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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday March 25, 2011

Elections coming up. On Tuesday April 5 voters across Kansas will vote in city and school board elections. Voting has been underway for about a week through the advance voting process. For those who haven’t yet decided, here’s the Wichita Eagle voter guide. You can get a list of the candidates, along with their responses to questions, customized for your address.

Campaign signs. The placement of political campaign signs can be an issue. Here is a City of Wichita letter describing placement rules, and a diagram. … If you live in a neighborhood with covenants prohibiting campaign signs, the covenants don’t apply at election time. See In Kansas, political signs are okay, despite covenants.

In Kansas, cutting unnecessary spending can avoid service cuts. Following up on Kansas state agency spending, Kansas Policy Institute finds examples of spending on overtime, advertising, cell phones, and dues, memberships and subscriptions totaling $50 million. KPI president Dave Trabert remarked: “Hardly a day goes by that we don’t see some group or state agency saying they will have to cut necessary services if their funding is reduced, but it’s pretty clear that there are lots of other ways to reduce spending. Some degree of spending in these categories is understandable, but the data clearly show that large amounts of taxpayer money are being spent unnecessarily.” Other examples uncovered by KPI: “The Legislature spent $144,408 to join the National Council of State Legislators and also spent $107,022 to join the Council of State Governments. The Governor’s office bought memberships in three governors’ associations: the National Governor’s Association ($83,800), the Western Governors’ Association ($36,000) and the Midwestern Governors’ Association ($10,000).” More is in the KPI press release K-State #1 in Cell Phone Spending: Cutting unnecessary spending can avoid service cuts.

March to Economic Growth stalled. The Kansas House of Representatives has passed a bill that would gradually reduce Kansas personal and corporate income tax rates. The so-called MEGA bill wold create a mechanism where if revenue flowing to the state increases, income tax rates would be reduced proportionally, after adjusting for inflation. Besides lowering these tax rates, which would make Kansas more attractive to business and jobs, the bill would also decrease the rate of growth of spending. But Senate leadership, namely its president, doesn’t care for the bill, so it appears it is dead this year. Last year Senate President Stephen Morris was strongly in favor of the statewide sales tax increase. Despite being a member of the Republican Party, he is part of the Senate’s liberal wing, according to the Kansas Economic Freedom Index and other legislative ratings.

Open records under attack. CommonSense with Paul Jacob reports on efforts underway in Utah to reduce citizens’ ability to learn about their government: “House Bill 477 changes the core of the GRAMA law, mandating that citizens must prove they deserve access to records, rather than the previous rule requiring government officials to show cause for why a document should not be released. The legislation also exempts text messages, emails and voicemails from being disclosed, the better to keep lobbyists and special interests out of the limelight.” The Daily Herald wrote: “The principle of open government now would apply only when ‘the public interest favoring access to the record outweighs the interest favoring restriction of access to the record,’ in the opinion of the government.” … This bill actually became law, but so much public opinion was roused that it is likely the Utah legislature will overturn the act, according to reports. … Jacob’s email on this matter was subtitled “Paul Jacob notices nearly absolute power corrupting GOP legislators in Utah.”

Ignorant or just ill-informed? L. Brent Bozell in Investor’s Business Daily: “Anyone who’s ever seen Jay Leno do one of his ‘Jaywalking’ segments on NBC, locating average Americans and asking them factual questions on street corners, knows there are far too many Americans who know next to nothing about just about everything. They can’t name our first president or don’t know what the phrase ‘Founding Fathers’ means. Ask them to name our current vice president and watch the brain waves flat line. Newsweek magazine recently announced its disgust after it offered the government’s official citizenship test (the one we require immigrants to pass before being naturalized) to 1,000 Americans. Thirty-eight percent of the sample failed. Newsweek worried in its headline: ‘The country’s future is imperiled by our ignorance.'” Locally, I am reminded of the Kansas Policy Institute and its survey of Kansans and their knowledge of school spending. Regarding that, I reported: “When talking about Kansas school spending, few Kansans have accurate information. Those with children in the public school system are even more likely to be uninformed regarding accurate figures.”

Government spending overrides privates spending. The last two days have featured readings from Robert P. Murphy’s book Lessons for the Young Economist on the importance of profits and loses in guiding investment, and how government is unable to calculate its profit or loss. Today, Murphy explains government spending and the political process: For example, suppose the government decides to build a public library in order to make books and internet access free to the community. Because the government only has a limited budget, it won’t do something ridiculously wasteful such as coating the library with gold, or stocking the shelves with extremely rare first editions of Steinbeck and Hemingway novels. Suppose the government tries to be conscientious, puts out bids to several reputable contractors, and has a modest library constructed for $400,000. Yet even if outside auditors or investigative journalists could find nothing corrupt or shocking about the process, the question would still remain: Was it worth it to spend $400,000 on building this particular library, in this particular location? The crucial point is that we know one thing for certain: No entrepreneur thought that he could earn enough revenues from charging for book borrowing to make such an enterprise worthwhile. We know this because the library didn’t exist until the government used its own funds to build it! One way to think about government expenditures is that they necessarily call forth the creation of goods and services that people in the private sector did not deem worth producing. When the government spends money, it directs resources away from where private spending decisions would have steered them, and into projects that would not be profitable if private entrepreneurs had produced them relying on voluntary funding. Thus the political authorities in an interventionist economy face one-half of the socialist calculation problem. … The government in essence is a giant distributor of charitable donations. Even those citizens who welcome the concept should ask themselves: Why do we need to route our donations through the political process? Why not decentralize the decisions and allow each person to donate his or her funds to the various charities that seem most worthy? … Regardless of its possible benefits, government spending suffers from the calculation problem afflicting socialism. The system allows a select group of political authorities to override the input of private individuals in how (some of) their property should be used to steer resources into various projects. This is a very serious drawback for anyone who favors interventionism as a way to increase the “general welfare,” however defined.

Kansas income is growing. While still lower than its peak in 2008, wage and salary income in Kansas is on the way up, and has been throughout 2010.

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous March 25, 2011

    It realy helps the kansas economy when cattle prices are up and wheat is worth more than it costs to produce. Agriculture, Kansas’s biggest industry and export.

  2. ictator March 27, 2011

    Kansas state unemployment is a couple of points below the national average. The state average is below the Wichita average too.

    Agriculture and the high prices are a big reason for this trend. North Dakota is the state doing best and that is due to the massive growth in oil exploration due to the big find there. It would be great if the new oil exploration technology could rejuvenate some of the old oil fields here.

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