In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The Sentinel’s Danedri Herbert joins Bob Weeks to discuss the upcoming gubernatorial debate, the Kansas Legislature’s website and transparency, and accountability in government. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 184, broadcast February 17, 2018.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: KPTS President and CEO Victor Hogstrom. This was recorded December 15, 2017.
The Wichita Eagle’s coverage of the number of workers in Downtown Wichita isn’t fake news, just wrong news.
A recent Wichita Eagle article reported on the number of workers in downtown Wichita, designated as zip code 67202: “The 67202 ZIP code had lost nearly 15 percent of its businesses and 20 percent of its employees in the decade ending in 2015, according to the U.S. Census’s County Business Pattern data. The loss of the State Office Building in 2016 and the Wichita school district’s downtown office this summer — employees are moving to the former Southeast High School — will make that decline steeper.” 1
In the first sentence, the reporter is correct. The trend in the number of business establishments, the number of employees, and the annual payroll is downwards. 2
But the second sentence reveals a misunderstanding of the meaning of two sets of Census Bureau data. According to the Census Bureau’s description of the County Business Pattern data — that’s the data referenced in the article — the two events mentioned will not change the CBP data. That’s because governmental agencies are not included in CPB data. The Census Bureau plainly explains:
“Statistics are available on business establishments at the U.S. level and by State, County, Metropolitan area, ZIP Code, and Congressional District Levels. … CBP covers most NAICS industries excluding crop and animal production; rail transportation; National Postal Service; pension, health, welfare, and vacation funds; trusts, estates, and agency accounts; private households; and public administration. CBP also excludes most establishments reporting government employees.” 3
A second set of Census Bureau data known as LODES will change with the departure of USD 259 from zip code 67202. LODES is the source of 26,000 downtown Wichita workers claimed by Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research, the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation, the Greater Wichita Partnership, the City of Wichita, and other agencies. An earlier Eagle article from May 10 just scratched the surface on this topic. 4 That article described the Census Bureau data as erroneous. But there is no error in the data, as the Census Bureau plainly explains what the data means. 5 The error was in the application of the data by someone who used it to represent something it does not represent.
Readers of the Wichita Eagle may be thoroughly confused by now. Can we expect a correction or explanation? The Eagle says no.
- Voorhis, Dan. The hottest real estate spot in Wichita? Downtown on Douglas. Wichita Eagle, May 20, 2017. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/business/real-estate-news/article151746232.html. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Downtown Wichita business trends. Note that CBP data includes businesses only, not most public sector workers. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-business-trends/. ↩
- U.S. Census Bureau. County Business Patterns (CBP): About this Program. Available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cbp/about.html. ↩
- Morrison, Oliver. Likely error overestimates downtown Wichita workers. Wichita Eagle, May 10, 2017. Available at http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article149848144.html. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Downtown Wichita jobs, sort of. The claim of 26,000 workers in downtown Wichita is based on misuse of data so blatant it can be described only as malpractice. Available at https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/downtown-wichita-jobs/. ↩
By Karl Peterjohn
The budget deadlock has begun at the Kansas statehouse. The legislature cannot leave Topeka until they have approved the next biennial state budget that will begin July 1. Usually, this includes the governor’s signature on that legislation. That might not happen this year. That’s the issue.
Governor Brownback is not willing to fund a multi-year, multi-billion spending bill demanded by the liberal legislative majorities in both houses. Earlier this year he vetoed a record-breaking income tax hike scheme. So far, the governor has been successful in having his vetoes sustained.
The pressure is going to be applied for the governor’s fiscally responsible Republican allies opposed to income tax hikes.
The powerful government employee spending lobbies, headed by arguably, the most powerful lobby in this state, the KNEA teachers’ union, that spending priorities for the reliably liberal Democrats in the legislature along with a large number of other self-described, “progressives,” or “moderates,” big spending Republicans now hold sizable majorities in both houses of the Kansas legislature. However, the bi-partisan spending factions are short of the two-thirds majorities required to override Governor Brownback’s repeated vetoes. The spending lobbies have come close, and did override the governor’s pass a record-breaking income tax hike proposal in the Kansas house, but that override effort ultimately failed by three votes in the senate.
The other powerful spending lobbies among the road contractors, hospitals, and the most powerful appointed body: ethically flawed and disciplined Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, Lawton Nuss, and his fellow band of black-robed lawyers on the Kansas Supreme Court continue to try and force massive state spending hikes. Several members of this court, including Nuss, represented school districts and school finance litigation issues before joining the court.
Massive tax hikes will be required to fund this spending spree. Spending estimates indicate the increases proposed would be $2.25 billion over five years according to State Representative John Whitmer. Expanding Obamacare under the guise of Medicaid expansion could be even more expensive after the first few years.
What is different with earlier Kansas budget battles besides another zero on the cost? In this digital age we are in, everything seems to have moved digitally into a win/lose, up/down, on/off configuration.
The lawyers on Kansas’ top court with their school funding edicts, will all be providing pressure and using the leftstream Kansas news media to try and push a handful of Republican legislators to shift their votes, so everyone can go home with a huge income tax hike. Sadly, this destructive tax hike is unlikely to be successful in funding all of the proposed state spending proposals.
This is the big spenders’ dream scenario for the next state budget.
The scenario for fiscally responsible legislators and Governor Brownback is less clear. In the analog days of the 20th century, when people looked for win-win, instead of zero-sum games where every winner means there must be a loser, compromise was the answer.
To his credit, Governor Brownback has expressed a willingness to compromise. Brownback has supported and signed smaller excise tax hike bills in recent years. He continues to be blasted by liberal media critics in the editorial pages across the state. These tax hikes tried to reach a legislative compromise that allowed a continued growth in state spending. This spending growth was being driven by the perpetual school finance lawsuits.
There is another solution if the legislative deadlock continues, and there is a recent and nearby example for Kansas elected officials to consider: let the people decide. The Kansas Constitution has a provision that, “…all political power in this state is inherent in the people.” This is in the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
How would empowering Kansans work?
In 2016, in our neighboring state to the south, Oklahoma, the state spending lobbies convinced the legislature to place a one cent sales tax hike on the statewide ballot. In November 2016 Oklahoma voters decided the fate of this sales tax hike. It was rejected by the voters.
A compromise between Governor Brownback and his fiscally conservative GOP legislative allies on one side could be reached with the larger number of Democrat and Republican tax hike advocates in the legislature using this “let the people decide,“ approach. Kansas taxpayers need to have a say in the massive new spending schemes appearing at the statehouse.
The tax hike advocates can place their proposal for raising state taxes/spending on either the August or preferably the November 2017 election ballot where a statewide referendum could be held. Both sides could make their case to voters. All political power is inherent in the people, and letting the voters decide would certainly be preferable to having appointed lawyers in black robes setting state fiscal policy with big-spending legislators as their willing accomplices.
Karl Peterjohn is a former journalist and served two terms as a Sedgwick County commissioner between 2009-17. He advocated on behalf of Kansas taxpayers as the executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network between 1992-2009.
