HCR 5009: An attempt to drive down property taxes

From Representative Frank Miller


The Kansas Legislative Research Department provided information substantiating that property taxes increased by 126 percent since 1993, yet the inflation rate adjusted for population growth increased only 43 percent! I don’t see how the appraised value of residential property could have risen 2.75 times faster than inflation adjusted for population growth! I would suggest that appraisers are encouraged to over-appraise property in order to satisfy the need for increased property taxes without increasing the mill levy. I authored this bill in the hopes of restraining appraisers from adjusting the value of your property to a value that is higher than market value. Is not the selling price of your home the only true value for “MARKET VALUE”?

The key wording in the resolution would change the Constitution as follows: “The legislature shall provide that the appraised valuation of real property used for residential purposes which has been sold shall be adjusted to an amount equal to the average of the appraised valuation of such real property when sold determined pursuant to law and the sales price of such real property when sold.”

The clearest way to explain what this resolution would do is to offer an example. Assume that the latest appraised value of your home is $50,000, but during the year you put your home up for sale. Let’s further assume that your asking price was $55,000, but after much time the best price you could get was only $40,000. The county appraiser would be required by this change in the constitution to reduce the appraised value to half the difference or to $45,000. Is not the closest value to true market value the price a house is sold for on the market? This change reduces, or in like manner increases, the appraised value of residential property in a fair manner and in a manner that mirrors much closer the true market value of property.

There is nothing in the bill prohibiting appraisers from adjusting the appraised value of your home the following year. However, property owners will have a much stronger argument if the new appraised value represents an unreasonable increase, and this is at the heart of this resolution. The resolution will check the tendency to over evaluate the appraised value of residential property.

What kind of sales does this apply to? This bill would apply to arm’s-length sales. You could not sell your house to a relative (i.e. son, wife, etc) in order to manipulate artificially the appraised value of your property. I think this bill would be very beneficial to Kansans in trying to keep the escalation of property taxes in check. Unfortunately, the resolution at this moment is stuck in the House Taxation Committee and likely will not get out of committee this year. I will be pushing this resolution again next year. Let me know what you think.

To contact Rep. Frank Miller write, telephone, or email to P.O. Box 665, Independence, KS, 67301, Tel: (Home) 620-331-0281; Topeka office 785-296-7646, Email [email protected] or [email protected] Take a look at Frank’s updated webpage www.frankmiller.org.

Letter to County Commissioners Regarding AirTran Subsidy

March 18, 2005

Board of Sedgwick County Commissioners

Dear Commissioner:

I am writing to explain my opposition to Sedgwick County funding the AirTran subsidy.

My primary reason for opposing this subsidy is that it distorts the market process through which individuals and businesses decide how to most productively allocate capital.

Aside from that, it seems to me that the argument that many Fair Fares supporters make is flawed. They are grossly — I would say even speciously — overstating the importance of the airport to our local economy.

As an example, Mr. Troy Carlson, then Chairman of Fair Fares, wrote a letter that was published on September 16, 2004 in the Wichita Eagle. In that letter he claimed $2.4 billion economic benefit from the Fair Fares program ($4.8 billion for the entire state). I was curious about how these figures were derived. Through correspondence With Mr. Steve Flesher, air service development director for the city of Wichita, I learned that the basis for them is a study by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University that estimates the economic impact of the airport at $1.6 billion annually. In this study, the salaries of the employees of Cessna and Bombardier, because these companies use the airport’s facilities, are counted as economic impact dollars that the airport is responsible for generating.

To me, this accounting doesn’t make sense on several levels. For one thing, if we count the economic impact of the income of these employees as belonging to the airport, what then do we say about the economic impact of Cessna and Bombardier? We would have to count it as very little, because the impact of their employees’ earnings has been assigned to the airport.

Or it may be that someday Cessna or Bombardier will ask Sedgwick County for some type of economic subsidy, and they will use these same economic impact dollars in their justification. But these dollars will have already been used, as they were attributed to the airport.

Or suppose that Cessna tires of being on the west side of town, so it moves east and starts using Jabara Airport. Would Cessna’s economic impact on Sedgwick County be any different? I think it wouldn’t. But its impact on the Wichita airport would now be zero. Similar reasoning would apply if Cessna built its own runway.

An article I wrote titled Stretching Figures Strains Credibility provides more information, including a link to the Center for Economic Development and Business Research study.

I would be happy to speak to the County Commission as a group if you think they would be interested.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Bob Weeks

Affording Tax Cuts, or Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

The logic of paygo for taxes is backward, in that it starts from the assumption that all tax revenue is Washington’s in the first place and thus any tax cuts must be “offset” so Congress can be made whole. But of course the money belongs to the taxpayers who earned it, and the burden ought to be on the politicians to spend less so Americans can keep more. Republicans claim to believe this. (“Budget Irresolution,” The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2005)

“Paygo” refers to the “pay-as-you-go” budget rules, which require that any tax cuts be offset by other tax increases. Alternatively, we often hear politicians at all levels claim that we can’t afford tax cuts.

