Tag Archives: Kansas legislature

Articles about the Kansas legislature, both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Bob and Karl look at election results

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Bob and Karl look at election results nationally, in Kansas, and in Sedgwick County. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 217, broadcast November 11, 2018.

Shownotes

From Pachyderm: Kansas House candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Republican candidates for the Kansas House of Representatives. Appearing, in initial speaking order, were:

  • Steven Kelly, 72nd District (map of district)
  • Cheryl Helmer, 79th District (map)
  • J.C. Moore, 93rd District (map)
  • Susan Humphries, 99th District (map)

This was recorded on October 19, 2018.

From left, J.C. Moore, Cheryl Helmer, Steven Kelly, and Susan Humphries. Click for larger.

Kansas highway spending

A look at actual spending on Kansas highways, apart from transfers.

KDOT spending, major road programs. Click for larger.
KDOT spending, total road programs. Click for larger.
KDOT transfers. Click for larger.
KDOT funding sources, partial. Click for larger.
When we look at actual spending on Kansas roads and highways, we see something different from what is commonly portrayed. Kansas Department of Transportation publishes a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that details spending in four categories. These figures represent actual spending on roads and highways, independent of transfers to or from the highway fund.

For fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, 2018, spending on two categories (Maintenance and Modernization) rose slightly from the year before, while spending on the categories Preservation and Expansion and Enhancement fell.

For these four categories — which represent the major share of KDOT spending on roads — spending in fiscal 2018 totaled $528.234 million. That’s down 28 percent from $736.781 million the year before, and up from a low of $698.770 million in fiscal 2010.

Again, these are dollars actually spent on highway programs. A common characterization of the way Kansas government is funded is called “robbing the bank of KDOT.” To the extent that characterization is accurate, there is a separate line item titled “Distributions to other state funds” that holds these values. It appears in the nearby table. A chart shows sales tax distributions from the general fund to KDOT, and transfers from KDOT. The two values tack closely over history, and in 2018 were nearly identical values.

Many also criticize Kansas government for slashing highway spending, letting our roads crumble. While total spending on these four programs has been falling (after adjusting for inflation), the decline, until recent years, is minor compared to the hysterical claims of those with vested interests in more government, and especially highway, spending.

Kansas law specifies how much sales tax revenue is transferred to the highway fund. Here are recent rates of transfer and dates they became effective: 1

July 1, 2010: 11.427%
July 1, 2011: 11.26%
July 1, 2012: 11.233%
July 1, 2013: 17.073%
July 1, 2015: 16.226%
July 1, 2016 and thereafter: 16.154%

A nearby chart shows the dollar amounts transferred to the highway fund from sales tax revenue. In 2006 the transfer was $98.914 million, and by 2018 it had grown to $530.765 million.

KDOT spending, major road programs. Click for larger.


Notes

  1. Kansas Statutes Annotated 79-3620.

Kansas school spending, through 2018

Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms.

Recently Kansas State Department of Education released spending figures for the 2018 school year, that is, the school year starting in 2017 and ending in 2018.

One of the most important charts shows state spending per-pupil, adjusted for inflation. It shows the total of state and local spending, which is useful because in 2015 the state made a change in the way revenue is allocated between state and local sources. It also shows base state aid per pupil, which is an important number as it is the starting point for the school funding formula.

Why is total state and local spending higher than base state aid? The answer is weightings. These are amounts that are added to the base to pay for things like at-risk children, English language learners, and other items. The value of weightings has grown over time, so as base state aid has generally fallen, total spending has generally risen.

A second chart shows the ratio of total state and local spending to base state aid.

This is not simply a technical matter. In discussions of school policy, sometimes only the base aid figure is used. As it has fallen, some formulate an argument that school spending has been cut. That is easily refuted by looking at total state and local spending.

Of note, base state aid was not used in school years 2016 and 2017, which explains the gap in some of the series.

I’ve gathered these charts and others and present them in a presentation. Use arrow keys to move through the charts. Click here to access.