By Paul Waggoner. This column first appeared in the Hutchinson News.
Listening too often to Topeka politicians and administrators can leave a normal person feeling rather jaded, even used. Or maybe it’s the reporting, sometimes I just don’t know.
Such was the case Tuesday reading the News report of Kansas Dept of Education Deputy commissioner Dale Dennis speech to the local Rotary club (Hutchinson News, April 18, “Ed Official: Fund Gap numbers shocking”). His talk was filled with boilerplate and themes typical of the education establishment.
Mr. Dennis made multiple comparisons and statements of fact to prove his points. In the article by the News own Mary Clarkin, Mr. Dennis set up a paradigm of school under-funding by noting that “in 1992 base state aid per pupil was $3,600”, while now it is only $ 3,852. If the amount had just been adjusted for inflation “it would be $6001.12”. Those cheapskate legislators!
These disheartening numbers for funding over the last 25 years, Mr. Dennis told the crowd, “are shocking, shocking”. Then he went on to tout House Bill 2410 that would raise base state aid to $4,006 next year and $4,800 per pupil by 2021. The total cost of this bill would come to $750 million. Which, Ms. Clarkin summarizes, would get us “back to where the state should have been in 2015-16”’.
I am not an educator, but I am a business person and I am conversant with state budget and spending numbers. Mr. Dennis, I hope to show, should be embarrassed by his comments; but even more, the News should be embarrassed by their article.
The data on Kansas K-12 spending is easily accessible at the Kansas Dept of Education website ksde.org. Going back 20 years to Gov. Graves and 1997 you see total state funding of $1,815 million, rising to $3,950 million in 2016, a 117 percent increase! But the inflation rate during this period was only 47 percent, and the student count was up just three percent. Surprised?
Total spending (state/federal/local) is the best indicator of overall education financing. Plus you avoid disputes over how KPERS should be counted (whether state or local) and you get a genuine bottom dollar cost.
Many News readers need to let these numbers sink in. This is not spin, this is official data, Total spending went from $6,828 to $12,188 per pupil in barely 10 years.
Now Mr. Dennis was giving you a “fact” on base state aid, but he avoided telling our esteemed Rotarians that in the 1990s “base state aid” was 90 percent of the money Kansas provided our schools, but by 2005 it was only 65 percent of Kansas school funding, and in 2015 it was barely 50 percent. The ksde.org website listed over 25 different avenues state money now flows to local schools.
Ms. Clarkin of the News is an intelligent women and if some Department of Commerce representative came touting “shocking” job growth numbers in Kansas she surely would have noted evidence or context to the contrary. But Mr. Dennis utter factual inaccuracies go unchallenged.
Many seem to think it is “anti-education” to point out the real spending numbers. But to ignore the context of the 12 years prior to Brownback and the 80% increase in state K-12 spending is insane. Does any genuine public servant think that spending trajectory was sustainable?
The actual K-12 spending information is just a few clicks away from us for any school district or the state as a whole. The Rotarians of 2017 are a sensible group and will (I trust) rotate their minds with the actual data and judge accordingly.
But I, for one, am forever shocked (shocked!) by how disingenuous Topeka bureaucrats and our Kansas news media continue to be. And in that I expect I will have plenty of company as this legislative year moves forward.
Paul Waggoner is a Hutchinson resident and business owner. He can be reached with comments at [email protected]
Discussions of public policy need to start from a common base of facts and information. An episode shows that both our state government and news media are not helping.
A recent Hutchinson News article1 started with this:
Once you wake up to where Kansas was in 1992 at funding schools and what it needs to do to get caught up, said the Kansas Department of Education’s Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis, it’s a shocker.
In 1992, base state aid per pupil was $3,600. That amount, taking into account the Consumer Price Index, would be the equivalent of $6,001.12 in 2013. Base state aid, however, has been frozen at $3,852 since 2014-15.
“The numbers are shocking, shocking,” Dennis told the Hutchinson Rotary Club at its Monday luncheon meeting at the Hutchinson Town Club.
Why is a speech by a government bureaucrat, as covered in a major newspaper, important? It illustrates two problems we face in understanding, discussing, and debating important matters of public policy.
First, can government be truthful and accurate? Dale Dennis — the state’s top official on school finance — certainly knows that the numbers he presented do not accurately characterize the totality of school spending in Kansas. But the problem is even worse than that. To use base state aid as the indicator of state spending on schools is deceptive. It’s deceptive in that, after adjusting for inflation, base state aid has declined. But total state aid to school districts has increased.
Base state aid is a false indicator of total spending on schools by the state. It’s fake — fake government. And for a newspaper to uncritically present this as news illustrates the second problem we face.
Background on base state aid and school spending
Base state aid per pupil — the statistic Dennis presented — is an important number.2 It’s the starting point for the Kansas school finance formula used before the 2015-2016 (fiscal 2016) school year, and something like it may be used in a new formula.3
Base state aid, however, is not the only important number. To calculate the funding a school district receives, weightings are added. If students fall into certain categories, weightings for that category are added to determine a weighted enrollment. That is multiplied by base state aid to determine total state aid to the district. 4
While this may seem like a technical discussion that doesn’t make a difference, it’s very important, because some of the weightings are large. The at-risk weighting, intended to cover the additional costs of teaching students from low-income families, started at five percent in 1993. In other words, for every student in this category, a school district received an extra five percent of base state aid. The value of this weighting has risen by a factor of nine, reaching 45.6 percent starting with the 2008-2009 school year.
There’s also the high-density at-risk weighting. Starting with the 2006-2007 school year districts with a high concentration of at-risk students could receive an extra weighting of four percent or eight percent. Two years later the weightings were raised to six percent and ten percent. (This formula was revised again in 2012 in a way that may have slightly increased the weightings.)
The weightings have a large effect on school funding. For example: During the 2004-2005 school year, base state aid was $3,863 and the at-risk weighting was ten percent. An at-risk student, therefore, generated $4,249 in state funding. (Other weightings might also apply.)
Ten years later base state aid was $3,852 — almost exactly the same — and the at-risk weighting was up to 45.6 percent. This generates funding of $5,609. For a district that qualified for the maximum high-density at-risk weighting, an additional $404 in funding was generated. (These numbers are not adjusted for inflation.)
So even though base state aid remained (almost) unchanged, funding targeted at certain students rose, and by a large amount.
Over time, values for the various weightings grew until by 2014 they added 85 percent to base state aid. A nearby chart shows the growth of total state aid as compared to base state aid. (Starting in fiscal 2015 the state changed the way local tax dollars are counted. That accounts for the large rise for the last year of data in the chart. For school years 2016 and 2017, block grants have replaced the funding formula, so base aid and weightings do not apply in the same way.)
What have we learned?
We’re left wondering a few things:
- Did Deputy Superintendent Dale Dennis tell the audience that base state aid is just part of the school funding landscape, and not reflective of the big picture? Did he tell the audience that total state aid to schools has increased, and increased substantially? If so, why wasn’t it mentioned in the article?
- If Dale Dennis did not tell the audience these things, what conclusions should we draw about his truthfulness?
