of knowledge for something else they want.

The absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. This is the mystery to which I earlier referred.

Later on we read this:

the configuration of creative human energies–millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! Since only God can make a tree, I insist that only God could make me. Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

It is free expression of creative human energy that makes economies work at their maximum potential. Attempts by governments to interfere are bound to fail, as even the coordination of the production of a simple lead pencil is beyond the comprehension of any single person, agency, or computer program.

The miracle and morality of the market

The Miracle and Morality of the Market
Richard M. Ebeling (Click here to read the article.)

In this short article we learn the simple mechanism that makes our economy work so well. Interference with that mechanism is not only harmful, it is immoral.

Prices convey the information that we need to make our economy work. Here is why:

How are the activities of an increasingly larger group of individuals successfully coordinated, so that all the multitudes of demands and supplies are brought into balance and harmony? The Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek showed how all of the knowledge and information in society can be encapsulated in the price system of the free-market economy. In our roles as both consumers and producers we communicate to one another what we think goods, resources, capital, and labor services are worth to us in their various and competing uses through the prices we are willing to pay for them. These “price signals” serve as the means for all of us to decide and coordinate what we want and are willing to do together with other members of society.

Because of the information conveyed by prices, is not necessary for a government to rule over the economy to cause it to function properly. In fact, government intervention in the economy is harmful, because the market is so complex that it is impossible to guide effectively.

The moral dimension of the market refers to how in a free society, people enter into transactions freely, choosing those that they believe will benefit them:

There are none who are only masters and others who are simply servants. In the market society we are all both servants and masters, but without either force or its threat. In our roles as producers … be it as men who hire out our labor for wages, resource owners who rent out or sell our property for a price, or entrepreneurs who direct production for anticipated profits … we serve our fellow men in attempting to make the products and provide the services we think they may be willing and interested in buying from us.

Yet we know there are those who wish to interfere with the working of a free market through various means. All attempts to do this reduce the amount of liberty we are able to experience.

Too many want to dictate how others may make a living, or at what price and under what terms they may peacefully and voluntarily interact with their fellow human beings for purposes of mutual material, cultural, and spiritual betterment.

Often the concept of free markets is viewed as contrary to a moral society. Those who advocate government programs to make us better off are portrayed as noble, virtuous, and smarter than the rest of us. This article shows us that they are not that at all — they are immoral. Why? Almost all these programs forcibly take money from one person and give it to another to whom it does not belong. There is no moral right for anyone or any government to do that, no matter how noble the cause appears.

Kansas Attorney General Has it Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book review: Knightfall

Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism Is Putting Democracy At Risk

Davis Merritt
Amacom Books, 2005

The theme of this book, written by a former editor of The Wichita Eagle is that over the past few decades, the business of making newspapers has changed from a business unlike any other to a business just like all others, and we are not well served by this change.

I think the most important quote from the book is this:

With a handful of exceptions, American newspapers are being eroded, their traditional values subverted, their journalistic resources stripped away, their dedication to public service and local communities hallowed out, leaving a thin shell of public relations gimmicks that pretend to be public service and entertainment that pretends to be news.

Newspapers are important. They provide the common set of information that we, as a democracy, can use to work through the issues that face us. Although most people now get news from television and Internet sources, the basis for much of this news content is newspapers.

How is newspaper journalism different from journalism that happens to be in a newspaper? The answer is that newspaper journalism is “not shaped by a limiting technology,” such as a television broadcast; it values completeness over immediacy, it is lengthier and deeper than other sources of journalism, its goal is relevance rather than entertainment, and opinion and analysis is presented separately from news.

What has changed?

External changes have worked against newspapers. The baby boomer generation has not read newspapers with the same frequency as their parents. The fact that most newspapers are now publicly owned means that Wall Street pushes for ever-increasing profits. Newspapers, Mr. Merritt says, are a long-term investment and don’t fare well in today’s short-term investment climate. Technology changes, including the Internet, have been difficult for newspapers to adapt to.

Internal changes have occurred, too. The “creeping corporatism” of the national chains such as Knight Ridder has distanced newspapers from their local communities. The rise of Management By Objective (MBO) in the newsroom has caused editors to make journalistically unwise decisions. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the wall that has separated the journalism side from the business side of the newspaper business has all but crumbled.

Is there a solution on the horizon that will bring back the great tradition of newspaper journalism across America? Mr. Merritt presents several possible solutions, but I have the sense that he doesn’t place much hope that any will succeed in the near future.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand newspapers and their important role in our country.

