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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.

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