Kansas school spending, showing state and local aid compared to base state aid. Click for larger.
Kansas school spending, showing ratio of state and local aid to base state aid. Click for larger.

From Pachyderm: Economic development incentives

A look at some of the large economic development programs in Wichita and Kansas.

Here’s video of a presentation I gave at the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week on economic development incentives. The video was produced by Paul Soutar of Graphic Lens. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Following, articles that address some of the topics I presented:

  • Industrial revenue bonds in Kansas: Industrial Revenue Bonds are a mechanism that Kansas cities and counties use to allow companies to avoid paying property and sales taxes.
  • Wichita TIF projects: some background: Tax increment financing disrupts the usual flow of tax dollars, routing funds away from cash-strapped cities, counties, and schools back to the TIF-financed development. TIF creates distortions in the way cities develop, and researchers find that the use of TIF means lower economic growth.
  • Community improvement districts in Kansas: In Kansas Community Improvement Districts, merchants charge additional sales tax for the benefit of the property owners, instead of the general public.
  • STAR bonds in Kansas: The Kansas STAR bonds program provides a mechanism for spending by autopilot, without specific appropriation by the legislature.
  • PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas: PEAK, a Kansas economic development incentive program, redirects employee income taxes back to the employing company.
  • Historic preservation tax credits, or developer welfare: A Wichita developer seeks to have taxpayers fund a large portion of his development costs, using a wasteful government program of dubious value.

From Pachyderm: Kansas House candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Republican Party Kansas House of Representatives candidates. This was recorded on September 28, 2018.

Appearing were:

  • David Robbins, District 83 (map of district)
  • Renee Erickson, District 87 (map)
  • Paul Waggoner, District 104 (map)

Kansas agriculture and the economy

What is the importance of agriculture to the Kansas economy?

United States Representative Roger Marshall said: “My district is the largest ag-producing congressional district in the country, with 60 percent of the economy being ag related. Forty percent of the Kansas economy is ag related.” 1

The Kansas Hospital Association argues: “In Table 5, the total income impact of health care services resulted in an estimated $19.4 billion for the economy. Thus, health care is directly or closely related to about 11.6 percent of the state’s total income.” 2

The Kansas Department of Transportation produced a study that finds: “In 2017, $20.6 billion in annual economic benefit was supported by aviation and aviation-related activities in Kansas, supported nearly 91,300 jobs, and generated more than $4.4 billion in annual payroll.” 3 $20.6 billion is 14.9 percent of the $138.328 billion Kansas economy.

The nonalcoholic beverage industry says: “With a direct economic impact of $2.0 billion.” Then “Factoring in this retail impact further broadens the economic reach of the nonalcoholic beverage industry by an additional $1.7 billion beyond what our industry generates directly.” 4 The total of $3.7 billion is about 2.7 percent of the Kansas economy. That’s coming just from nonalcoholic beverages.

We can easily find other examples of industry groups emphasizing their importance to the Kansas economy. But these findings are almost always exaggerated, especially in the case of agriculture.

For example, the Kansas Department of Agriculture says “Using the most recent IMPLAN data available (2015) adjusted for 2017, 65 agriculture, food, and food processing sectors were analyzed to determine their overall contribution to the Kansas economy. These 65 sectors have a total direct output of approximately $47.9 billion and support 125,714 jobs in Kansas.” 5 The document says this is 31.6 percent of Kansas GDP.

Direct output is defined in the same document in this paragraph: “Direct, indirect, and induced effects sum together to estimate the total economic contribution in the state. Direct effects capture the contribution from agricultural and food products. Indirect effects capture the economic benefit from farms and agricultural businesses purchasing inputs from supporting industries within the state. Induced effects capture the benefits created when employees of farms, agricultural businesses, and the supporting industries spend their wages on goods and services within the state.”

Adding indirect and induced effects results in $67,461,102,358 ($67.5 billion) in economic contribution, which the Department of Agriculture says is 44.5 percent of Kansas economic output, also called gross domestic product (GDP).