Reading this book has helped me understand why our local newspaper is the way it is, which is to say I understand why it so poorly serves our community. It also reinforces my belief that I should spend less time watching television news and spend more time reading the important newspapers of our country: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. All these newspapers place their content on the Internet through their web sites. The Wall Street Journal costs $6.95 monthly, but the other newspapers are free to read, although you may have to register.

Links to material about this book: Publisher’s page with excerpt, excerpt at Poynter, excerpt at Authorviews.com.

Another letter to the editor

Last time I wrote a letter to the Wichita Eagle for publication, I said that I learned my lesson, which was that I needed to be brief. I didn’t learn this lesson well.

This Sunday The Eagle printed a letter I submitted, and a large section in the middle was omitted. This omitted material was the entire basis of my argument. As before, here is what I submitted, and what The Eagle printed.

What I submitted What was printed
When supporting the subsidy to AirTran, Fair Fares supporters grossly — I would say even speciously — overstate the importance of the airport to our local economy. When supporting the subsidy to AirTran, Fair Fares supporters grossly — I would say even speciously — overstate the importance of Wichita Mid-Continent Airport to our local economy.
As an example, Mr. Troy Carlson, then Chairman of Fair Fares, wrote a letter that was published on September 16, 2004 in the Wichita Eagle. In that letter he claimed $2.4 billion economic benefit from the Fair Fares program ($4.8 billion for the entire state). I was curious about how these figures were derived. I learned that the basis for them is a study by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University that estimates the economic impact of the airport at $1.6 billion annually. In this study, the salaries of 12,134 employees of Cessna and Bombardier, because these companies use the airport’s facilities, are counted as economic impact dollars that the airport is responsible for generating. Fair Fares supporters perform extrapolations starting with that figure to arrive at the $2.4 and $4.8 billion figures. As an example, Troy Carlson, then chairman of Fair Fares, wrote a letter that was published in The Eagle last September. In that letter, he claimed $2.4 billion in economic benefit from the Fair Fares program ($4.8 billion for the entire state). I was curious about how these figures were derived. I learned that the basis for them is a study by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University that estimates the economic impact of the airport at $1.6 billion annually. In this study, the salaries of 12,134 employees of Cessna Aircraft Co. and Bombardier Aerospace, because these companies use the airport’s facilities, are counted as economic impact dollars that the airport is responsible for generating. Fair Fares supporters perform extrapolations starting with that figure to arrive at the $2.4 billion and $4.8 billion figures.
To me, this accounting doesn’t make sense on several levels. For one thing, if we count the economic impact of the income of these employees as belonging to the airport, what then do we say about the economic impact of Cessna and Bombardier? We would have to count it as very little, because the impact of their employees’ earnings has been assigned to the airport.

Or suppose that Cessna tires of being on the west side of town, so it moves east and starts using Jabara Airport. Would Cessna’s economic impact on Sedgwick County be any different? I think it wouldn’t. But its impact on the Wichita airport would now be zero. Similar reasoning would apply if Cessna built its own runway.

Or it may be that someday Cessna or Bombardier will ask a local government for some type of economic subsidy, and they will use these same economic impact dollars in their justification. But these dollars will have already been attributed to the airport.

It is a convenient circumstance that these two manufacturers happen to be located near the airport. To credit the airport with the economic impact of these companies — as though the airport was involved in the actual manufacture of airplanes instead of providing an incidental (but important) service — is to grossly overstate the airport’s role and its economic importance. To credit the airport with the economic impact of these companies is to grossly overstate the airport’s role and its economic importance.
The best reason for opposing the AirTran subsidy is that it distorts the market process through which individuals and businesses decide how to most productively allocate resources and capital. The second best reason to oppose it is the implausibility of the economic impact figures.

An article I wrote titled Stretching Figures Strains Credibility provides more information, including a link to the Center for Economic Development and Business Research study.

The best reason for opposing the AirTran subsidy is that it distorts the market process. The second-best reason to oppose it is the implausibility of the economic impact figures.

The Decline of Kansas Documented By Census

By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wichita Eagle Says “AirTran Subsidies Foster Competition”

In an editorial in The Wichita Eagle published on April 19, 2005, Randy Scholfield writes: “Wichita should stick to its subsidies. They’re fostering competition, not stifling it, and paying off big-time for the community by lowering airfares and boosting economic development.”