If we stop and think for a moment, we should easily be able to recognize the absurdity of politicians claiming we can’t afford tax cuts. The mindset behind this is that the tax money belongs to the government in the first place, and if we are lucky enough, the politicians might cut our taxes a little, if they decide they can afford it.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial rightly says, the money is ours to begin with! How have we descended to the level where politicians don’t understand this, that is the taxpayer that can’t afford to pay taxes, that taxes are a drain on the growth of our economy?

Part of the answer may be found in the small book “The Law” by Frederic Bastiat. A link to an online version of it may be found on the “Other websites, resources” section of this website.

Americans for Prosperity Day in Topeka, March 14, 2005

I had the pleasure of driving John Todd, Benny Boman, and Bill Davitt to Topeka for the Americans for Prosperity Day in Topeka on Monday March 14, 2005.

We started the day at the AFP office, and then drove to the Kansas Statehouse. I met with several legislators including Representatives Bonnie Huy of Wichita, Ted Powers of Mulvane, and Kenny Wilk of Lansing. I attended the Republican House caucus, and observed the House from the gallery.

We had a luncheon where I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Representative Bill McCreary of Wellington, from whom I learned much about how the Kansas House works.

After lunch we met in the House gallery where Speaker of the House Doug Mays, Majority Leader Clay Aurand, and Representative Brenda Landwehr of Wichita spoke to us. There was a press conference about AFP’s activities. I was then able to meet Senator Peggy Palmer of Augusta, who impressed me as a liberty-protecting legislator.

There was a reception at the end of the day, where I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Senator Kay O’Connor of Olathe. She is an advocate of school choice and vouchers. I learned a great deal from her.

We returned to Wichita at about 9:30 pm. Having left Wichita at 6:00 am, it was a long and tiring day. But I learned much about how our state government works.

A slide show of some photos I took is here: https://wichitaliberty.org/files/afp_day_in_topeka_2005-03-14/index.html

Let free markets determine downtown Wichita’s viability

“Wichita’s been an east/west town for as long as I can remember. Obviously, we’re trying to change that,” says Tom Johnson, president of the upcoming downtown project, WaterWalk. (Wichita Business Journal, March 4, 2005)

A healthy community needs a healthy downtown. … In Downtown, public investment has a proven track record of generating new, private investment. Since 1990, the government’s investment of $165 million has stimulated $248 million in private investment. (Voteyea.com website.)

“Anything downtown seems to be off-limits for criticism or analysis. I don’t know why it is,” Lambke said. (Council member Phil Lambke, Wichita Eagle, November 14, 2004)

If you listen to local Wichita news media, our local politicians, and various community advocates, the desirability of downtown development over other development is accepted as a given. But what people actually do with their own money is different.

Free markets, since they represent people voluntarily entering into transactions that they believe will benefit them, lead to the most equitable and efficient allocation of scarce resources. When left to their own free will, most people and businesses in Wichita have decided to purchase property somewhere other than downtown. I don’t know why people have made this choice, and that’s really not important to me. What is important to me is that people and businesses make the choice of where to invest voluntarily. By investing in parts of town other than downtown, they are assigning a higher value to non-downtown property. As far as I know, no one is forcing this decision. People and businesses make it of their own free will.

As it happens, some people don’t agree with the choices that most people and businesses have made. They believe that people and businesses should have purchased property downtown. They are, in effect, telling us that we have made a poor decision. They propose, and are in the process of doing just this, to trump the decisions of individuals and businesses with their own. They do this through the political process and the tax system. They take tax money and give it to businesses to induce them to locate downtown.

Why don’t businesses voluntarily locate downtown, using their own money? There can only be one answer to this question: When spending their own money, most businesses have decided that the most productive use of it is to invest it somewhere other than downtown Wichita.

It is adding insult to injury when we realize that the tax money given away comes largely from people who have voted — with their own dollars — not to do what these tax dollars are used to promote. It is a further blow when we realize that the money given to downtown businesses in the form of incentives makes our town poorer as a whole. Why is that? It’s because that most people and businesses, when exercising their own best judgment, have decided that investing in downtown Wichita is not the most productive use of their resources. When the government, using its power to tax, makes a different decision for us, resources are not allocated as efficiently and productively. Therefore, we are poorer.

The result of all this is that we have the spectacle of the people of Wichita, voting with their own dollars, making one choice. Then the politicians and various quasi-public organizations say, “No, citizens of Wichita, you are wrong,” and impose their will on the people of Wichita through their power to tax. How arrogant is that?

Why is the Wichita news media not interested?

This is a version of a letter that I have been sending to (mostly) Wichita-area newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. Some have expressed some interest and have even assigned reporters to look into this, but so far no stories have appeared.


