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Spending and the true cost of government

(WICHITA) – While lawmakers face a challenge to increase spending from many directions, they need to resist some of these pressures in order to control excessive government spending. In a policy brief released by the Flint Hills Center, “The Virtue of a Self-Imposed Spending Cap for the Kansas Legislature,” Jonathan Williams documents the growth of state spending in Kansas. This year the combined spending of state and local government in Kansas will exceed $15 billion, up from $ 4 billion in 1957. Even when adjusted for inflation, that represents a 279 percent increase in that period. Accordingly, in that same period, per capita spending has grown from $2000 to $5700.

The constant pressure on lawmakers to continually spend more is also reflected in Williams’ review of Kansas spending over the last 15 years. The Kansas Department of Budget statistics show a 54 percent real growth of State General Fund spending and a 51 percent real growth of total state spending.

There is a tendency for legislators and citizens to focus their attention on taxes. Often, however, taxes will remain constant while the economy is strong, but spending will increase at double digit rates. The spending then becomes unsustainable when the economy weakens. Williams warns that lawmakers and citizens need to understand the concept that total spending equals the truest cost of government, or excessive spending will continue at all levels of government. Read more in The Virtue of a Self-Imposed Spending Cap for the Kansas Legislature found at www.flinthills.org.

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