- Why didn’t the Hutchinson News article explain to readers that base state aid is not an accurate or total indicator of total state spending on schools?
- What is the duty of reporters and editors? We’re told that experienced journalists add background and context to the news — things that the average reader may not know. (This article is designated as “Editor’s Pick” by the Hutchinson News.)
By the way, the Wichita Eagle, on its opinion page, cited in a positive and uncritical manner the Hutchinson News article.5 This is notable as the writer of the Eagle piece, opinion editor Phillip Brownlee, was a certified public accountant in a previous career. This is someone we should be able to trust to delve into numbers and tell us what they mean. But that isn’t the case.
Whatever your opinion on the level and trend of school spending, we need to start the discussion from a common base of facts and information. From this episode, we see that both our state government and news media are not helping.
- Clarkin, Mary. Department of Education’s Dennis: Shocking number when looking at funding gap. Hutchinson News. April 17, 2017. http://www.hutchnews.com/news/local_state_news/department-of-education-s-dennis-shocking-number-when-looking-at/article_4abe359e-8421-53f9-a8d7-1eaa56e95423.html. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Kansas school weightings and effects on state aid. In making the case for more Kansas school spending, the focus on base state aid per pupil leaves out important considerations. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-school-weightings-and-effects-on-state-aid/. ↩
- For the fiscal 2016 and 2017 school years, the formula was replaced by block grants. ↩
- AMENDMENTS TO THE 1992 SCHOOL DISTRICT FINANCE AND QUALITY PERFORMANCE ACT AND THE 1992 SCHOOL DISTRICT CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS STATE AID PROGRAM (FINANCE FORMULA COMPONENTS), Kansas Legislative Research Department, May 20, 2014
- Brownlee, Philip. School funding numbers are ‘shocking.’ Wichita Eagle. April 22, 2017. http://www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/now-consider-this/article146084839.html. ↩
- Waggoner, Paul. Shocking news about Kansas education. Hutchinson News. April 21, 2017. http://www.hutchnews.com/opinion/columnists/shocking-news-about-kansas-education/article_2ebea7d3-6659-51fc-b3b5-409d5b0aa243.html. Or, see https://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/shocking-news-kansas-education/. ↩
Should the Wichita Eagle, a city’s only daily newspaper and the state’s largest, be concerned about the parties to its business relationships?
It’s a question that the Wichita Eagle should be considering. But the newspaper’s top executives seem to have no concern.
On February 14 I sent a message to the publisher and executive editor of the Wichita Eagle expressing my concerns about the newspaper’s future landlords. That letter appears below. After several follow-up attempts by email and telephone, neither would respond.
Sent I sent this message, I’ve found I was mistaken about the ownership of the building to where the Eagle will move and become a tenant. Brandon Steven is not an owner. I had relied on Eagle reporting1 from January, naming Steven as an owner. The reporter confirmed to me that was an error.
Of note, the Eagle portrays itself as a digital entity. One of the things about material published digitally is it can be easily corrected. As of today, the erroneous story from January 3 has not been corrected, even though the reporter knows she made an error.
Is it important that a newspaper avoid business relationships or entanglements with parties that are frequently in the news? I’ve been told that the Eagle has to rent from someone, and Wichita is a small town. Well, not really. The Eagle owns its current building, which eliminated the relationship with a landlord. And if the newspaper wants to be a rental tenant, it could rent from the many landlords who are not frequent newsmakers, especially those that the Eagle needs to hold accountable.
This is a sad episode for the Eagle. When Eagle reporters ask someone about uncomfortable topics and the subject does not respond to messages, the newspaper reports that, and in a negative light. Here, the top two executives at the Eagle would not comment on something they may be uncomfortable discussing. I think we deserve a newspaper with greater capacity for self-examination, and one whose executives are responsive to legitimate concerns.
Following, the message I sent. Note the corrections indicated in footnotes.
February 14, 2017
Mr. Roy Heatherly
Mr. Steve Coffman
The Wichita Eagle
I’m writing because I’m concerned about some issues regarding the Wichita Eagle and its news coverage.
Specifically, I’m concerned about the Eagle entering into business arrangements with the parties who purchased the Eagle building, and then becoming a tenant of the same parties.2
The three parties are Brandon Steven, Dave Wells, and David Burk. While the Eagle is certainly free to do business with anyone it wants to, these three men are newsmakers that the Eagle has covered in the past, and will likely need to cover in the future.
Mr. Heatherly, you may remember that last year at a Wichita Pachyderm Club meeting I asked you about the arrest of Brandon Steven (although I did not use his name), and why the Eagle did not cover this news. Other newspapers did, including the Topeka Capital-Journal and The Morning Sun in Pittsburg.3 4 Those newspapers thought the item newsworthy as Steven had recently been an applicant for a Kansas casino license, and factors such as a person’s reputation are relevant to these applications. Many thought it curious that the Eagle did not report this news.
Regarding David Burk, he is a continual newsmaker in Wichita, and not always in a positive way. A notable incident was his appeal of property taxes on property located within a tax increment financing district, which defeats the purpose of TIF.5 6 Worse, he misrepresented himself as an agent of the city in order to obtain this benefit. When the Eagle reported on this, it rated designation of “special report.” Other than this, Burk is a newsmaker in that he has, for many years, made large and regular campaign contributions to many city council members, and has received much subsidy from the city through many different programs.
For Dave Wells, a principal of Key Construction, he is often in the news for the same reasons as Burk: Large and continual campaign contributions, and a frequent recipient of subsidy. A particularly troubling matter involving Key Construction and public policy occurred in 2012, regarding the awarding of the contract for the new Wichita air terminal, a contract worth around $100 million. Key was one of the parties pursuing the contract. We learned that Key and its partners were making campaign contributions to one Wichita city council member, Jeff Longwell, immediately before and after he participated in a council vote on awarding the contract to Key.7 Several months later after additional campaign finance reports were filed, we saw that Key made contributions to other council members during the run-up to the contract dispute.8
When it was announced that the Eagle was selling its building to these parties, I was not comfortable with this transaction. But it was a one-time deal. Later we learned that the Eagle is to become a tenant of the same parties,9 a business relationship that is likely to last for a long time.
When the Eagle gives these parties free publicity in future news stories, will readers need to be concerned about the motivation for the Eagle printing the stories?
But more important: When these parties do something wrong, will the Eagle vigorously pursue an investigation? An investigation against its landlord?
I hope you can understand my concern.
I would appreciate receiving comments on this matter for a story I am writing for the Voice for Liberty. In addition, if either of you would like to appear on WichitaLiberty.TV to discuss that matter, we can do that too.
- Rengers, Carrie. Wichita Eagle signs deal for new downtown headquarters. January 3, 2017. http://www.kansas.com/news/business/article124312049.html ↩
- An error. See introduction. ↩
- Kansas casino bidder Brandon Steven busted for public nudity. Topeka Capital-Journal, October 1, 2015. http://cjonline.com/blog/tim-carpenter/2015-10-01/kansas-casino-bidder-brandon-steven-busted-public-nudity. ↩
- Castle Rock developer arrested. The Morning Sun, October 8, 2015, http://www.morningsun.net/article/20151008/NEWS/151009892.