February 11, 2005

Sherry Chisenhall
The Wichita Eagle

Dear Ms. Chishenhall,

I am writing to express my concern over the lack of reporting on some important issues regarding the downtown Wichita arena tax.

My research has uncovered several findings, which I summarize here:

1. The WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research study does not include depreciation costs, even though Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 34 requires governments to depreciate their assets. Incredibly, the CEDBR at WSU was not aware of this requirement when they prepared the study that was used to promote the proposed arena. They admitted this when I called it to their attention.

2. The WSU study did not allow for the substitution effect. This is the term used to describe what research has found: that much of the new economic activity such as bars and restaurants that might appear around a downtown arena would be bars and restaurants that have moved from other parts of the city. There is little or no new economic activity, just movement of existing activity. Mr. Ed Wolverton, President of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, admitted this oversight in a television news story.

3. Arena proponents cite economic benefit as a reason why the community as a whole should pay for the construction and operation of the arena. I have found no research that supports the claim of economic benefit. There is, however, ample research to the contrary. For example, in a paper titled “Professional Sports Facilities, Franchises and Urban Economic Development” (UMBC Economics Department Working Paper 03-103) by Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County we find this quote:

“Siegfried and Zimbalist (2000) recently surveyed the growing literature on retrospective studies of the economic impact of sports facilities and franchises on local economies. The literature published in peer-reviewed academic journals differs strikingly from the predictions in ‘economic impact studies.’ No retrospective econometric study found any evidence of positive economic impact from professional sports facilities or franchises on urban economies.”

I created a handout I made for the legislators that provides more information. A link to it is here:

https://wichitaliberty.org/files/Sedgwick_County_Legislative_Delegation_2005-02-05.pdf

There has been much recent news about the financial performance of publicly-owned institutions. Often government leaders proclaim their ignorance about what the facts of the matter were, and then your newspaper has to editorialize about government leaders not doing due diligence before committing to projects. Mr. Brownlee wrote such an editorial just this week.

Here we have a final opportunity to examine the issues involving the wisdom of a taxpayer-built arena before it is too late. I am not asking that you believe what I have said just on my say-so. I believe, however, that the people of our town would appreciate someone with the skill and experience of your reporters performing an investigation to see if they reach the same conclusions I have.

Testimony in Opposition to Senate Bill 58

From John Todd.


Members
House Taxation Committee
State Capitol
Topeka, Kansas 66612

Subject:
Testimony in OPPOSITION TO SENATE BILL #58 (Sales Tax Increase For The Proposed Downtown Wichita Arena).

My name is John Todd. I am a self-employed real estate broker from Wichita, and I come before you in opposition to the enabling legislation that would allow Sedgwick County to raise the local sales tax 1% to fund a new Downtown Arena in violation of current state law.

Under current state law, Counties in Kansas are not authorized to raise county sales taxes for projects like the proposed Downtown Wichita Arena without first obtaining the required legislative approval prior to any vote of the public. A public vote advertised as non-binding was held in Sedgwick County on November 2, 2004 without the legislative approval as required by law, and now Sedgwick County officials are asking you to approve this illegal vote retroactively to the November General Election.

Before you consider the favorable passage of Senate Bill #58 into law that would make an illegal vote legal, ex post facto, after the fact, and retroactively, you really ought to consider what was the original legislative intent of the current state law in the first place, and whether it is good precedence to allow counties to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. Does anyone suppose that the intent of the current law was a desire on the part of prior legislators to exercise some modest control over a counties ability to “approve” massive sales tax hikes on it’s citizens, particularly for non-essential entertainment venues like arenas? Do you, as legislators not have a fiduciary responsibility to your constituents and the people of Kansas by demanding that local governmental units follow the rule of law in the same manner as you expect citizens to follow the law? If the current statute is flawed, perhaps you should be working to correct those flaws before you allow Sedgwick County to break the law?

The solution to this problem is for you to reject Senate Bill #58 or at a bare minimum, I would suggest that you amend the Bill by approving the 1% sales tax subject to new vote of the people, as current state law requires. Local governmental units should not be allowed to selectively ignore the state law(s) they chooses not to follow by essentially placing themselves above the law. This sets bad legislative precedence, and you should not allow it to happen.

Sincerely,

John R. Todd

Testimony regarding House Bill No. 2132

Written testimony of Bob Weeks regarding House Bill No. 2132. A pdf version is available here: https://wichitaliberty.org/files/House_Bill_2132_Testimony_by_Bob_Weeks_2005-03-10.pdf

March 10, 2005

Thank you for allowing me to present this written testimony. I realize that the voters in Sedgwick County voted for the arena sales tax increase. I believe, however, there is ample reason why you should vote against the tax. The idea of the taxpayer-funded arena came about so fast in the summer of 2004 that there was little thought given to the underlying issues. I wish to present what my research has uncovered.