Competition, if it is to be meaningful, needs to be fair. It is not fair when one participant has a huge head start in the form of a government subsidy. The Eagle recognizes this when it suits their purpose. When endorsing Sam Brownback for reelection, this newspaper said “He includes in the former his stepped-up fight against the European subsidies of Airbus that have put Boeing and its workers in Wichita at competitive disadvantage.”

Competition occurs when independent decision-makers, looking at the array of choices available to them, freely make their own decisions. With the AirTran subsidy, we have the City of Wichita (and now apparently Sedgwick County), by using their power to tax, making a decision for us in favor of AirTran. This is not competition.

Mr. Scholfield, the one subsidy I might support is one that would provide an alternative to the Wichita Eagle! Would you consider that to foster competition in the market for daily newspapers in Wichita?

Kansas Faces Challenges for Growth

By Alan Cobb, Americans For Prosperity Kansas State Director

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

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

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

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

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

The changes and population decline are gradual but unmistakable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are we prepared to do?

Democrats dominate in top Kansas court

By Karl Peterjohn

There are three numbers that everyone at the statehouse knows who follows Kansas government: 63, 21, and one. You must have 63 votes to pass a bill out of the Kansas House of Representatives, 21 votes to pass a bill out of the Kansas Senate, and the governor’s signature to turn a bill into law.

In the Kansas House you have 83 Republicans and 42 Democrats out of 125 elected members. In the Kansas Senate you have 30 Republicans and 10 Democrats out of 40 elected members. All 165 legislators were elected in 2004. Governor Sebelius was elected in 2002.

Yet there is now a much more important number that is growing in power in Kansas government: the six appointed judges on the Kansas Supreme Court. The Kansas Supreme Court normally has seven members but the recent death of Judge Robert Gernon has temporarily reduced the number of judges serving on this court to six. The key political number that no one is talking about has been researched and posted by the Kansas Meadowlark web log site: www.efg2.com/Meadowlark/2005/03-25.htm. Four of the six judges on Kansas Supreme Court voter registrations indicate that they are Democrats. Based upon the judicial activism demonstrated in the school finance and death penalty cases you have a Democratic majority that is now dominating this court.

The seven judges on the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling January 3, 2005 that school finance in Kansas needed additional spending. Now, the judges’ opaque ruling did not say how much or exactly how additional spending was needed according to the Kansas Constitution. The court did clearly rule that more tax funds must be spent on bilingual schooling. This ridiculous notion that this state’s constitution requires spending less on children of Kansas citizens than spending upon the children of the substantial, but not well documented, number of illegal aliens attending Kansas public schools is absurd. The court ruled that the Kansas Constitution has some sort of hidden provision requiring additional state spending for children unable to speak English. The authors of the Kansas Constitution would be amazed and are rolling in their graves that we would spend less on the children of Kansas citizens than on children whose parents have already flouted state and federal laws. The Kansas Supreme court gave the legislature until April 12 to revise school finance and these appointed judges could issue a final edict at any time.

This January court decision came only a few days after this activist court threw out the Kansas death penalty and removed a number of odious murderers from death row. This same court had ruled on the constitutionality of the death penalty in 2001.

Only a tiny percentage of Kansans know who is on the Kansas Supreme Court. Long serving Kansas Supreme Court Judge Donald Allegrucci’s wife is the governor’s chief of staff. Judge Allegrucci’s son has been a high level official in the Kansas Department of Commerce. If this was a politically powerful Republican family, instead of a Democrat, the mainstream Kansas press would be raising questions about whether this judge, who ran for Congress as a Democrat, when Kansas had a fifth congressional district, should recuse himself because of his family connections and ties to Governor Sebelius’ administration. Sebelius continues to be adamant about getting the large statewide tax hike imposed on Kansans. This is despite the fact that her tax hike was soundly rejected by the legislature in 2004 and more strongly this year.

It is fortunate that the internet now provides a way for bloggers like the Kansas Meadowlark (www.kansasmeadowlark.com) to provide public record information to web surfers about these appointed judges who are unrepresentative of the rest of this state. The fact that today four out of six judges, and soon to be five out of seven, after the governor’s next Supreme Court appointment, will be filled with Democrats is important since barely 1/4 of the registered voters in Kansas are Democrats.

This is a fact that has not been reported during the news coverage of the school finance lawsuits. Kansans need to know about the growing power of the appointed appellate Kansas courts dominated by appointed, activist, liberal Democratic judges and the diminishing power of elected officials and the people who elect them in Kansas.