- Developer appealed taxes on city-owned property. Wichita Eagle, February 14, 2010. http://www.kansas.com/news/special-reports/article1024583.html. ↩
- Report: Errors made in Old Town Cinema district tax appeal. Wichita Eagle, March 10, 2010. http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article1027324.html. ↩
- Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn questions out-of-state contributions to challenger Jeff Longwell. Wichita Eagle, August 1, 2012. http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article1096574.html. ↩
- Campaign contributions show need for reform in Wichita. Voice for Liberty, January 11, 2013. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/campaign-contributions-show-need-for-reform-in-wichita/. ↩
- An error. See introduction. ↩
Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2016. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas?
Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like journalist, novelist, and blogger Bud Norman; Radio talk show host Joseph Ashby; David Bobb, President of Bill of Rights Institute; Heritage Foundation trade expert Bryan Riley; Radio talk show host Andy Hooser; Keen Umbehr; John Chisholm on entrepreneurship; James Rosebush, author of “True Reagan,” Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); Gidget Southway, or Danedri Herbert; Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education; and Congressman Mike Pompeo.
Kansas legislative resources. Citizens who want to be informed of the happenings of the Kansas Legislature have these resources available.
School choice in Kansas: The haves and have-nots. Kansas non-profit executives work to deny low-income families the school choice opportunities that executive salaries can afford.
Kansas efficiency study released. An interim version of a report presents possibilities of saving the state $2 billion over five years.
Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly. Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 15, 2016. This is an audio presentation.
Pupil-teacher ratios in the states. Kansas ranks near the top of the states in having a low pupil-teacher ratio.
Kansas highway conditions. Has continually “robbing the bank of KDOT” harmed Kansas highways?
Property rights in Wichita: Your roof. The Wichita City Council will attempt to settle a dispute concerning whether a new roof should be allowed to have a vertical appearance rather than the horizontal appearance of the old.
Must it be public schools? A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association exposes the attitudes of the Kansas public school establishment.
Kansas schools and other states. A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association makes claims about Kansas public schools that aren’t factual.
After years of low standards, Kansas schools adopt truthful standards. In a refreshing change, Kansas schools have adopted realistic standards for students, but only after many years of evaluating students using low standards.
Brownback and Obama stimulus plans. There are useful lessons we can learn from the criticism of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, including how easy it is to ignore inconvenient lessons of history.
Spending and taxing in Kansas. Difficulty balancing the Kansas budget is different from, and has not caused, widespread spending cuts.
In Sedgwick County, choosing your own benchmarks. The Sedgwick County Commission makes a bid for accountability with an economic development agency, but will likely fall short of anything meaningful.
This is why we must eliminate defined-benefit public pensions. Actions considered by the Kansas Legislature demonstrate — again — that governments are not capable of managing defined-benefit pension plans.
Kansas transportation bonds economics worse than told. The economic details of a semi-secret sale of bonds by the State of Kansas are worse than what’s been reported.
Massage business regulations likely to be ineffective, but will be onerous. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Inspector General evaluates Obamacare website. The HHS Inspector General has released an evaluation of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, shedding light on the performance of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Kansas highway spending. An op-ed by an advocate for more highway spending in Kansas needs context and correction.
Brookings Metro Monitor and Wichita. A research project by The Brookings Institution illustrates the poor performance of the Wichita-area economy.
Wichita: A conversation for a positive community and city agenda. Wichita City Manager Robert Layton held a discussion titled “What are Wichita’s Strengths and Weaknesses: A Conversation for a Positive Community and City Agenda” at the February 26, 2016 luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
In Kansas, teachers unions should stand for retention. A bill requiring teachers unions to stand for retention elections each year would be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.
In Kansas, doctors may “learn” just by doing their jobs. A proposed bill in Kansas should make us question the rationale of continuing medical education requirements for physicians.
Power of Kansas cities to take property may be expanded. A bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature will give cities additional means to seize property.
Wichita TIF district disbands; taxpayers on the hook. A real estate development in College Hill was not successful. What does this mean for city taxpayers?
Kansas and Colorado, compared. News that a Wichita-based company is moving to Colorado sparked a round of Kansas-bashing, most not based on facts.
In Wichita, the phased approach to water supply can save a bundle. In 2014 the City of Wichita recommended voters spend $250 million on a new water supply. But since voters rejected the tax to support that spending, the cost of providing adequate water has dropped, and dropped a lot.
Wichita Eagle, where are you? The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done.
Wichita on verge of new regulatory regime. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Wichita economic development and capacity. An expansion fueled by incentives is welcome, but illustrates a larger problem with Wichita-area economic development.
Rich States, Poor States, 2106 edition. In Rich States, Poor States, Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance, and fell sharply in the forward-looking forecast.
In Wichita, revealing discussion of property rights. Reaction to the veto of a bill in Kansas reveals the instincts of many government officials, which is to grab more power whenever possible.
‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ … oops! An event in Wichita that made national headlines has so far turned out to be not the story news media enthusiastically promoted.
Wichita doesn’t have this. A small Kansas city provides an example of what Wichita should do.
Kansas continues to snub school choice reform that helps the most vulnerable schoolchildren. Charter schools benefit minority and poor children, yet Kansas does not leverage their benefits, despite having a pressing need to boost the prospects of these children.
Wichita property tax rate: Up again. The City of Wichita says it hasn’t raised its property mill levy in many years. But data shows the mill levy has risen, and its use has shifted from debt service to current consumption.
AFP Foundation wins a battle for free speech for everyone. Americans for Prosperity Foundation achieves a victory for free speech and free association.
Kansas Center for Economic Growth. Kansas Center for Economic Growth, often cited as an authority by Kansas news media and politicians, is not the independent and unbiased source it claims to be.
Under Goossen, Left’s favorite expert, Kansas was admonished by Securities and Exchange Commission. The State of Kansas was ordered to take remedial action to correct material omissions in the state’s financial statements prepared under the leadership of Duane Goossen.
Spirit Aerosystems tax relief. Wichita’s largest employer asks to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Wichita mayor’s counterfactual op-ed. Wichita’s mayor pens an op-ed that is counter to facts that he knows, or should know.
Electioneering in Kansas?. An op-ed written under the banner of a non-profit organization appears to violate the ban on electioneering.
Wichita city council campaign finance reform. Some citizen activists and Wichita city council members believe that a single $500 campaign contribution from a corporation has a corrupting influence. But stacking dozens of the same $500 contributions from executives and spouses of the same corporation? Not a problem.
In Wichita, more sales tax hypocrisy. Another Wichita company that paid to persuade you to vote for higher taxes now seeks to avoid paying those taxes.
Wichita student/teacher ratios. Despite years of purported budget cuts, the Wichita public school district has been able to improve its student/teacher ratios.
KPERS payments and Kansas schools. There is a claim that a recent change in the handling of KPERS payments falsely inflates school spending. The Kansas State Department of Education says otherwise.