WSU Study Not Complete

On of the main arguments advanced for having all the residents of Sedgwick County pay to build the arena was a study prepared by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University. The study claimed a large economic benefit from the arena. It is because of this economic benefit that arena supporters say the entire community should pay to build the arena. This study, however, is incomplete in two important areas: its lack of depreciation accounting, and it ignores the substitution effect.

No Depreciation Accounting

Government Accounting Standards Board Statement 34 requires governments to account for the cost of their assets, usually by stating depreciation expense each year. Through a series of email exchanges with Mr. Ed Wolverton, President of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, I have learned that the WSU Center for Economic Development and Business Research was not aware of this requirement when they prepared their study. Mr. Wolverton admitted this after checking with the study authors. Furthermore, Mr. Chris Chronis, Chief Financial Officer of Sedgwick County, in an email conversation told me that the county will take depreciation expense for the downtown arena. I do not know what a figure for depreciation expense would be, but it would likely be several million dollars per year, and it would materially and substantially change the arena’s financial footing.

No Substitution Effect Allowed For

In a television new story reported by Mr. Erik Runge of KWCH Television on October 25, 2004, I was interviewed, and I mentioned the substitution effect. This is the term used to describe what research has found: that much of the new economic activity such as bars and restaurants that might appear around a downtown arena would be bars and restaurants that have moved from other parts of the city. There is little or no new economic activity, just movement of existing activity. Mr. Runge interviewed Mr. Ed Wolverton, President of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, who said “In WSU’s report they felt like there definitely could be some substitution effect.” The reporter explained “But how much was never studied. Downtown development backer Ed Wolverton says mostly due to time restraints.”

These two glaring omissions of materially important facts by the WSU study should lead us to question its other findings. Other than the report on KWCH, I saw no reporting of these two matters.

Claimed Economic Benefit is Not Realized

Arena supporters say that everyone should pay to build and operate the arena because it will generate economic impact that everyone will benefit from. The economic benefit claimed by arena supporters, however, has not been found to materialize in other cities. In the March 2001 issue of “FedGazette,” published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, an article titled “Stadiums and convention centers as community loss leaders” contains this quote:

“Current research indicates that stadiums and arenas have a particularly bad track record when it comes to delivering on promises of community economic windfalls. University researchers Mark Rosentraub and Mark Swindell found that three decades worth of studies ‘lead to the inescapable conclusion that the direct and indirect economic impacts of sports teams and the facilities are quite small’ and do not create much in the way of new jobs or economic development.”

In a paper titled “Professional Sports Facilities, Franchises and Urban Economic Development” (UMBC Economics Department Working Paper 03-103) by Dennis Coates and Brad R. Humphreys of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County we find this quote:

“Siegfried and Zimbalist (2000) recently surveyed the growing literature on retrospective studies of the economic impact of sports facilities and franchises on local economies. The literature published in peer-reviewed academic journals differs strikingly from the predictions in ‘economic impact studies.’ No retrospective econometric study found any evidence of positive economic impact from professional sports facilities or franchises on urban economies.”

Arena Tax Requires Everyone to Subsidize the Interests of a Few

Since, as current research has found, arenas do not generate the positive economic impact that their supporters claim, the arena tax instead becomes the public as a whole subsidizing the leisure activities of a relatively small number of people. The people who do use the arena, moreover, are quite easy to identify: they purchase tickets to events, or they pay to rent the arena. It is these people who should pay the full cost of the arena construction and operation.

Local Officials Not Truthful

Sedgwick County Commissioners stated that if the downtown arena sales tax did not pass, they would borrow money to renovate the Kansas Coliseum. If we do the math on the figures they quoted, that is to borrow $55 million and pay it back at $6.1 million a year for 20 years, we find that the interest rate is 9.17%, which is a terribly high interest rate for a government to pay. The county commissioners told us they were ready to pay this much if the arena tax didn’t pass.

I wrote to Sedgwick County Commissioner Tom Winters, asking him for an explanation. He replied that the interest rate is really 7.5% for this reason: To the $55.3 million cost of the renovations, we must add $6.5 million for capitalized interest during the construction period, and $.9 million for debt issuance costs. So yes, Commissioner Winters is correct about the 7.5% rate, but this also means that the cost of the Coliseum renovations should be stated as $62.7 million instead of $55 million. But even 7.5% interest is too high to pay.

What is troubling is that local government officials are not being truthful with the public.

A Letter to the Editor is Edited

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Wichita Eagle for publication. It was published today, March 7, 2005.

