Category Archives: Kansas state government

GOP and ex-GOP Legislators Promoting Higher Kansas Taxes

From Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network


In a March 4 report on Democrat Washington Day events in Topeka, Hawver News Editor Martin Hawver told about two well known Republicans involved in this statewide Democratic Party event. First is former state representative and former house majority leader Joe Hoagland, ex-Rino Johnson County, who told Democrats that, “I’m never going back,” to the KS GOP. Hoagland also claimed that there were a number of fellow GOP “moderates” aka as liberals who would be joining him on becoming Democrats. None were named in this article. Hoagland briefly flirted last year with challenging Sam Brownback in the 2004 GOP primary but decided not to do so.

Also attending this event was, as Hawver described him, “trial lawyer,” state Senator John Vratil, R-Johnson County. Vratil could have also been described as a school district attorney as well as Vice President of the Kansas senate or vice chairman of the senate’s education committee or chairman of the judiciary committee.

Hawver reported that Vratil wanted to see fellow trial attorney John Edwards speak to the Democrat gathering and was attending as a guest of the senate minority leader Tony Hensley. Hawver explicitly said that Vratil was definitely not following Joe Hoagland’s departure from the ranks of the northeast Kansas Rino’s for the Kansas Democratic Party. Regardless of how liberal Vratil can be (he has one of the lowest fiscal scores on KTN’s vote rating) I cannot see Sen. Vratil leaving the GOP while there are 30 Republicans out of 40 Kansas senate seats.

This is information that Kansas conservatives and folks interested in the Repubican Party in Kansas should know about concerning these efforts at “bipartisanship,” as well as a better understanding of the domination by tax ‘n spend, socially liberal Republicans in the Kansas senate’s current leadership. Soon, that leadership is expected to provide a “revenue enhancement” to help fund the second and third year school spending hike proposals coming out of the senate education committee and its liberal Republican leadership.

Last week the senate GOP majority passed a school spending bill that would increase state spending by almost $150 million a year above the current $2.7 billion for less than 445,000 FTE students in the FY 2006 budget. This bill would also require additional increases in local property taxes above this amount because of the state’s spending growth can automatically trigger higher school district spending within the state’s quite complicated school finance formula. Currently, if all state, local, and federal funds in the current budget year are spent, the average per pupil expenditures are budgeted at $10,162 in the 2004-05 school year.

Governor Sebelius, legislative Democrats, school district lobbyists and adminstrators as well as their attornies who are promoting the school finance litigation are all claiming that higher taxes must occur to meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s January 3, 2005 school finance edict. The court’s decision, that cited several areas where public school funding should be increased, is not final but is subject to court revision on or after April 12, 2005.

The legislature is scheduled for an April 1, 2005 first adjournment but will return to Topeka for a three day “veto” or wrap up session on April 27. In 2002, then Governor Graves was successful in getting over $350 million in higher sales, gasoline, cigarette, business franchise, and other taxes enacted during this “veto” session. Since there is not a daily newspaper in this state with a daily circulation exceeding 5,000 a day that has opposed any of the numerous tax, fee, or other “revenue enhancements” that have become annual events in this state since 1999, the final outcome from this year’s legislature is quite uncertain.

Last week the Kansas senate rejected two separate proposals to raise state taxes. A proposal to add a 7.5% surcharge and give Kansas the highest personal income tax rate in our five state region was defeated with only nine votes cast in favor (6 Democrats and 3 Rino’s) proposed by Sen. Pete Brungardt, Rino-Salina. Manhattan Rino Senator Roger Reitz’s proposal to raise the state’s sales tax by 1/2 cent or almost 10 percent (current rate is 5.3%) received only five votes from tax ‘n spend liberal Republicans, but most of the senate Democrats passed on this vote.

The trial attorney heading up the plaintiffs in the Kansas Supreme Court lawsuit, Alan Rupe, is quote in today’s newspapers that both the senate and house passed school finance spending increase proposals are not adequate and in violation of the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision. KTN has not been successful in convincing the legislature to add a provision to the school finance formula that would do three things critical for improving the deeply flawed and expensive school finance system in Kansas. The three changes are: 1) Require that all federal school funds be included in local school district budgets–currently, most Kansas school districts exclude federal title funds from their official budgets; 2) require voter approval for any local or state tax hikes for; and 3) cut state funding for any local school district that either challenges the constitutionality of school finance in Kansas or the adequacy of state funding. If the school district’s lost $5 in state funding for every $1 spent the previous year for school lawsuits, I think this litigation’s funding would dry up quickly. However, if I’m wrong, let’s cut the funding by $10.

Kansas (Our Governor, That Is) Earns a “D”

In a policy analysis published today by the Cato Institute (Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2004) Kansas — or more accurately Kansas’s Governor — earns a grade of “D” based on 15 objective measures of fiscal performance.

The authors state: “Our analysis shows that states that keep tax rates low and restrain spending growth have the best economic performance and thus the best longterm fiscal health.” It is such a simple recipe for success, but so difficult for politicians to implement. As the authors state again:

Yet the sad truth is that the longer most of the senior class Republican governors remained in office — the more comfortable they became in their incumbency and the more the media praised them for “growing in office” — the less resistant they became to higher taxes and increased spending. As a result, they scored lower on the report card.

I think this speaks to the irresistible urge that most politicians have to improve our lives for us. Even conservative politicians who meet with early success can come to believe that their success derived from something they did, instead of what they didn’t do.

