Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday July 10, 2011

Wichita city council. This week the Wichita City Council considers these major items of interest: Capps Manufacturing, Inc. seeks to avoid paying property tax on an expansion of its plant. Under the city’s Economic Development Exemption (EDX) Program, the company, according to city documents, is eligible to avoid paying 80 percent of the property tax on the expansion for a period of ten years. The documents state: “Based on the 2010 mill levy, the estimated taxable value of exempted property for the first full year is approximately $38,387.” I believe this is incorrect; that figure is the amount of property tax that would be paid on the value of the property. If the council approves, Capps will be forgiven 80 percent of that tax — nearly $31,000 per year.

Bombardier Learjet seeks issuance of $2,564,275 in Industrial Revenue Bonds. The benefit to the company is that the property purchased with bond proceeds is exempt from property taxes, which is estimated by the city to be worth $76,966 per year in taxes that Bombardier won’t be required to pay. Also, property purchased with bond proceeds isn’t subject to the sales tax. If all the items being purchased are taxable, this means Bombardier could escape paying $187,192 in sales tax. Under the IRB program, the city is not the lender and does not guarantee that bonds will be repaid.

There will be a public hearing for a facade improvement program loan for a building at 1525 E. Douglas to house GLMV Architecture. This action will loan $500,000 for the purposes of sprucing up the outside of the building, with that amount, plus interest, to be paid back in the form of special assessments collected with the regular property tax. It’s similar to the special assessment financing used in new housing developments, but here applied to existing structures. Interestingly, the city documents proclaim a “gap,” meaning that “applicants show a financial need for public assistance in order to complete the project, based on the owner’s ability to finance the project and assuming a market-based return on investment.” In other words, private financing was not available, so the city steps in, and we have another example of the city investing in money-losing projects. Although it is likely the city will be paid back, the program also includes a $30,000 grant for this project. That, of course, is a gift from Wichita taxpayers made by the city council, and will not be paid back. In addition to assistance from Wichita and its taxpayers, GLMV also benefits from state and federal taxpayers, too. Its application for historic preservation tax credits has been approved. Under the state program, GLMV is eligible for tax credits of 25 percent of the $2 million cost of the project, so Kansas taxpayers will be giving this company $500,000.

The council will be asked to receive and file the city manager’s budget. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

Kansas news media criticized. Kansas University political science professor Burdett Loomis takes a look at Kansas news media, particularly its coverage of the Brownback administration, and finds it lacking. In his listing of Kansas news media, Loomis misses a few outlets, namely Kansas Watchdog and Kansas Reporter. This is in contrast to his characterization of Dome on the Range as a “serious attempt.” This is laughable. Dome on the Range, written anonymously, exists primarily to poke fun at conservatives, many times for reasons that have little to do with serious issues of public policy. After several posts in March, DOTR had no posts in May, and one each in June and July. This, combined with anonymity — meaning the author is not willing to be accountable — doesn’t qualify as serious. But DOTR meshes well with Loomis’ personal politics, and Kansas Watchdog and Reporter are sponsored by conservative groups. … Loomis is correct in his assessment of the Kansas Health Institute as a valuable resource for reporting. … The op-ed is at Insight Kansas: Covering Kansas Conservatism.

The revolving door. Between government and lobbying, that is. Latest example: The Lawrence Journal-World through the Associated Press reports that Michael White, Chief of Staff for Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, is becoming a lobbyist for ITC Great Plains, an electric transmission company. The article says that White will oversee the company’s lobbying in Kansas and Oklahoma.

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