I have learned a lesson: my letter was much too long. I don’t fault the Eagle for editing for space reasons. I do think, though, that my letter has a much different meaning in its edited form. You can be the judge. I have created a document that shows, side-by-side, my original letter and the published letter. The link is here: https://wichitaliberty.org/files/Letter_of_2005-03-07_Edited.pdf

GOP and ex-GOP Legislators Promoting Higher Kansas Taxes

From Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network


In a March 4 report on Democrat Washington Day events in Topeka, Hawver News Editor Martin Hawver told about two well known Republicans involved in this statewide Democratic Party event. First is former state representative and former house majority leader Joe Hoagland, ex-Rino Johnson County, who told Democrats that, “I’m never going back,” to the KS GOP. Hoagland also claimed that there were a number of fellow GOP “moderates” aka as liberals who would be joining him on becoming Democrats. None were named in this article. Hoagland briefly flirted last year with challenging Sam Brownback in the 2004 GOP primary but decided not to do so.

Also attending this event was, as Hawver described him, “trial lawyer,” state Senator John Vratil, R-Johnson County. Vratil could have also been described as a school district attorney as well as Vice President of the Kansas senate or vice chairman of the senate’s education committee or chairman of the judiciary committee.

Hawver reported that Vratil wanted to see fellow trial attorney John Edwards speak to the Democrat gathering and was attending as a guest of the senate minority leader Tony Hensley. Hawver explicitly said that Vratil was definitely not following Joe Hoagland’s departure from the ranks of the northeast Kansas Rino’s for the Kansas Democratic Party. Regardless of how liberal Vratil can be (he has one of the lowest fiscal scores on KTN’s vote rating) I cannot see Sen. Vratil leaving the GOP while there are 30 Republicans out of 40 Kansas senate seats.

This is information that Kansas conservatives and folks interested in the Repubican Party in Kansas should know about concerning these efforts at “bipartisanship,” as well as a better understanding of the domination by tax ‘n spend, socially liberal Republicans in the Kansas senate’s current leadership. Soon, that leadership is expected to provide a “revenue enhancement” to help fund the second and third year school spending hike proposals coming out of the senate education committee and its liberal Republican leadership.

Last week the senate GOP majority passed a school spending bill that would increase state spending by almost $150 million a year above the current $2.7 billion for less than 445,000 FTE students in the FY 2006 budget. This bill would also require additional increases in local property taxes above this amount because of the state’s spending growth can automatically trigger higher school district spending within the state’s quite complicated school finance formula. Currently, if all state, local, and federal funds in the current budget year are spent, the average per pupil expenditures are budgeted at $10,162 in the 2004-05 school year.

Governor Sebelius, legislative Democrats, school district lobbyists and adminstrators as well as their attornies who are promoting the school finance litigation are all claiming that higher taxes must occur to meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s January 3, 2005 school finance edict. The court’s decision, that cited several areas where public school funding should be increased, is not final but is subject to court revision on or after April 12, 2005.

The legislature is scheduled for an April 1, 2005 first adjournment but will return to Topeka for a three day “veto” or wrap up session on April 27. In 2002, then Governor Graves was successful in getting over $350 million in higher sales, gasoline, cigarette, business franchise, and other taxes enacted during this “veto” session. Since there is not a daily newspaper in this state with a daily circulation exceeding 5,000 a day that has opposed any of the numerous tax, fee, or other “revenue enhancements” that have become annual events in this state since 1999, the final outcome from this year’s legislature is quite uncertain.

Last week the Kansas senate rejected two separate proposals to raise state taxes. A proposal to add a 7.5% surcharge and give Kansas the highest personal income tax rate in our five state region was defeated with only nine votes cast in favor (6 Democrats and 3 Rino’s) proposed by Sen. Pete Brungardt, Rino-Salina. Manhattan Rino Senator Roger Reitz’s proposal to raise the state’s sales tax by 1/2 cent or almost 10 percent (current rate is 5.3%) received only five votes from tax ‘n spend liberal Republicans, but most of the senate Democrats passed on this vote.

The trial attorney heading up the plaintiffs in the Kansas Supreme Court lawsuit, Alan Rupe, is quote in today’s newspapers that both the senate and house passed school finance spending increase proposals are not adequate and in violation of the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision. KTN has not been successful in convincing the legislature to add a provision to the school finance formula that would do three things critical for improving the deeply flawed and expensive school finance system in Kansas. The three changes are: 1) Require that all federal school funds be included in local school district budgets–currently, most Kansas school districts exclude federal title funds from their official budgets; 2) require voter approval for any local or state tax hikes for; and 3) cut state funding for any local school district that either challenges the constitutionality of school finance in Kansas or the adequacy of state funding. If the school district’s lost $5 in state funding for every $1 spent the previous year for school lawsuits, I think this litigation’s funding would dry up quickly. However, if I’m wrong, let’s cut the funding by $10.

Martha, I’m Glad You’re Home

Writing from Newton, Iowa.