Regulation in Wichita, a ‘labyrinth of city processes’. Wichita offers special regulatory treatment for special circumstances, widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
They really are government schools. What’s wrong with the term “government schools?”
Kansas City Star as critic, or apologist. An editorial in the Kansas City Star criticizes a Kansas free-market think tank.
State and local government employee and payroll. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
Kansas government ‘hollowed-out’. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
In Wichita, Meitzner, Clendenin sow seeds of distrust. Comments by two Wichita city council members give citizens more reasons to be cynical and distrusting of politicians.
David Dennis, gleeful regulatory revisionist. David Dennis, candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, rewrites his history of service on the Kansas State Board of Education.
Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning. Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office.
Roger Marshall campaign setting new standards. Attacks on Tim Huelskamp reveal the worst in political campaigning.
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce on the campaign trail. We want to believe that The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and its PAC are a force for good. Why does the PAC need to be deceptive and untruthful?
Which Kansas Governor made these proposals?. Cutting spending for higher education, holding K through 12 public school spending steady, sweeping highway money to the general fund, reducing aid to local governments, spending down state reserves, and a huge projected budget gap. Who and when is the following newspaper report referencing?
Wichita Business Journal editorial missed the news on the Wichita economy. A Wichita business newspaper’s editorial ignores the history of our local economy. Even the history that it reported in its own pages.
Sedgwick County Health Department: Services provided. Sedgwick County government trimmed spending on health. What has been the result so far?
School staffing and students. Trends for the nation and each state in teachers, administrators, and students, presented in an interactive visualization.
Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2015 is $4.1 million. The depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena.
School spending in the states. School spending in the states, presented in an interactive visualization.
Kansas construction employment. Tip to the Wichita Eagle editorial board: When a lobbying group feeds you statistics, try to learn what they really mean.
Wichita has no city sales tax, except for these. There is no Wichita city retail sales tax, but the city collects tax revenue from citizens when they buy utilities, just like a sales tax.
CID and other incentives approved in downtown Wichita. The Wichita City Council approves economic development incentives, but citizens should not be proud of the discussion and deliberation.
Cost per visitor to Wichita cultural attractions. Wichitans might be surprised to learn the cost of cultural attractions.
GetTheFactsKansas launched. From Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a new website with facts about the Kansas budget, economy, and schools.
The nation’s report card and charter schools.
* An interactive table of NAEP scores for the states and races, broken down by charter school and traditional public school.
* Some states have few or no charter schools.
* In many states, minority students perform better on the NAEP test when in charter schools.
School choice and funding. Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm traditional public schools, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position.
Public school experts. Do only those within the Kansas public schooling community have a say?
Kansas and Arizona schools. Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
Video in the Kansas Senate. A plan to increase visibility of the Kansas Senate is a good start, and needs to go just one or two steps farther.
Kansas, a frugal state?. Is Kansas a frugal state, compared to others?
Topeka Capital-Journal falls for a story. The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
Kansas revenue estimates. Kansas revenue estimates are frequently in the news and have become a political issue. Here’s a look at them over the past decades.
Kansas school fund balances.
* Kansas school fund balances rose significantly this year, in both absolute dollars and dollars per pupil.
* Kansans might wonder why schools did not spend some of these funds to offset cuts they have contended were necessary.
* The interactive visualization holds data for each district since 2008.
In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud. A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money.
Wichita, give back the Hyatt proceeds. Instead of spending the proceeds of the Hyatt hotel sale, the city should honor those who paid for the hotel — the city’s taxpayers.
Kansas Democrats: They don’t add it up — or they don’t tell us. Kansas Democrats (and some Republicans) are campaigning on some very expensive programs, and they’re aren’t adding it up for us.
How would higher Kansas taxes help?. Candidates in Kansas who promise more spending ought to explain just how higher taxes will — purportedly — help the Kansas economy.
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Explaining to Kansans what the teachers union really means in its public communications.
Kansas school spending: Visualization. An interactive visualization of revenue and spending data for Kansas school districts.
Decoding Duane Goossen. The writing of Duane Goossen, a former Kansas budget director, requires decoding and explanation. This time, his vehicle is “Rise Up, Kansas.”
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Decoding and deconstructing communications from KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, lets us discover the true purpose of the union.
Government schools’ entitlement mentality. If the Kansas personal income grows, should school spending also rise?
Wichita bridges, well memorialized. Drivers on East Twenty-First Street in Wichita are happy that the work on a small bridge is complete, but may not be pleased with one aspect of the project.
Gary Sherrer and Kansas Policy Institute. A former Kansas government official criticizes Kansas Policy Institute.
Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief. Several large employers in Wichita ask to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Economic development incentives at the margin. The evaluation of economic development incentives in Wichita and Kansas requires thinking at the margin, not the entirety.
The Wichita economy, according to Milken Institute. The performance of the Wichita-area economy, compared to other large cities, is on a downward trend.
State pension cronyism. A new report details the way state pension funds harm workers and taxpayers through cronyism.
In Wichita, converting a hotel into street repairs. In Wichita, it turns out we have to sell a hotel in order to fix our streets.
In Wichita, we’ll not know how this tax money is spent. Despite claims to the contrary, the attitude of the City of Wichita towards citizens’ right to know is poor, and its attitude will likely be reaffirmed this week.
He’s no longer on AM radio at KQAM, but people still want to hear him. So for now there’s the Joseph Ashby Show podcast.
There are several ways to listen:
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita sells a hotel, more subsidy for downtown, Kansas newspaper editorialists fall for a lobbyist’s tale, how Kansas can learn from Arizona schools, and government investment. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 131, broadcast October 30, 2016.
- Article: Wichita, give back the Hyatt proceeds. Instead of spending the proceeds of the Hyatt hotel sale, the city should honor those who paid for the hotel — the city’s taxpayers.
- Article: In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud. A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money.
- Article: Topeka Capital-Journal falls for a story. The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
- Article: Kansas and Arizona schools. Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
Here’s a quote from a recent opinion piece in the Topeka Capital-Journal, the second-largest newspaper in Kansas: “If the past year is any indication, Totten is right about the harmful effects of KDOT sweeps on the construction industry in our state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between July 2015 and July 2016, Kansas lost 4,400 construction jobs — a 7.3 percent decline. This means Kansas ranked 49th in the country for construction job growth.” 1
Here, the newspaper argues that transferring money from the state’s highway fund has led to a loss of construction jobs in the state. Fortunately, there are some institutions and people in our state that will actually look at statistics to see what they mean. And if the editorial board of the Capital-Journal had done this, they would have realized they were fed a line of hooey by a self-interested lobbyist. You see, the “Totten” the newspaper cited as an authority is Bob Totten, Executive Vice President of Kansas Contractors Assocation.2 His job is to agitate for as much spending as possible to benefit his members. It matters not if the spending is wise or needed. The members of Kansas Contractors Association would happily build the proverbial bridge to nowhere, as long as they were paid.