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2004 http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3691

KNEA Tax Plan Would Hurt Kansas

From our friends at the Kansas Taxpayers Network.

KANSAS TAXPAYERS NETWORK
P.O. Box 20050
Wichita, KS 67208
316-684-0082
FAX 316-684-7527
www.kansastaxpayers.com

March 1, 2005
Editorial For Immediate Release

KNEA TAX PLAN WOULD HURT KANSAS

By Karl Peterjohn

The powerful and left-wing National Education Association’s Kansas affiliate is working hard to raise your taxes. In a February Olathe News article Terry Forsyth, one of the Kansas National Education Association’s (KNEA) lobbyists, is quoted claiming that there is no correlation between taxes and job growth.

Obviously Mr. Forsyth seems unfamiliar with high tax and high spending states like New York that have lost jobs and population as people have repeatedly voted with their feet and moved to states with lower taxes and limits on tax growth. Colorado has enjoyed massive economic and population growth since their lid on higher state and local taxes was enacted roughly 15 years ago. The Colorado Taxpayer Bill Of Rights (TABOR) has been a critical factor in helping that state succeed economically and allowed income to grow faster than taxes there.

This KNEA lobbyist claims that job losses in the private sector would be more than offset by roughly doubling the number of jobs working for government. That’s a paradigm for inefficiency and another excuse for government “make work” programs. That didn’t work in the 1930’s during the Great Depression in this country and it didn’t work as an engine for economic growth in the old Soviet Union either.

The Wichita based Flint Hills Center for Public Policy’s econometric model estimated that income and sales tax hikes proposed in 2004 by Governor Sebelius would cost this state at least 4,500 private sector jobs. Sadly, this model could not factor in the additional job losses proposed by the governor’s plan to raise the state’s property tax by 10 percent. Governor Sebelius continues to push for higher Kansas taxes at the statehouse.

Governor Sebelius’ proposed hike in state property taxes is occurring at a time of soaring appraisals as well as millage increases. Property tax hike proponents are hurting this state’s economy daily, and this problem is getting worse with the automatic property tax hikes caused every spring. In addition, Kansans’ average income already lags well below the national average but our per pupil school spending is well above both the national and the amounts spent in neighboring states. In the 2004-05 school year, the average public school student will cost taxpayers $10,162 according to the most recent Kansas Department of Education budget figures. This is a large increase over the 2003-04 spending of $9,235 and the first time the statewide average went into five figures.

The KNEA lobbyist took the position that all taxes should be raised to meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s mandate on school finance. This is a blatant attempt to mislead Kansans since the court did not issue any such requirement to raise taxes. It’s not there. The court’s decision is less than five pages long and can be found at: www.kscourts.org/ kscases/supct/2005/20050103/92032.htm. You should go on line and make up your own mind by reading this court’s edict.

Governor Sebelius wants to raise Kansas taxes to help the various spending lobbies in Kansas. Kansas government is too large today. Any tax increase to expand Kansas government is like taking your 400 pound friend out to your local donut shop. Kansas cannot tax itself wealthy or spend ourselves rich.

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

Rep. Loganbill Advocates More Tax Brackets

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

TABOR: not fair?

Mr. Gary Brunk, executive director of Kansas Action for Children, wrote a letter published in The Wichita Eagle on February 23, 2005, opposing a taxpayer bill of rights, or TABOR, in Kansas. As evidence of TABOR’s failure in Colorado, he cites the low rate of childhood immunization in that state.

It is unfortunate that so many Colorado children don’t receive immunizations. Mr. Brunk, however, presents no evidence that Colorado’s TABOR is the cause. It is tempting to conclude that when both x and y are present that x must be the cause of y, but this is not evidence of actual causation. It is possible that other factors are responsible.

Besides, we might ask this question: Why should the taxpayers of Colorado pay to immunize others’ children? I think the answer many might give is that if the state supplies relatively inexpensive immunizations, the state can avoid paying the substantial healthcare costs for children who become ill with diseases the immunizations prevent.

This is undeniably true, and leads to the even-larger question: Why have states become responsible for providing healthcare (and other services) for so many? Mr. Brunk makes a case for what he terms a “fair” tax system. I submit that a tax system that takes money from one group of people and gives it to another group to whom it does not belong, no matter how noble the intent, is not in any sense fair. That is, if by fair Mr. Brunk means moral.

The economist Walter E. Williams makes the case succinctly: “Can a moral case be made for taking the rightful property of one American and giving it to another to whom it does not belong? I think not. That’s why socialism is evil. It uses evil means (coercion) to achieve what are seen as good ends (helping people). We might also note that an act that is inherently evil does not become moral simply because there’s a majority consensus.”

It is the runaway growth in taxes and spending — the taking of one person’s property and giving it to another — that a TABOR seeks to stem. A TABOR does not tell legislators how they must allocate state funds; it merely places a limit on how much they can spend. Legislators can still make judgments each year as to which programs are most important. Spending will most likely keep growing, but slower than it has.

The forces that want to increase taxes and spending by increasing amounts are always working and must be restrained. For example, Mr. Brunk, in his letter, advocates legislation that will require “a biannual report on the proportion of their income that people in different income levels pay in taxes.” Reading this, I get the strong impression that Mr. Brunk believes we do not pay enough tax. But for those who believe that state government is already large enough, a TABOR is the best way to manage its growth.

Legislative Delegation, Saturday February 5, 2005

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

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

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

A Taxpayer Bill of Rights for Kansas, Please

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Daschle’s Defeat, Media Filters, and Kansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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