Alan Reynolds, writing for the Cato Institute, wrote in June 2003 this:

Believe it or not, the government now charges Martha Stewart with “securities fraud” during that same period because she supposedly tried in vain to prop up her own stock by denying that she was guilty of the crime then charged — insider trading. Yet the government now admits she was never guilty of that crime. Instead, she supposedly “obstructed justice” (her own threatened prosecution for a nonexistent crime) and made “false and misleading statements” about her reasons for making a perfectly legal sale of ImClone shares. Any jury of passably sane people would laugh this out of court.

A link to the full article is here: The Sleazy Political Persecution of Martha.

To me this seems like being charged for protesting a speeding ticket, when the police concede that you weren’t speeding. Welcome home Martha. I’m sorry you had to endure your imprisonment.

Kansas (Our Governor, That Is) Earns a “D”

In a policy analysis published today by the Cato Institute (Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2004) Kansas — or more accurately Kansas’s Governor — earns a grade of “D” based on 15 objective measures of fiscal performance.

The authors state: “Our analysis shows that states that keep tax rates low and restrain spending growth have the best economic performance and thus the best longterm fiscal health.” It is such a simple recipe for success, but so difficult for politicians to implement. As the authors state again:

Yet the sad truth is that the longer most of the senior class Republican governors remained in office — the more comfortable they became in their incumbency and the more the media praised them for “growing in office” — the less resistant they became to higher taxes and increased spending. As a result, they scored lower on the report card.

I think this speaks to the irresistible urge that most politicians have to improve our lives for us. Even conservative politicians who meet with early success can come to believe that their success derived from something they did, instead of what they didn’t do.

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2004 http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=3691

KNEA Tax Plan Would Hurt Kansas

From our friends at the Kansas Taxpayers Network.

KANSAS TAXPAYERS NETWORK
P.O. Box 20050
Wichita, KS 67208
316-684-0082
FAX 316-684-7527
www.kansastaxpayers.com

March 1, 2005
Editorial For Immediate Release

KNEA TAX PLAN WOULD HURT KANSAS

By Karl Peterjohn

The powerful and left-wing National Education Association’s Kansas affiliate is working hard to raise your taxes. In a February Olathe News article Terry Forsyth, one of the Kansas National Education Association’s (KNEA) lobbyists, is quoted claiming that there is no correlation between taxes and job growth.

Obviously Mr. Forsyth seems unfamiliar with high tax and high spending states like New York that have lost jobs and population as people have repeatedly voted with their feet and moved to states with lower taxes and limits on tax growth. Colorado has enjoyed massive economic and population growth since their lid on higher state and local taxes was enacted roughly 15 years ago. The Colorado Taxpayer Bill Of Rights (TABOR) has been a critical factor in helping that state succeed economically and allowed income to grow faster than taxes there.

This KNEA lobbyist claims that job losses in the private sector would be more than offset by roughly doubling the number of jobs working for government. That’s a paradigm for inefficiency and another excuse for government “make work” programs. That didn’t work in the 1930’s during the Great Depression in this country and it didn’t work as an engine for economic growth in the old Soviet Union either.

The Wichita based Flint Hills Center for Public Policy’s econometric model estimated that income and sales tax hikes proposed in 2004 by Governor Sebelius would cost this state at least 4,500 private sector jobs. Sadly, this model could not factor in the additional job losses proposed by the governor’s plan to raise the state’s property tax by 10 percent. Governor Sebelius continues to push for higher Kansas taxes at the statehouse.

Governor Sebelius’ proposed hike in state property taxes is occurring at a time of soaring appraisals as well as millage increases. Property tax hike proponents are hurting this state’s economy daily, and this problem is getting worse with the automatic property tax hikes caused every spring. In addition, Kansans’ average income already lags well below the national average but our per pupil school spending is well above both the national and the amounts spent in neighboring states. In the 2004-05 school year, the average public school student will cost taxpayers $10,162 according to the most recent Kansas Department of Education budget figures. This is a large increase over the 2003-04 spending of $9,235 and the first time the statewide average went into five figures.

The KNEA lobbyist took the position that all taxes should be raised to meet the Kansas Supreme Court’s mandate on school finance. This is a blatant attempt to mislead Kansans since the court did not issue any such requirement to raise taxes. It’s not there. The court’s decision is less than five pages long and can be found at: www.kscourts.org/ kscases/supct/2005/20050103/92032.htm. You should go on line and make up your own mind by reading this court’s edict.

Governor Sebelius wants to raise Kansas taxes to help the various spending lobbies in Kansas. Kansas government is too large today. Any tax increase to expand Kansas government is like taking your 400 pound friend out to your local donut shop. Kansas cannot tax itself wealthy or spend ourselves rich.

######

Karl Peterjohn is a former journalist, California state budget analyst, and executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.