The Capital-Journal was not alone in believing what Totten told them. The editorial board of the Wichita Eagle did, too. It wrote a similar editorial, telling Kansans “Over the past six years, Brownback and the Legislature have taken $2.7 billion in transportation funding to help pay other state bills, Totten said. The loss of this funding has meant fewer projects and fewer jobs.”3
The statistics that are cited deserve further investigation, which is what Kansas Policy Institute did in its article Media and highway contractors mislead again. KPI’s Dave Trabert reported this:
Had the Eagle bothered to examine Mr. Totten’s claim, they would have learned that only 2 percent of the construction job decline was attributable to highway construction and that the loss of 100 jobs is less than 1 percent of total highway jobs.
In addition to learning that Mr. Totten was grossly exaggerating, they would have learned that employment for construction of new homes and non-residential buildings showed very nice growth and the real problem is in specialty trade contractors for non-highway projects.
I verified these statistics and reported them in my article Kansas construction employment. I built an interactive visualization that anyone can use to explore this data.
The upshot is that Kansas highway construction jobs declined slightly, but the bulk of the job loss in construction was in other types of construction. Not in highway construction, as the highway construction lobbyist told Kansas editorial writers.
This is a sad episode in Kansas newspaper journalism. The editorial boards of two newspapers — one the state’s largest — accepted as true the claims of a lobbyist, apparently without spending a moment in verification. Both newspapers have staffs of reporters, some of which I’m sure are capable of accessing the Bureau of Labor Statistics to gather a few statistics and perform an independent investigation.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, it appears that these two newspapers accepted the claims of the Kansas Contractors Association at face value because it fit the editorialists’ world view — that view being that Sam Brownback is bad, state spending on everything has been slashed, and the only thing to do is raise taxes.
That’s an opinion, which is what newspaper editorial boards produce. Now Kansans know just how uninformed are these opinions.
- Topeka Capital-Journal. Editorial: KDOT sweeps continue to harm our state. September 13, 2016. Available at cjonline.com/opinion/2016-09-13/editorial-kdot-sweeps-continue-harm-our-state. ↩
- Kansas Contractors Assocation. Meet the Staff. Available at www.kansascontractors.org/aboutthekca/professionalstaff/. ↩
- Highway fund raids affecting jobs. Wichita Eagle. August 31, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/editorials/article98922052.html. ↩
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week: Martin Hawver briefed members and guests on the state of Kansas politics. Judge Phil Journey provided the introduction. Recorded August 19, 2016.
Hawver is the dean of Kansas Statehouse press corps, having covered the beat longer than any current Statehouse reporter — first for 17 years as a Statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal and since 1993 for Hawver’s Capitol Report, for which he is the primary reporter/writer. He also writes a column syndicated to Kansas newspapers, is interviewed about Kansas government and politics on TV and radio shows, and is a speaker for seminars and conventions.
Hawver’s Capitol Report is owned by Martin and his wife Vickie Griffith Hawver, who met and married while both worked at the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper. Their website is havernews.com.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: New outlets for news, and criticism of the existing. Is Kansas government “hollowed out?” Ideology and pragmatism. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 124, broadcast July 17, 2016.
An editorial in the Kansas City Star criticizes a Kansas free-market think tank.
Kansas City Star editorial writer Steve Rose penned a column accusing Kansas Policy Institute of lies and distortions in its analysis and reporting on Kansas government.1 Here, we take a critical look at a few accusations.
Rose: “To what end does the institute spew out its gross distortions? Its stated goal is to shrink government and to dramatically lower taxes. I would add: Regardless of the possible negative effect to services.”
It is axiomatic that government is the worse way to fund and provide services, with a very few exceptions. Why is this? When government spends money, the spending falls into one of two categories: First, it may be politicians and bureaucrats spending someone else’s money on yet someone else. Or, it may be politicians, bureaucrats, and special interest groups spending someone else’s money on themselves. When goods and services are provided by the private sector, it’s either people spending their own money on themselves, or spending their own money on someone else.
In the two latter cases, people have a strong incentive to get good value for their spending. In the first case, indifference and waste is the rule. In the second case — when spending someone else’s money on yourself — greed is the dominant motivation and consideration.2
We all would be better off if we relied less on the state and if more was provided by the private sector. Education is not one of the exceptions where government is a better alternative to private sector provision.
Rose: “The institute knows the public usually does not have either the time or inclination to get the details of the real story. The headline numbers stick, not the long, boring details of the truth.”
The irony here is that it is our state’s newspapers that have left out the truth. Much reporting and editorializing has focused only on base state aid per pupil.3 While base state aid per pupil did fall, total state spending per pupil rose. Data available from the Kansas State Department of Education shows that the ratio of total state spending to base state aid has generally risen since the adoption of the school finance formula two decades ago. For the school year ending in 1993 the ratio was 0.7, meaning that state aid was less than base state aid. For the school year ending in 2014, the ratio was 1.85, or 2.6 times as much as in 1993. This means that while base state aid per pupil for 2014 was $3,838, total spending by the state was $7,088 per pupil.4
(While the school funding formula has been replaced by the block grants, the weightings were baked into the grant amounts.)
I think that this qualifies as the “long, boring details of the truth” that Rose complains of. I wonder if he understands this. All he has to do is retrieve data from Kansas State Department of Education.
As far as the public’s level of knowledge of school funding, polls commissioned by Kansas Policy Institute show the public grossly uninformed about school finance.5 If you don’t trust a poll administered by Survey USA in which the text of all questions is revealed, know that surveys of the nation produce similar results.6
Rose: “As for the lies about schools, the institute counts in its preposterous $14,000 number non-operating costs such as interest on the debt from bond issues patrons passed in previous elections. It counts contributions to the retirement fund for teachers. It counts pass-through federal money that costs the state nothing.”
I don’t know where Rose gets the $14,000 spending number, but here are some actual per-pupil figures reported by KSDE for some large districts in northeast Kansas:7 Olathe: $12,803. Blue Valley: $13,168. Shawnee Mission: $12,273. Kansas City: $15,936. (For the entire state: $13,124.)
Yes, these numbers include interest on debt incurred from borrowing to build school facilities. Rose seems to say this money should not be counted as part of the ongoing cost of schools. But where should it be counted? Capital costs like these can’t be ignored, yet the Kansas school spending establishment often deflects attention from them, contending these costs “don’t get into the classroom.” Irony alert: These costs are the classroom.
Retirement fund costs for teachers? If not for schools and teachers, would the state have this cost? So where should these costs be charged?
Whether we’re spending too much (or not enough) on these items is another matter. But classifying them properly should not be controversial. Rose’s criticism is characteristic of the political class and its enablers. When the actual cost of government is revealed, the response is to attack the messenger, and truth is cast aside.
But Rose is correct about one thing: Pass-through federal money costs the state nothing. It is the state’s taxpayers that pay the federal government so it can send funds back to Kansas as — according to Steve Rose — money without cost.