It is true that agricultural workers spend money like anyone else. They spend on food, shelter, taxes, recreation, cars, clothing, and other things. Therefore, an agriculture industry support group might say “Farmers keep small town Kansas restaurants in business, providing jobs for restaurant workers.”

Then, a restaurant industry support group might say “By buying meats and produce locally, restaurants keep Kansas farmers in business.”

All this is true. But we need to be careful when counting contributions to the whole. Here, when farmers eat at restaurants, that is counted as induced effects of agriculture contributing to Kansas GDP. But, the restaurant industry counts the production and serving of these meals as its own direct output to Kansas GDP.

Similarly, when the restaurant buys food from a farmer, the purchase counts as indirect effects of the restaurant industry as they purchase inputs and contribute to Kansas GDP. The farmer, of course, considers that as his direct output, again contributing to Kansas GDP.

This economic activity is good and natural, and the more, the better. But we can’t count it twice when allocating GDP to industries.

Consider the industry category “Dog and cat food manufacturing,” said by the Department of Agriculture to employ 2,183.7 people in Kansas, producing $3,125,350,139 ($3.1 billion) in contribution to the Kansas GDP. That’s 2.2 percent of Kansas GDP. Should all the output of this industry be considered part of Kansas agriculture? The manufacturing industry counts this as part of its contribution to GDP. It’s true that the inputs to the manufacturing are agricultural products, but we don’t know if they are ag products that are produced in Kansas and should be counted as part of Kansas GDP.

Kansas GDP by Industry

The nearby table shows that for 2017, agriculture counted for 3.2 percent of the Kansas economy. For the period 1997 to 2017, it was 2.7 percent. There are many industry groups with greater output than agriculture.

How are the GDP numbers for agriculture inflated to 44.5 percent? IMPLAN, that’s how. It is an economic model used to estimate contributions of economic activity to the larger economy. 6

It’s true that when an industry produces economic activity, it spawns other economic activity. These are the indirect and induced effects that IMPLAN produces. But these numbers are hugely inflated. When considering all industries, economic activity is counted more than once.

When it suits their needs, industry groups, like other special interest groups, use IMPLAN to boost their importance. Consider manufacturing, which at 16.4 percent of GDP is the second-largest industry in Kansas. When manufacturing companies appeal to state or local government for subsidies, they use IMPLAN or related mechanisms to inflate their importance. Almost everyone does this. It’s standard procedure.

Except: When multiple industries the same indirect and induced economic activity, such analysis becomes meaningless. If we added up the IMPLAN-calculated value of each industry to the Kansas economy, we’d end up with a value several times larger than the actual value. This is what the Kansas Department of Agriculture has done. We expect this behavior from companies or local economic development agencies when they appeal for economic development incentives and other forms of special treatment. They need to inflate their importance to gullible government bureaucrats and elected officials. But government agencies should not do this.

On the other hand, what is the harm in overstating the importance of an industry? The harm is that policy decisions are made using false evidence.


Notes

  1. Quoted in the Wichita Eagle. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/business/article125840694.html.
  2. John Leatherman. The Importance of the Health Care Sector to the Kansas Economy. Available at http://kha-net.org/dataproductsandservices/stat/economicimpact/.
  3. Kansas Department of Transportation. Kansas Aviation Economic Impact Study. Available at https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdotorg/bureaus/divAviation/pdf/2016EISExecutiveSummary.pdf.
  4. American Beverage Association. Available at https://www.ameribev.org/files/resources/kansas-2.pdf.
  5. Kansas Department of Agriculture. Estimated Economic Impact of Agriculture, Food, and Food Processing Sectors. Available at https://agriculture.ks.gov/docs/default-source/ag-marketing/ag-contribution-2017.pdf.
  6. University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives. IMPLAN Methodology. Available at http://reic.uwcc.wisc.edu/implan/.

From Pachyderm: Kansas House of Representatives Candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kansas House of Representatives Candidates. These are Republican candidates appearing on the November 6, 2018 general election ballot. This was recorded on August 24, 2018.