The Law by Frederic Bastiat

About a year ago I became acquainted with the writings of the economist Walter E. Williams. After reading his foreword to this book, I understand — as Williams says himself — how important Bastiat’s writings are. As Williams says:

Reading Bastiat made me keenly aware of all the time wasted, along with the frustrations of going down one blind alley after another, organizing my philosophy of life. The Law did not produce a philosophical conversion for me as much as it created order in my thinking about liberty and just human conduct.

And then this:

…Bastiat’s greatest contribution is that he took the discourse out of the ivory tower and made ideas on liberty so clear that even the unlettered can understand them and statists cannot obfuscate them. Clarity is crucial to persuading our fellowman of the moral superiority of personal liberty.

I am tempted to repeat in full Dr. Williams’s foreword, but you would do well to read it yourself.

The Law is a book about liberty and justice. One of the most important things I learned from reading this book is that the proper function of the law is not to create justice, but to prevent injustice. This makes the laws we should have quite simple. Instead of deciding how much to take from us in the form of taxes (plunder) and how to distribute it, laws should protect us from plunder.

This book may be found in its entirety at several places online. One, which includes Walter Williams’s excellent foreword, is at http://www.econlib.org/library/Bastiat/basEss0a.html.

I wish to thank my friend John Todd, who sent this book to me.

Court Sets Trap for Legislature

I received the following, which I thought was interesting, so I present it. I do not entirely understand the author’s argument, so if anyone can help me understand, I would appreciate it.


Kansas Legislative Education And Research
827 SW TOPEKA BLVD TOPEKA, KS 66612
PHONE: 785 233 8765 EMAIL: ks [email protected]

Contact: Bob L. Corkins

Court sets Trap for Legislature

The Bait:

“The Kansas Constitution thus imposes a mandate that our educational system cannot be static or regressive…

“…there is substantial competent evidence, including the Augenblick & Myers study, establishing that a suitable education, as that term is defined by the legislature, is not being provided.”

“…we need look no further than the legislature’s own definition of suitable education to determine that the standard is not being met under the current financing formula.”

“…the legislature has failed to “make suitable provision for finance” of the public school system as required by Article 6 § 6 of the Kansas Constitution.”

“It is clear increased funding will be required…”

The Snare:

The Supreme Court requires additional funding and implies that the legislature must do so because constitutional standard of “suitable education” has not been achieved. Increasing funding for this reason would be like walking into a trap.

Did the Supreme Court say the constitution requires “suitable education”?

*No*

The Court said the constitution requires “improvement’ and that the legislature has interpreted this to mean
“suitable education”.

The Court merely asserts that Article 6 refers to an improving educational system.

The Court itself is not making the connection, it’s just claiming that the legislature has interpreted “improvement’ ‘to mean “suitable education”.

The Court does not even explicitly say it agrees with the legislature’s alleged interpretation.

Is there anything in the Kansas Constitution that requires a minimally acceptable level of education quality?

No

All the Court’s references to minimum quality standards are to those now set (or may have at one time been set) by the legislature, not by the constitution.

The Court repeatedly states that the legislature failed to satisfy its own standards, not that the legislature failed to satisfy any constitutional standard.

A statutory standard does not equate to a constitutional entitlement.

The constitution’s mandate for “improvement” logically refers to students’ opportunity for personal self ‘improvement as compared to their ability to do so in the absence of public schools.

Suitable education indeed, even uniformly excellent education is a worthy and legitimate public policy goal even if it is not compelled by the state constitution.

To Avoid the Trap:

Financing must be increased, but do not do so because current funding violates any constitutional “suitable education” standard.

All current, and all future, statutory definitions of “suitable education” must make abundantly clear that the legislature is not defining the term as the result of a constitutional mandate, and that “suitable education” is distinct from the true constitutional mandate of “suitable provision for finance”.

Rep. Loganbill Advocates More Tax Brackets

On Saturday February 12, 2005, I attended a meeting of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation. State Representative Judith Loganbill made remarks that included the fact that the maximum Kansas individual income tax rate becomes effective at taxable incomes of $30,000 for singles and $60,000 for married couples. A member of the audience spoke and expressed astonishment to learn this. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I now realize that Rep. Loganbill was advocating more tax brackets with higher rates.

TABOR: not fair?

Mr. Gary Brunk, executive director of Kansas Action for Children, wrote a letter published in The Wichita Eagle on February 23, 2005, opposing a taxpayer bill of rights, or TABOR, in Kansas. As evidence of TABOR’s failure in Colorado, he cites the low rate of childhood immunization in that state.

It is unfortunate that so many Colorado children don’t receive immunizations. Mr. Brunk, however, presents no evidence that Colorado’s TABOR is the cause. It is tempting to conclude that when both x and y are present that x must be the cause of y, but this is not evidence of actual causation. It is possible that other factors are responsible.

Besides, we might ask this question: Why should the taxpayers of Colorado pay to immunize others’ children? I think the answer many might give is that if the state supplies relatively inexpensive immunizations, the state can avoid paying the substantial healthcare costs for children who become ill with diseases the immunizations prevent.