Finally, Rose defends government services. The public is being “served well,” he says, with “superb services.” I wonder if he’s examined scores for Kansas schoolchildren on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress. On this test, which is the same in all states, we find these results: For Kansas white students, 42 percent are proficient in reading at grade four. For Kansas black students, only 15 percent are proficient, and 20 percent of Kansas Hispanic students. Similar gaps appear in reading at grade eight, and in math at grades four and eight.8
I’m not satisfied with this, and I don’t think Steve Rose and the Kansas City Star should be. This is the saddest thing about Rose’s column. It used to be that newspaper editorial writers worked to hold government accountable. Now we have this newspaper making excuses for government and unfactually criticizing those who work for accountability. It’s Kansas schoolchildren, especially poor and minority, that suffer the most.
- Rose, Steve. Phony numbers meant to smear superb services. Kansas City Star, July 2, 2016. Available at www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/steve-rose/article87288257.html. ↩
- For more on this, see Friedman: The fallacy of the welfare state, available at wichitaliberty.org/economics/friedman-the-fallacy-of-the-welfare-state-2/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Wichita school spending: The grain of truth. Available at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/wichita-school-spending-the-grain-of-truth/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Kansas school weightings and effects on state aid. Available at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-school-weightings-and-effects-on-state-aid/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Survey finds Kansans with little knowledge of school spending. Available at wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/survey-finds-kansans-little-knowledge-school-spending/. ↩
- Education Next. Results from the 2015 Education Next Poll. Available at educationnext.org/2015-ednext-poll-interactive/. ↩
- Kansas State Department of Education. Total Expenditures by District. Available at www.ksde.org/Agency/Fiscal-and-Administrative-Services/School-Finance/Budget-Information/Total-Expenditures-by-District. ↩
- U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This table available at nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2015/pdf/2016008KS4.pdf. ↩
Kansas Center for Economic Growth, often cited as an authority by Kansas news media and politicians, is not the independent and unbiased source it claims to be.
When supporters of more government spending and taxation in Kansas want to bolster their case, they often turn to Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG). Portraying itself as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization,” KCEG says its mission is “to advance responsible policies by informing public discussion through credible, fact-based materials.” It says it conducts research and analysis to “promote balanced state policies.” 1
As it turns out, KCEG is not really the nonpartisan, independent think tank it pretends to be. Instead, as shown below, KCEG is a side project of Kansas Action for Children, Inc.. Both organizations are funded by and affiliated with well-known liberal organizations whose goals are always to expand the size and scope of government.
This is of interest to Kansans as groups that support low taxes, efficient government spending, and economic freedom are often maligned as being merely puppets of larger organizations that hide their purportedly nefarious goals. In particular, Kansas Policy Institute is often mentioned in this regard.
On its website KPI says it is “an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans.” 2 Also, KPI says it produces “objective research and creative ideas to promote a low-tax, pro-growth environment.”
Whenever KPI is mentioned, often condemnation of American Legislative Exchange Council follows, scorned for purportedly being a shadowy outfit that forces model legislation on unwitting legislators. But ALEC’s mission is quite clear and transparent. Its website says ALEC is “dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” Economic freedom is also mentioned. ALEC says it provides a “toolkit for anyone who wants to increase the effectiveness and reduce the size, reach and cost of government.” 3
These mission statements plainly state the purposes of KPI and ALEC. Contrast them with the mission of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which is filled with material like this: “We pursue federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways.” 4 “Fiscal responsibility” can mean almost anything. To CBPP and its affiliates like KCEG, it means more taxes and more spending.
That dovetails cleanly with the preference of most Kansas newspapers. They — and most other news outlets — call for more spending and more taxation as the solution to all problems, state and local. They do so explicitly on their editorial pages, which is their right and privilege. In their news reporting, by using KCEG as an “objective” source, they rely on a source that isn’t being honest about its independence, its organizational status, and its ingrained policy preferences.
Who — or what — is Kansas Center for Economic Growth?
On its website, Kansas Center for Economic Growth (KCEG) says it is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.” But no records exist for this entity at either the IRS or Kansas Secretary of State. Instead, KCEG uses Kansas Action for Children, Inc. (KAC) as its “fiscal agent” and funding source. KAC is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
On its IRS form 990s, KAC lists a grant from AECF and SFAI, the purpose of which is supporting the type of work KCEG performs. AECF is Annie E. Casey Foundation, a non-profit with income of nearly $223 million and an endowment of $2.9 billion, according to most up-to-date IRS form 990 available. SFAI is State Priorities Partnership, originally founded as the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative (SFAI). It lists KCEG as a partner organization. 5 Both organizations promote solutions involving more government spending and taxation.
State Priorities Partnership, in turn, is coordinated by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). 6 CBPP promotes itself as pursuing “federal and state policies designed both to reduce poverty and inequality and to restore fiscal responsibility in equitable and effective ways.” 7 Its recommend policies nearly always call for more government spending and taxation.
In 2013 Bob Weeks was recognized by the Kansas Policy Institute with the John J. Ingalls Spirit of Freedom Award, given annually to a Kansan who uniquely supports the principles of individual liberty and economic freedom.
- Kansas Center for Economic Growth. About Us. Available at realprosperityks.com/about-us/. ↩
- Kansas Policy Institute. About. Available at kansaspolicy.org/about/. ↩
- American Legislative Exchange Council. About ALEC. Available at www.alec.org/about/. ↩
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Our Mission. Available at www.cbpp.org/about/mission-history. ↩
- State Priorities Partnership. State Priorities Partners. Available at statepriorities.org/state-priorities-partners/. ↩
- State Priorities Partnership. About. Available at statepriorities.org/about/. ↩
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Our Mission and History. Available at www.cbpp.org/about/mission-history. ↩
The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done.
In November 2014 Wichita voters rejected a proposed Wichita city sales tax. The largest portion of that tax, $250 million, would have gone towards expanding the capacity of the Aquifer Storage and Recharge, or ASR, project.
The Wichita Eagle editorial board urged voters to approve the tax. It told readers that spending $250 million on ASR would “assure a future for Wichita with enough water.” “The needs are clear,” the editors wrote, adding “Investing in the aquifer project seems the best thing to do to anticipate and meet Wichita’s water needs.” The Eagle warned of “much higher water rates” if the sales tax is not passed.
Since voters rejected the tax to support that spending, the cost of providing adequate water has dropped, and dropped a lot. But you wouldn’t know that by reading the Wichita Eagle or by relying on our city’s other mainstream news media.
If you viewed a Wichita City Council workshop on December 1, however, you’d have learned that the city can provide adequate water for much less than $250 million. The rise in water bills will also be much less than what the Eagle and the city used to frighten voters into approving the sales tax.
So why hasn’t the Wichita Eagle reported on the December 1, 2015 workshop, in which Director of Public Works and Utilities Alan King presented the new plans — plans which will cost much less? Why have there been no editorials celebrating that we can provide adequate water at much less expense?
I can understand the editorial writers not wanting to admit they had been duped. That’s human nature. But for the news division of the Eagle: Why no reporting on this?