Candidates were, in order of initial appearance:

  • Blake Carpenter, 81st District
  • Emil Bergquist, 91st District
  • Leo Delperdang, 94th District
  • Ron Howard, 98th District

Clockwise from top left: Blake Carpenter, Leo Delperdang, Ron Howard, Emil Bergquist

WichitaLiberty.TV: Primary election results, part two

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Hosts Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks continue reporting on some of the results of the August 7, 2018 primary election in Kansas. View below, or click here to view on YouTube. Episode 206, broadcast August 19, 2018.

Since this episode was recorded, the Sedgwick County Commission District 4 Republican primary manual recount was completed. There were no discrepancies between the results reported after the canvass and the results from the recount. The result is Hugh Nicks 3,438 votes, and Richard Ranzau 3,513 votes.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Primary election results

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Hosts Karl Peterjohn and Bob Weeks report on some of the results of the August 7, 2018 primary election in Kansas. View here, or click below to view on YouTube. Episode 205, broadcast August 11, 2018.

From Pachyderm: Candidates for Kansas House of Representatives

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Candidates for Kansas House of Representatives districts 74, 75, and 80. This was recorded on August 3, 2018.

Candidates invited included:

  • Kansas House District 74: Stephen Owens and incumbent Don Schroeder (Did not attend)
  • Kansas House District 75: Will Carpenter and incumbent Mary Martha Good (Did not attend)
  • Kansas House District 80: Incumbent Anita Judd-Jenkins (Did not attend) and Bill Rhiley

Here are maps of the districts:

Kansas candidate briefings

Recently Kansas Policy Institute, along with Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Chamber of Commerce, held a series of briefings for candidates for the Kansas Legislature. The presentations in Wichita were recorded, and are available as follows:

What Was Really the Matter with the Kansas Tax Plan. KPI President Dave Trabert spoke on the reality and myths of the state’s tax plan. Click here to view at YouTube.

Kansas K-12 Education Spending and Achievement. KPI President Dave Trabert spoke on K-12 education spending and achievement. Click here to view.

Medicaid Expansion. Melissa Fausz, a senior policy analyst with Americans for Prosperity, spoke about Medicaid expansion. Click here to view.

Kansas Chamber Legislative Update. Eric Stafford, vice president of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, spoke on the legislative process in Kansas. Click here to view.

Property Taxes. KPI President Dave Trabert spoke on property taxes in Kansas. Click here to view.

Or, view them all. Click here.

From Pachyderm: Kansas House of Representatives Candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kansas House of Representatives Candidates for districts 97 and 100. This was recorded June 29, 2018.

Candidates invited this week included:

Kansas House District 97
Nick J. Hoheisel and Michael E. Walker. Hoheisel did not attend.
District 97 is currently represented by Les Osterman, who is not running. It is far southwest Wichita plus surrounding areas. A map is here:
www.kslegislature.org/li/m/pdf/district_maps/district_map_h_097.pdf

Kansas House District 100
James Francis Breitenbach and Dan Hawkins
District 100 is currently represented by Dan Hawkins. It covers west Wichita and part of Maize. A map is here:
www.kslegislature.org/li/m/pdf/district_maps/district_map_h_100.pdf

Shownotes

Campaign websites for:

  • Nick J. Hoheisel: None found
  • Michael E. Walker: None found
  • James Francis Breitenbach: None found
  • Dan Hawkins: www.danhawkinskansas.com

From Pachyderm: Kansas House of Representatives Candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Kansas House of Representatives Candidates for districts 87 and 93. This was recorded June 22, 2018.

