Kansas government data may not be available

There is a movement to increase the transparency of government in Kansas, but there’s much to be done, starting with attitudes.

One of the major economic development programs in Kansas is PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. 1 It provides benefits to companies when they expand their operations in Kansas, or sometimes when they merely threaten to leave. The recent expansion by Spirit AeroSystems is reported to benefit from $23.5 million in PEAK cash. 2

But finding out how much PEAK benefits are awarded each year is difficult, even though the state relies heavily on this program. It also appears that the Kansas Department of Commerce, the agency that awards and administers PEAK, isn’t aware of how many programs, and at what cost, have been authorized.

At one time a summary of PEAK data was readily available from the state. It covered fiscal years 2010 through 2015. 3 My inquiries late last year to the PEAK program manager for updated information were fruitless, despite many email and telephone messages. None were returned.

But a request to the interim director was answered. The answer is that the data through 2015 was a one-time effort, and there are no reports similar to that with recent data.

The fact that there is no recent data is remarkable. We must wonder if the Department of Commerce cares about things like this, because collecting this data as projects are awarded is not difficult. There aren’t many projects awarded. For the period 2010 through 2015, there were 68 PEAK projects awarded. And just a handful of data items need recording for each project.

But this isn’t done.

I made a request for recent data on PEAK awards, asking for the same data in the previous report: Company Name, Effective Date, Location (County), Proposed Annual Benefit, Benefit Term (Yrs), New or Retained Jobs, Project Payroll, and Additional Project Capital Investment. The response confirmed there is no simple report with the relevant data. I was offered the opportunity to purchase copes of all recent PEAK agreements, estimated to cost $750 to $1,200. Further, these documents would not contain all the data I asked for.

Who is managing?

As part of four initiatives to increase government transparency in Kansas, Governor Jeff Colyer told the legislature, “Third, I will implement performance metrics for Cabinet Agencies so Kansans can see how we perform.” 4 My experience with the Department of Commerce indicates there’s a long way to go. Agencies are not capturing and recording basic data.

Even if the Department of Commerce was capturing this data, there’s still much more analysis to perform. The data I asked for was simply the project parameters at the time PEAK benefits are awarded. The real question is this: Are the projected benefits actually realized?

There ought to be a law

There is a bill this year that would require several state agencies to report on the many programs they administer. It’s titled “HB 2753: An act concerning taxation; relating to income tax credits and sales tax exemptions; periodic review, reports to certain legislative committees.” 5

Kansas taxpayers might have thought this basic management of our tax-funded programs we already in place. It’s especially troubling in that the cost of this management is small. The fiscal note for the bill tells us these agencies already have the capacity to perform this work: “The Insurance Department, Department of Commerce, and Department of Revenue indicate that the administrative costs associated with implementing the provisions of HB 2753 would be negligible and could be absorbed within existing resources. Each agency would be responsible to collect and organize information regarding certain tax credits, incentives, and exemptions on a yearly basis.”


Notes

  1. Weeks, Bob. PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/peak-promoting-employment-across-kansas/.
  2. Jerry Siebenmark. New facility part of Spirit’s new jobs, expansion plan. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/business/aviation/article201082884.html.
  3. Weeks, Bob. PEAK benefits across Kansas. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/peak-benefits-across-kansas/.
  4. Governor Jeff Colyer’s Joint Address, February 8, 2018. Available at https://governor.kansas.gov/governor-jeff-colyers-joint-address/.
  5. Kansas Legislature. HB 2753: Review of tax credits, tax exemptions and economic development programs. Available at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/hb2753/.

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