As it happens, the newsroom of the Eagle was also a cheerleader for the sales tax and ASR project. As an example, the Eagle printed a fact check article that disputed claims made by opponents of the tax. When asked why there was not a similar fact check article on the proponents, the reporter said there were no errors to be found. Nothing. That was incredulous — unbelievable — at the time. There were many questionable claims made by sales tax proponents. In hindsight, we are even more certain of that.
The Eagle has plenty of reporting capacity, barrels of ink, and lots of online bandwith to report and editorialize on issues like who gets free parking at the Wichita airport. That’s important, perhaps, but trivial in terms of financial impact. But on this issue involving over $100 million in savings, there is silence.
The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done. We wonder why.
The average Kansan is misinformed regarding Kansas school spending, and Kansas news media are to blame, writes Paul Waggoner of Hutchinson.
Math Quiz on Kansas Spending
By Paul Waggoner
Math questions, one would think, are very straight-forward and easy to answer. At least easy to guess the right answer in a simple multiple choice test. Such is not the case however with the average Kansan who follows state issues relying on the headlines in the Kansas press.
The reality of how poor a job the Kansas press is doing with numbers is found in a December 2015 SurveyUSA study of 500 plus registered voters in Kansas. This scientific study of voters’ knowledge of educational spending in Kansas was virtually ignored by the Kansas media. Most likely because its implications don’t fit the media narrative on education in this Year 5 of the Age of Brownback. Even worse, the poll was commissioned by a conservative think tank, the Kansas Policy Institute.
As to voter (mis) understanding this 15 question poll hit the jackpot. All the questions were multiple choice with only 4 options given.
Question #6 asked how much state funding do you think Kansas school districts receive per pupil? The correct answer is well over $7,000 per student. 39% of Kansas voters thought it was under $4,000, another 22% thought between $4,000 and $5,000. Only 7% of voters guessed properly.
The follow-up, Question #7, was how much total (federal/state/local) funding do you think Kansas school districts receive per pupil? The correct answer in 2015 was over $13,000 per pupil. Only 5% of registered Kansas voters got that one right. 40% thought the total was under $7,000, and 21% said $7,000 to $10,000 which were the two most inaccurate options!
At this point I was even wondering how the accepted wisdom is so far removed from the truth. So I went to ksde.org, the website of the Kansas State Department of Education, to verify the precise figures. At that website every school district in the state is listed.
What our local school districts spend is very close to the state averages. The Hutchinson USD 308 budget was over $60,000,000 in 2014 with 4,836 full-time students or $12,449 spent per pupil. 5 years earlier the USD 308 budget was $57 million, 5 years before that it was about $41 million.
The comparable figures for USD 313 Buhler are $12,360 per pupil in 2014 with a $26,300,000 budget that 5 years earlier was $22,200,00 and 5 years before that was $18,000,000. For USD 313 that meant students were educated for just $9,000 per pupil as recently as 2005.
Kansas school districts total spending is $2.0 billion higher now than just 10 years ago ($6 billion versus $4 billion). That is an incontrovertible fact. Which leads to two immediate questions: How can the Supreme court keep claiming the spending is constitutionally inadequate? And what exactly do taxpayers have to show for the extra $2,000,000,000 every year?
The reality of those numbers are nowhere in the publics’ consciousness currently. For instance, SurveyUSA question #8 was “over the last 5 years how much do you think total per pupil funding has changed?” The correct answer is that it is actually up 9.92%. But fully 47% of Kansas voters confidently said it had dropped over 5%! Another 15% were sure it had dropped but thought the percentage was smaller. Only 7% of voters knew that school spending was up “over 5%’.
The budget trajectory has changed and is on a much flatter curve than ever before. Taxpayers are mostly rejoicing, tax spenders (and their allies) are howling mad.
My revised school spending narrative is frankly the story of the entire Kansas budget (as can be easily accessed at budget.ks.gov “Governors Budget Report FY 2017”).
The state general fund budget first hit $1 billion in 1980 and grew consistently under Governors Carlin/Hayden/Finney at about a 6.5% annual rate.
Under Graves and Sebelius that accelerated growth rate continued until the 2008-09 recession when the state budget dropped dramatically for 1 year under Governor Parkinson. This made a cumulative annual growth average of around 3% for those three administrations.
Under Governor Brownback the general fund budget is still going up, but at a 5 year annual growth rate of 1.8%.
On February 20th one Hutchinson News columnist’s headline blasted the “Deliberate financial starving of the state of Kansas.” I see this as more of a diet, and I say it is about time.
The numbers on the state budget spending (and taxation) are readily available online. The execution of the plan for this new governmental trajectory leave something to be desired, but that is the topic for another day.
Paul Waggoner is a Hutchinson resident and business owner. He can be reached with comments or questions at [email protected]
Kansas City Star editorialist Steve Rose visits with Kansas State Senator Jim Denning.
It’s helpful for Kansans to have commentary and factual injection accompany a Steve Rose editorial in the Kansas City Star. In this case let’s look at a column based on his interview with Kansas State Senator Jim Denning.
Steve Rose: “The numbers can be sliced and diced to make a positive or negative picture, but it is undeniable that Kansas government itself is virtually bankrupt, and Brownback’s tax policies are responsible.”
A government can balance a budget by taxing more or spending less. We see the clear preference of Rose here: There is not enough taxation. We now have an efficiency study that shows some ways to save money. The question is why didn’t the legislature commission this study in 2012, the year in which it cut taxes?
“[State Sen. Jim Denning of Overland Park] Denning said: ‘The governor rolled the dice on the most aggressive tax cut policy in history, and things just did not turn out the way he expected.'”
It’s a shame to see Republicans — or anyone, for that matter — referring to tax cuts as “rolling the dice.” Cutting taxes simply means that people are allowed to keep more of what is rightfully theirs in the first place — which is a good thing. There is legitimate concern that the 2012 tax cuts were distributed in an unfair or unwise way. The way to fix that is to cut taxes for those who didn’t receive the purportedly unfair cuts.
As far as the results of the tax cuts, the governor should not have bragged as he did. The ability of government to manage the economy is limited, especially at the state level. Consider the Obama stimulus. The nation’s unemployment rate was always above the rate the administration predicted if there were no stimulus. See Brownback and Obama stimulus plans.
Further, what is the role of taxation in Kansas? Is it taxation or government spending that is purportedly good for the Kansas economy? Is it to support spending? If so, the tax cuts have not have an effect on spending. While some programs have been trimmed, overall state spending continues on a largely upward trend (for all funds spending) or remains mostly flat (for general fund spending). See Spending and taxing in Kansas.
Denning: “If we would have closed the [LLC] loophole, we would have brought in an additional $200 million, and the governor would have been a hero.”
The LLC loophole Denning refers to is the zero income tax on pass-through business income. Eliminating it and recapturing the $200 million would not have balanced the Kansas budget. In fiscal years 2014 and 2015 the state spent $340 million and $308 million more than it took in as revenue. Spending restraint is necessary.
Denning: “The Legislature has controlled spending to the lowest levels on record. … Our constituents wanted us to reduce spending, and we did.”
It’s hard to justify Denning’s claim with facts. See again Spending and taxing in Kansas.
Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 15, 2016. This is an audio presentation.