Candidates invited this week included:

Kansas House District 87
Renee Erickson and Jeff Kennedy
District 87 is currently represented by Roger Elliott, who is not running. It is far east Wichita plus portions of Minneha township. A map is here:
www.kslegislature.org/li/m/pdf/district_maps/district_map_h_087.pdf

Kansas House District 93
J.C. Moore and John Whitmer. Moore did not attend.
District 93 is currently represented by John Whitmer. It covers a small part of southwest Wichita and areas west and south. Cities: Cheney, Clearwater, Goddard (part), Haysville (part), Mulvane (part), Viola and Wichita (part). Townships: Afton, Attica (part), Erie, Illinois (part), Morton, Ninnescah, Ohio, Salem, Viola and Waco(part). A map is here:
www.kslegislature.org/li/m/pdf/district_maps/district_map_h_093.pdf

Shownotes

Campaign websites for:

WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Representative Susan Humphries

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Representative Susan Humphries, a Republican who represents district 99 (east Wichita and Andover), gives an update on Kansas legislative affairs. View below, or click here to view at youTube. Episode 199, broadcast June 9, 2018.

Shownotes

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy
Alan Cobb, Kansas Chamber President & CEO

The words of a recent guest editorial in the Lawrence Journal-World about the Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding were not surprising. It was a continuation of the intellectually shallow, fact-short screed about taxes, school finance, and the Kansas budget. Certainly, reasonable people can disagree about these issues, but partisans rarely adhere to that theorem. And thus, I thought I was reading something from a partisan staffer.

Alas, it was from a well-respected Wichita State University professor emeritus who I have known for decades.

I’ve not always agreed with Dr. H. Edward Flentje, but even when I disagreed with him, I found his arguments well-founded and reasonable. Not this time.

Now to the point. Dr. Flentje, probably intentionally, conflates with the 2012 tax cuts with the current and ongoing school finance litigation. They have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The current litigation was filed around the day the Sam Brownback was elected Governor. To say the focus of the current coalition is part of an effort to maintain those tax cuts is fanciful, to be charitable.

The 15-word clause in the Kansas State Constitution that is the center of all of this was enacted in 1966. It took only a few years for the first lawsuit to be filed, and Kansas has been in court ever since. This is madness. Brownback was not governor when the original litigation was filed some 30 years ago. The Kansas Legislature developed the current finance formula in the early 1990s under the duress of a Shawnee County District Court judge. Sam Brownback would not be governor for another 18 years. To continue to enact Brownback’s name must mean the author simply can’t argue the merits of the issue we currently face. This is disappointing.

Last December, the Kansas Chamber Board of Directors approved the following language to be a part of our 2018 Legislative Agenda:

Support a constitutional amendment for the democratically elected legislature to have exclusive authority to determine funding for schools in an effort to eliminate endless litigation over school funding.

In my role as President and CEO of the Kansas Chamber, I’ve traveled the state visiting business of all sizes. The consistent refrain I hear from business owners and managers is that the constant litigation has diminished the effectiveness of our educational institutions and their ability to prepare Kansas students for post-secondary careers and post-secondary education.

In addition, I’ve had multiple conversations with educators, teachers, superintendents, and building principals; many embarrassed about the constant litigation. They know that Kansas courts are the not the place to set our state’s education policy.

Ultimately this is about the process of how Kansas sets and finances education policy. We are competing not just with our neighboring states, but all 50 states and many countries across the globe. There is a worldwide competition for jobs.

Because we are in a constant struggle regarding how much Kansas spends on K-12 education, we have not had substantive conversations that we should about the effectiveness and efficacy of our education systems and how we properly prepare Kansas students for their lives after high school.

Improving our education systems takes place because of conversations between employers, students, parents, educators and those setting education policy: the legislature, the Governor, local boards of education and the State Board of Education.

These conversations simply cannot take place between all the interested parties mentioned and the state’s judicial branch.

The Chamber’s board of directors and members across the Kansas business community recognize the importance of a well-educated and trained workforce. But they also desire a competitive business climate. The endless litigation over school funding places the state at risk of being able to a balance of a competitive tax climate and providing for the essential services required outside of the K-12 education system.

The framers of our national and state constitutions understood that the power to tax and appropriate funds must be placed in the hands of the legislature-the governing body of the people. The Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding supports a constitutional amendment that will reestablish this fundamental principle of democracy and will end the continuous cycle of litigation.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Senator Ty Masterson

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Senator Ty Masterson, a Republican from Andover, joins Bob and Karl to update us on happenings in the Kansas Legislature. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 192, broadcast April 14, 2018.