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Karl Peterjohn is a former journalist, California state budget analyst, and executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.

AirTran Subsidy Remarks

Following are remarks I am delivering to several groups, including the Wichita City Council, in April 2005.

AirTran Subsidy is Moving in Wrong Direction

We were persuaded to accept the AirTran subsidy in 2002 as a temporary measure, to allow AirTran to build a presence here, and that the subsidy would no longer be needed at some time. But now we see that the situation is moving in the opposite direction, as AirTran asks for even a larger subsidy.

Economic Impact Overstated

The argument that many Fair Fares supporters make is flawed. They are grossly — I would say even speciously — overstating the importance of the airport to our local economy.

As an example, Mr. Troy Carlson, then Chairman of Fair Fares, wrote a letter that was published on September 16, 2004 in the Wichita Eagle. In that letter he claimed $2.4 billion economic benefit from the Fair Fares program ($4.8 billion for the entire state). I was curious about how these figures were derived. Through correspondence With Mr. Steve Flesher, air service development director for the city of Wichita, I learned that the basis for them is a study by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University that estimates the economic impact of the airport at $1.6 billion annually. In this study, the salaries of the employees of Cessna and Bombardier, because these companies use the airport’s facilities, are counted as economic impact dollars that the airport is responsible for generating.

To me, this accounting doesn’t make sense on several levels. For one thing, if we count the economic impact of the income of these employees as belonging to the airport, what then do we say about the economic impact of Cessna and Bombardier? We would have to count it as very little, because the impact of their employees’ earnings has been assigned to the airport.

Or suppose that Cessna tires of being on the west side of town, so it moves east and starts using Jabara Airport. Would Cessna’s economic impact on Sedgwick County be any different? I think it wouldn’t. But its impact on the Wichita airport would now be zero. Similar reasoning would apply if Cessna built its own runway.

Or it may be that someday Cessna or Bombardier will ask Sedgwick County for some type of economic subsidy, and they will use these same economic impact dollars in their justification. But these dollars will have already been used, as they were attributed to the airport.

It is a convenient circumstance that these two manufacturers happen to be located near the airport. To credit the airport with the economic impact of these companies — as though the airport was involved in the actual manufacture of airplanes instead of providing an incidental (but important) service — is to grossly overstate the airport’s role and its economic importance.

To its credit, the WSU CEDBR study does provide some figures with the manufacturing employees excluded. The impact without the manufacturing employees included is estimated at $183 million, or about 11 percent of the $1.6 billion claimed earlier.

Structural Changes in Airfares

In the past few months, most American airlines have simplified their fare structures. Notably they have dramatically cut last-minute walk-up fares, which are the type of high fares that AirTran was supposed to provide an alternative to. In light of these structural changes in airfares, we do not know what would happen to airfares in Wichita if AirTran left.

Fares to the West May Hold Clue

Since AirTran doesn’t fly to the west, it may be that looking at westbound fares could give us a clue as to what eastbound fares would be in AirTran’s absence. I took three eastern cities (all served by AirTran) and three western cities and compared airfares for a Tuesday through Thursday trip booked two days in advance. The westbound tickets averaged $74 higher than eastbound — an increase, but not anywhere near the magnitude that subsidy supporters claim fares would rise by if AirTran leaves. I would welcome someone with more experience than me researching this.

Subsidies Distort Markets

The subsidy distorts the market process through which individuals and businesses decide how to most productively allocate capital.

Subsidies Create Dependence on Government

When government pays a subsidy to one company or industry, it creates an environment where others expect a subsidy, too. For example, we shouldn’t expect any other airline to start service to Wichita unless they receive a subsidy like AirTran does.

Companies in other industries see local government as a source of subsidy, so they ask for subsidies to locate to Wichita. Even local established companies threaten to leave Wichita unless they receive subsidies. This creates an environment where, year after year, local governments make investment decisions for us instead of relying on the collective judgment of free market allocation of resources. This corporate welfare — which is what the AirTran subsidy is, plain and simple — is very harmful.