This is undeniably true, and leads to the even-larger question: Why have states become responsible for providing healthcare (and other services) for so many? Mr. Brunk makes a case for what he terms a “fair” tax system. I submit that a tax system that takes money from one group of people and gives it to another group to whom it does not belong, no matter how noble the intent, is not in any sense fair. That is, if by fair Mr. Brunk means moral.

The economist Walter E. Williams makes the case succinctly: “Can a moral case be made for taking the rightful property of one American and giving it to another to whom it does not belong? I think not. That’s why socialism is evil. It uses evil means (coercion) to achieve what are seen as good ends (helping people). We might also note that an act that is inherently evil does not become moral simply because there’s a majority consensus.”

It is the runaway growth in taxes and spending — the taking of one person’s property and giving it to another — that a TABOR seeks to stem. A TABOR does not tell legislators how they must allocate state funds; it merely places a limit on how much they can spend. Legislators can still make judgments each year as to which programs are most important. Spending will most likely keep growing, but slower than it has.

The forces that want to increase taxes and spending by increasing amounts are always working and must be restrained. For example, Mr. Brunk, in his letter, advocates legislation that will require “a biannual report on the proportion of their income that people in different income levels pay in taxes.” Reading this, I get the strong impression that Mr. Brunk believes we do not pay enough tax. But for those who believe that state government is already large enough, a TABOR is the best way to manage its growth.

Latest Federal School Finance Spending Revealed

Here is an article from the Kansas Taxpayers Network that reports on school spending: http://www.kansastaxpayers.com/editorial_fedschool.html.

On Saturday February 12, 2005 I attended a meeting of the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation. Lynn Rogers, USD 259 School Board President, and Connie Dietz, Vice-President of the same body, attended. There has been a proposal to spend an additional $415 million over the next three years on schools. Asked if this would be enough to meet their needs, the Wichita school board members replied, “No.”

Missing From the Social Security Debate

This is what I haven’t seen mentioned in the debate over the future of social security.

Opponents of private accounts cite the risk inherent in investing in markets. Instead, they will rely on future generations of workers to pay the taxes necessary to pay promised social security benefits.

It seems to me, though, that investments in U.S. securities markets, both stocks and bonds, derive their value from the underlying strength of the U.S. economy. If the economy does well, in the long run, markets do well. If the economy does not do well, the investments will not do well, and social security recipients will need to rely on a future generation of workers to pay taxes that will pay benefits.

Where do these taxes come from? They come from workers, hopefully earning high salaries to pay the high taxes that will be needed. But if the economy does not do well, there will not be very many highly-paid workers, and the government may have trouble collecting enough taxes to pay social security benefits.

So we need to hope that the U.S. economy performs well, so that private accounts earn a high return, or there will be workers earning enough to pay high social security payroll taxes.

What is Not Good About Internet Search

The success of the Internet search engine Google is amazing. It has become a cultural phenomena, as “to Google” someone or a topic. The implication is that by using Google, you can find all there is to know about a person or subject.

In my opinion, this attitude can be deceptive. Relying exclusively on Google or any other search engine can lead to conclusions based on erroneous or incomplete sources. For example, The Wall Street Journal, one of the most important sources for research on current topics, is absent from Google. Its content does not appear in searches. That’s because the Wall Street Journal is a subscription service. Readers have to subscribe and pay to view its content. Other subscription services — and there are many, some being quite expensive — may not have their content indexed by Google.

Google has a new service called Google Scholar. Quoting from its “About” page: “Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.” In my brief experience using Google Scholar, it finds some articles I would like to read, but many are expensive to purchase. For example, a search for “Wichita city council” returns an article titled “Searching for a Role for Citizens in the Budget Process.” The article costs $25.00 to read.

An obvious problem in using the Internet for research, and therefore for search engines as well, is the quality of the web pages that are returned in a search. Readers need to be careful in deciding which web pages and sites to trust. It is easy, and becoming easier, to create web sites that have a quality look and feel. That does not mean, however, that the information is reliable. It may have been created to deceive. A good page that can help judge the quality of a web page is here: Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask. Another good resource is Evaluating the Quality of Information on the Internet.

There are many other search engines. Some I have recently become aware of that seem interesting and have merit are Teoma, Alltheweb, Vivisimo, and SMEALSearch. There are also pay search services. These often include content that is not available on free websites. Some of these include HighBeam, Questia, Factiva, and Northern Light.

I don’t mean to pick exclusively on Google, as their search service is very good, and some of their more little-known services are amazing. The recently introduced Google Maps (link: http://maps.google.com ), for example, is a technical tour-de-force and different from other map services. But we must realize that the Internet is not quite like a library with the helpful and knowledgeable librarian there to help us.

Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas

%d bloggers like this: