Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday January 16, 2012

Tax cuts = extra income? Commenting on Kansas tax reform, Wichita Business Journal editor Bill Roy said “Certainly for business people, it’s the elimination of the income tax on business income. … They’ll appreciate having that extra income that they can use on other things in their business.” I don’t know how much thought Roy gave to these remarks, but his easy likening of lower taxes to extra income is symptomatic of the problem: We have become accustomed to government having a claim on our income. In the rare instances where government gives up part of that claim, we taxpayers are supposed to view it as a gift, as something extra. Roy’s remarks were broadcast on the KPTS television program Impact while discussing Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s tax reform plan. … Similar lines of thinking are revealed whenever it is said that tax cuts “cost” the government. The proper way of thinking is that government is a cost to the people, and whenever the cost of government is reduced, we experience a benefit. That is, we the people, as contrasted to the political class. If the government cuts taxes, the government gives us nothing. It simply takes less of what is ours in the first place. … I’m also reminded of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who when commenting on a reduction of the Kansas business machinery tax, said “We’re not giving away money for the sake of giving it away.”

Revenue-neutral tax reform. If Kansas tax reform is to be revenue-neutral, that — by definition — means that if one person pays less, someone else has to make up the difference. Peter Hancock of Kansas Education Policy Report has such an example in his post Winners and Losers in Brownback’s Tax Plan. A low-income family would experience a tax increase of $442 (mostly through loss of the Earned Income Tax Credit), while a middle class family with business income would save about $300. These examples were released by Kansas Democrats. … Hancock also reports that the Brownback administration’s projections assume 5.9 percent annual growth, instead of the standard 4 percent used by the Consensus Estimating Group. A common criticism of President Barack Obama’s administration is that its projections are based on an overly-optimistic rate of future economic growth. We shouldn’t do the same in Kansas.

Peterjohn to speak. This Friday (January 20th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. He says he will speak on “critical national problems we are facing with a historical perspective.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On January 27, 2012: The Honorable Jennifer Jones, Administrative Judge, Wichita Municipal Court, speaking on “An overview of the Wichita Municipal Court.”

Southwest to fly to Wichita. Since it gobbled up AirTran, the question has been: Will Southwest Airlines provide service in Wichita? Now we know the answer is yes. While the airline has recently started service in some markets without the large, ongoing subsidies that Wichita and the state provide, that won’t be the case in Wichita, according to news reports. … Last year I reported on Southwest starting service in Charleston, South Carolina, whose metropolitan area population is similar to that of Wichita: “In the Charleston situation, there evidently won’t be the massive state-supplied subsidy as we have in Kansas. But Southwest will still get a leg up: A USA Today story quotes a Charleston airport official saying ‘Southwest didn’t want a state subsidy, but was interested in the airport’s incentives a temporary waiver of landing fees, up to $10,000 to market new flights, and up to $150,000 for other start-up costs.'” That’s a lot less than what Wichita and Kansas offer. .. Will the need for subsidies last? About this time last year, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said “The Southwest business model doesn’t require subsidies over a long period of time.” Of course, we were told that the subsidy for AirTran would be required for only a short period, but the program grew and grew until it is now considered part of our state’s transportation infrastructure.

Kansas economic development incentives. In an Insight Kansas column, Professor Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University concludes: “No state will abandon the tax-incentive recruitment strategy for fear of being the only business suitor with nothing to offer. But the tax-incentive strategy remains a risky one, and perhaps it is time for Kansas and other governments to re-evaluate the practice.” … Earlier in the article he cites the lack of oversight among the states: “States and localities are regularly in competition with one another for scarce jobs. However, a 2001 article in Economic Development Quarterly reported that, despite the billions distributed annually as incentives, states were doing little evaluation of incentives’ effectiveness or their return on investment.” (Kansas has done a little of this; see here. A quote from the Kansas audit: “Most studies of economic development incentives suggest these incentives don’t have a significant impact on economic growth. The literature we reviewed concluded that, thus far, negative and inconclusive findings are far more numerous than positive findings. Most reviews of economic development assistance find few results are achieved — a theme that audits in Kansas and other states commonly find, as well. Findings of ineffectiveness include promised jobs weren’t created, return on investment is low or negative, and incentives offered weren’t a determining factor.” But also: “The literature also suggests that economic development incentives must be offered to remain competitive with other states.”) … But I think there is a way out. In his paper Embracing Dynamism: The Next Phase in Kansas Economic Development Policy, Professor Art Hall of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business wrote this regarding “benchmarking” — the bidding wars for large employers that are the subject of Rackaway’s article: “Kansas can break out of the benchmarking race by developing a strategy built on embracing dynamism. Such a strategy, far from losing opportunity, can distinguish itself by building unique capabilities that create a different mix of value that can enhance the probability of long-term economic success through enhanced opportunity. Embracing dynamism can change how Kansas plays the game.”

Story is broken. “Prof. Art Carden responds to ‘The Story of Broke,’ a recent video by the creators of ‘The Story of Stuff.’ In ‘The Story of Broke,’ Annie Leonard claims that the government isn’t actually broke. Rather, the government just wastes resources on the wrong things like subsidies to the dinosaur economy and war. She claims that the government should change its ways, and instead, subsidize firms that will bring us the future we really want. Art Carden agrees with Leonard that war and subsidies are wasteful, but is skeptical of notion that there is one unified vision for the future. To Carden, everyone has a different vision for the future. Our path to the future, he argues, is determined by the interactions of billions of unique individuals pursuing their own objectives. … Carden concludes that government spending won’t buy a brighter future. A brighter future will emerge when people are allowed to spend money on things they care about. Put another way, positive change will come from billions of people cooperating freely and voluntarily with one another, not from pushing trillions of dollars through a broken political process.” This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.

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