Shownotes

  • Senator Ty Masterson at Kansas Legislature
  • Ty Masterson campaign website
  • SB 424: AN ACT concerning education; establishing the office of education inspector general within the office of the state treasurer; providing the duties and functions thereof.
  • SB 393: Legislative committees; all votes of each legislator on motions or other action recorded in minutes.
  • SCR 1611: Making application to the U.S. congress to call a convention of the states.
  • HB 2753: Review of tax credits, tax exemptions and economic development programs.

WichitaLiberty.TV: John Todd and the fight against blight

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: John Todd explains how cities in Kansas are seeking additional power to seize property, and tells us why we should oppose this legislation. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 188, broadcast March 17, 2018.

Shownotes

Kansas government data may not be available

There is a movement to increase the transparency of government in Kansas, but there’s much to be done, starting with attitudes.

One of the major economic development programs in Kansas is PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. 1 It provides benefits to companies when they expand their operations in Kansas, or sometimes when they merely threaten to leave. The recent expansion by Spirit AeroSystems is reported to benefit from $23.5 million in PEAK cash. 2

But finding out how much PEAK benefits are awarded each year is difficult, even though the state relies heavily on this program. It also appears that the Kansas Department of Commerce, the agency that awards and administers PEAK, isn’t aware of how many programs, and at what cost, have been authorized.

At one time a summary of PEAK data was readily available from the state. It covered fiscal years 2010 through 2015. 3 My inquiries late last year to the PEAK program manager for updated information were fruitless, despite many email and telephone messages. None were returned.

But a request to the interim director was answered. The answer is that the data through 2015 was a one-time effort, and there are no reports similar to that with recent data.

The fact that there is no recent data is remarkable. We must wonder if the Department of Commerce cares about things like this, because collecting this data as projects are awarded is not difficult. There aren’t many projects awarded. For the period 2010 through 2015, there were 68 PEAK projects awarded. And just a handful of data items need recording for each project.

But this isn’t done.

I made a request for recent data on PEAK awards, asking for the same data in the previous report: Company Name, Effective Date, Location (County), Proposed Annual Benefit, Benefit Term (Yrs), New or Retained Jobs, Project Payroll, and Additional Project Capital Investment. The response confirmed there is no simple report with the relevant data. I was offered the opportunity to purchase copes of all recent PEAK agreements, estimated to cost $750 to $1,200. Further, these documents would not contain all the data I asked for.

Who is managing?

As part of four initiatives to increase government transparency in Kansas, Governor Jeff Colyer told the legislature, “Third, I will implement performance metrics for Cabinet Agencies so Kansans can see how we perform.” 4 My experience with the Department of Commerce indicates there’s a long way to go. Agencies are not capturing and recording basic data.

Even if the Department of Commerce was capturing this data, there’s still much more analysis to perform. The data I asked for was simply the project parameters at the time PEAK benefits are awarded. The real question is this: Are the projected benefits actually realized?

There ought to be a law

There is a bill this year that would require several state agencies to report on the many programs they administer. It’s titled “HB 2753: An act concerning taxation; relating to income tax credits and sales tax exemptions; periodic review, reports to certain legislative committees.” 5

Kansas taxpayers might have thought this basic management of our tax-funded programs we already in place. It’s especially troubling in that the cost of this management is small. The fiscal note for the bill tells us these agencies already have the capacity to perform this work: “The Insurance Department, Department of Commerce, and Department of Revenue indicate that the administrative costs associated with implementing the provisions of HB 2753 would be negligible and could be absorbed within existing resources. Each agency would be responsible to collect and organize information regarding certain tax credits, incentives, and exemptions on a yearly basis.”