Other Articles

“The Downside of Being the Air Cap” by Harry R. Clements at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/the-downside-of-being-the-air-cap/. Mr. Clements’s article makes a striking conclusion as to why airfares in Wichita were so high.
“Stretching Figures Strains Credibility” at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-news-media/stretching-figures-strains-credibility/. This article contains a link to the WSU CEDBR study.
“Letter to County Commissioners Regarding AirTran Subsidy” at wichitaliberty.org/sedgwick-county-government/letter-to-county-commissioners-regarding-airtran-subsidy/
“End Corporate Welfare, Starting with Industrial Revenue Bonds” at wichitaliberty.org/role-of-government/end-corporate-welfare-starting-with-industrial-revenue-bonds/

Poetry: Welcome New Council Members

Contributed by Kenneth Kindler


WELCOME NEW COUNCIL MEMBERS

I AM OLD AND SICK AND GETTING GRAY
I DON’T KNOW WHERE I WILL GET THE MONEY THAT THE CITY WANTS ME TO PAY.

I WONDER ABOUT THIS TOWN THAT WE LIVE IN.
WHERE THE MAYOR SPENDS HIS TIME DOWN IN OLD TOWN FIGHTING SIN.

WE SUBSUDIZE A AIRLINE THAT MANY OF US CANNOT AFFORD TO FLY.
WE HAVE SPENT MILLIONS DOWNTOWN, I WONDER WHY.

HOW MANY OF US CAN AFFORD TO PAY
FOR PLACES THAT ONLY A FEW CAN PLAY.

DO WE NEED A DOWNTOWN ARENA?
A WATER WALK.
NOW WE ARE GOING TO SELL CENTURY II OR IS THAT JUST TALK.

OUR LEADERS HAVE HAD MANY MONEY LOSING SCEMES IN THE PAST.
EXPLORATION PLACE AND THE ICE RINK WERE A COUPLE
BUT THEY WERN’T THE LAST.

WHEN WILL IT STOP THIS INSANE PLAN
TO EMPTY OUR POCKETS AS FAST AS THEY CAN.

WE HAVE BEEN BULLYED, LIED TO AND RAN INTO THE GROUND.
NOW IS THE TIME FOR US TO REBOUND.

SO COUNCIL MEMBERS WE WANT YOU TO KNOW
IF THIS KEEPS UP YOU ARE GOING TO GO.

SO NEW MEMBERS WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL TAKE HEED
AND PUT YOUR COMMUNITY AHEAD OF YOUR GREED.

Kenneth Kindler

Tax funds finance Kansas school finance lawsuit

Contributed by Kansas Taxpayers Network


By Karl Peterjohn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The downside of Being the Air Cap

Harry R. Clements of Wichita contributed this article, which is a summary of a larger study he performed. Click here to read the full study in pdf format.

Mr. Clements’s article makes a striking conclusion as to why airfares in Wichita were so high. I would be curious as to whether any of our government leaders have read the study. We should also ask why our government leaders are not performing research like this when they propose to spend large sums of taxpayer money.


Wichita State’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research recently placed a guest article of mine on their website. It concerns a statistical study based on the level of air travel generated at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport compared to five other cities in the region, in which the data shows Wichita is ranked dead last, and an attempt to figure out why we do so poorly in this type of “competition.” It further questions whether our city’s substantial airline subsidy is worth the money spent. Since the article was written for consumption by professionals and is based on what might be considered obscure econometric techniques, it isn’t very suitable for reading by the lay readers of this paper. But I think the results are important enough that they should be seen by our town’s citizens, the decision making politicians that represent them, and the local media that should air such issues.

The cities compared are Des Moines, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Omaha, Tulsa and our own, over a recent six year period. The important factors affecting airline traffic generation were determined by slimming down a list obtained from the airline industry’s primary trade organization, the Airline Transport Association, with a couple of additions that together with theirs explain the greatest part of the differences in passenger results among these cities. These most important factors are population and per capita income (the more the better for these two) and a novel one, the number of pilots in the city’s population (in this case the lower the better). Wichita not only ranks next to last in population and income among the six — not favorable — but has an astounding more than twice the number of pilots, per capita, than the other cities’ which is really unfavorable. If Wichita were, so to speak, more like these other cities we could expect our airline passenger traffic to double. This is certainly a reason why other cities in our region do not have to rely on subsidies to generate their traffic.

Wichita’s effort to maintain its aircraft industry and attract other high income new businesses — for instance bio-technology, but not call centers and specialty retailers — will tend to increase per capita income, and population, but is it possible for an airline subsidy to overcome that which comes with being the Air Capital of the World — a high concentration of pilots, with charter and corporate fleets available, able to fly people wherever they need to go? Should we, if we could figure out how, have a policy to decrease the number of pilots? That problem is the downside of being the Air Cap.