Notes

  1. Weeks, Bob. PEAK, or Promoting Employment Across Kansas. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/peak-promoting-employment-across-kansas/.
  2. Jerry Siebenmark. New facility part of Spirit’s new jobs, expansion plan. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/business/aviation/article201082884.html.
  3. Weeks, Bob. PEAK benefits across Kansas. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/peak-benefits-across-kansas/.
  4. Governor Jeff Colyer’s Joint Address, February 8, 2018. Available at https://governor.kansas.gov/governor-jeff-colyers-joint-address/.
  5. Kansas Legislature. HB 2753: Review of tax credits, tax exemptions and economic development programs. Available at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/hb2753/.

Property under attack in Kansas

Local governments in Kansas are again seeking expanded power to seize property.

In Kansas, officials of many city governments feel they don’t have enough power to deal with blight. This year, as in years past, there is legislation to expand the power of cities to seize property. 1 2

John Todd, along with Paul Soutar, made a video to explain the bill and the surrounding issues. It’s just five minutes in length. View it below, or click here to view at YouTube. Todd’s written testimony to the Kansas Legisalture has photographs and examples. It may be viewed here.

Background

Presently, tools are in place. Cities already have much power to deal with blight and related problems. Last year Todd and I, along with others, had a luncheon meeting with a Kansas Senator who voted in favor of expanding cities’ powers. When we told him of our opposition, he asked questions like, “Well, don’t you want to fight blight? What will cities do to fight blight without this bill?” When we listed and explained the many tools cities already have, he said that he hadn’t been told of these. This is evidence that this bill is not needed. It’s also evidence of the ways cities try to increase their powers at the expense of the rights of people. 3

The Governor’s veto. A similar bill passed the legislature in 2016. Governor Brownback vetoed that bill, explaining, “The right to private property serves as a central pillar of the American constitutional tradition.” 4

The Governor’s veto provoked a response from Wichita government officials. It let us know that they are not as respectful of fundamental rights as was Brownback. 5

For example, in remarks from the bench, Wichita City Council Member Pete Meitzner (district 2, east Wichita) said there is no intent to be “aggressive in taking people’s property.” 6 But expanding the power of government — aggression, in other word — is what the bill does. Otherwise, why the need for the bill with its new methods and powers of taking property?

And once government is granted new powers, government nearly always finds ways to expand the power and put it to new uses. Even if we believe Meitzner — and we should not — he will not always be in office. Others will follow him who may not claim to be so wise and restrained in the use of government power.

Government expands and liberty recedes. Government continuously seeks new ways to expand its powers through enabling concepts like blight. Did you know the entire suburban town of Andover is blighted? 7 Across the country, when governments find they can take property with novel and creative interpretations of blight, they do so. 8

It’s easy to sense the frustration of government officials like Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell. In his remarks, he asked opponents of SB 338 “what they would do” when confronted with blight. That is a weak argument, but is advanced nonetheless. Everyone has the right — the duty — to oppose bad legislation even if they do not have an alternate solution. Just because someone doesn’t have a solution, that doesn’t mean their criticism is not valid. This is especially true in this matter, as cities already have many tools to deal with blight.


Notes

  1. Kansas Legislature. HB 2506. Rehabilitation of abandoned property by cities. Available at http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/hb2506/.
  2. Weeks, Bob. Power of Kansas cities to take property may be expanded. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/power-kansas-cities-take-property-may-expanded/.
  3. Weeks, Bob. In Kansas, the war on blight continues. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/kansas-war-blight-continues/.
  4. Weeks, Bob. Governor Brownback steps up for property rights. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/governor-brownback-steps-property-rights/.
  5. Weeks, Bob. In Wichita, revealing discussion of property rights. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/wichita-revealing-discussion-property-rights/.
  6. Video. Wichita City Council speaks on blight. Available at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-city-council-speaks-blight/.
  7. Weeks, B. (2012). Andover, a Kansas city overtaken by blight. Voice For Liberty in Wichita. Available at wichitaliberty.org/economics/andover-a-kansas-city-overtaken-by-blight/.
  8. Nicole Gelinas, Eminent Domain as Central Planning. (2015). City Journal. Available at www.city-journal.org/html/eminent-domain-central-planning-13253.html.