Tag Archives: Kansas state government

Articles about Kansas, its government, and public policy in Kansas.

TABORTruth.org Not Quite So

Right away the website tabortruth.org states: “TABOR proponents are baiting citizens with the allure of tax cuts, …”

My understanding of proposals for a TABOR in Kansas doesn’t include tax cuts, except in one case. That’s because taxing and spending will proceed in this way: First, spend up to the limit imposed by the sum of inflation plus population growth. Then, put some tax money away in the emergency and budget stabilization fund. Then — and only then — if there were excess tax revenues, they would be sent back to the taxpayer. This doesn’t sound to me like much of a tax cut.

It is likely that politicians will vote to spend all they can under TABOR limits, so it is quite likely that Kansas spending and taxes will continue to rise. It’s just that now there is a limit on the rate of growth. In the peculiar language of Washington and Topeka, a reduction in the rate of growth is called a “cut,” so maybe in the hearts and minds of the authors of tabortruth.org, there will be “tax cuts.”

Fact Sheet: The Truth About Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment has been an overwhelming success in Colorado. Colorado’s TABOR has successfully restrained the growth of state government and allowed millions of taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Since Colorado enacted the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992, the state has experienced one of the strongest economic growth rates in the country and has provided taxpayers with more than $3 billion in tax rebates and refunds.

Colorado experienced a challenge almost entirely because of Amendment 23 — a state constitutional amendment that mandates large increases in spending on education programs. The ultimate answer to Colorado’s budget challenge is the repeal of Amendment 23.

While Amendment 23 is the main cause of Colorado’s challenge, that state’s version of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights isn’t perfect. That’s exactly why the TABOR legislation proposed in Kansas includes key improvements that will help us achieve even better results than Colorado has enjoyed.

One key improvement we’re proposing to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Kansas is the inclusion of budget stabilization and emergency funds that will help us better deal with economic downturns. In periods of rapid economic growth, when revenue exceeds the TABOR limit, surplus revenue would be deposited into the emergency fund and budget stabilization fund. When the cap is reached on those funds, surplus revenue is then offset by tax cuts or tax rebates. In periods of recession, when revenue is falling, money is then transferred from the budget stabilization fund.

Another important improvement we’ve proposed to the TABOR in Kansas is the elimination of the so-called “ratchet-down” effect. In Colorado, when revenues drop during a recession, the TABOR spending and revenue limit drops to that lower level and will grow from there — even after the economy recovers and revenues bounce back. That’s not the way it’ll work in our state. Here, when revenues drop during a recession, the “Rainy Day” fund allows TABOR spending and revenue limit to remain at the pre-recession high-water mark and only kick back in after revenues recover to pre-recession levels.

These three key differences between a Kansas Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and Colorado’s — the absence of constitutionally mandated annual spending increases here, the ratchet-down correction, and the budget stabilization and emergency funds — means our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights will give us stronger economic growth, more tax relief and restrained government spending — without any of the minor side effects Colorado has experienced.

Courtesy of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas Chapter.

TABOR Fact Sheet: Kansas vs. Colorado

TABOR Fact Sheet: Kansas vs. Colorado

Estimated at 10.4 percent of income, Kansas’s state/local tax burden percentage ranks 14th highest nationally, well above the national average of 10.1 percent.

Kansas taxpayers pay $3,629 per-capita in state and local taxes.

Kansas ranks 32nd in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index: Missouri (11th), Oklahoma (14th), and Colorado (8th).

Source: Tax Foundation

Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights: GOOD FOR COLORADO…GOOD FOR KANSAS*

3-year average poverty rate, from 2002 to 2004

Colorado: 9.8 percent
Kansas: 10.7 percent

Change from 2003 to 2004

Colorado: .1 percent
Kansas: .7 percent

Since TABOR was enacted in Colorado in 1992:

Colorado ranks 3rd in population growth, Kansas ranks 36th.
Colorado ranks 3rd in personal income growth, Kansas ranks 41st.

In 1992

Colorado ranked 18th in per capita income
Kansas ranked 24th in per capita income

In 2003

Colorado ranked 9th in per capita income
Kansas ranked 28th. In per capita income
Colorado ranked 6th in per capita income growth
Kansas ranked 30th in per capita income growth

Since 1992

Colorado ranks 3rd in productivity growth
Kansas ranks 32nd in productivity growth
Prior to the passage of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Colorado in 1992, economic growth in Colorado and Kansas was similar.

From 1980 to 1992:

Kansas per capita income growth ranked 47th, Colorado was 34th.
Kansas ranked 25th in population growth, Colorado ranked 13th.

Income

Kansas rank for per capita income in 1980 was #16, Colorado was #12
Kansas rank for per capita income in 2004 was #29, Colorado was #8

Median Household income

1984 rank: Kansas 14, Colorado 10
2004 rank: Kansas 36, Colorado 10

State Economic Productivity (Gross State Product)**
Economic growth from 1980 – 1992

Colorado rank #26
Kansas rank #43

Economic growth from 1993 – 2003

Colorado rank #3
Kansas rank #37

Job Growth**
June 04 to June 05 private sector job growth:

Colorado ranks #16
Kansas ranks #32

June 03 to June 05 private sector job growth:

Colorado ranks #21
Kansas ranks #34

Education* **

Kansas 2003 Spending Per Student ($) 7,454
Colorado 2003 Spending Per Student ($) 7,384
Kansas Bachelor’s degree or higher, persons age 25+, 2000 25.8 percent
Coloardo Bachelor’s degree or higher, persons age 25+, 2000 32.7 percent

*U.S. Census Bureau
*Bureau of Economic Analysis
*Standard & Poor’s

Courtesy of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas Chapter.

Judicial abuse authorized in Kansas

Thank you to Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network for this fine article that explains the problems that Kansas should be aware of in the Kansas Supreme Court. Readers of this website may remember that I joined Karl in filing ethics complaints against Justices Allegrucci and Nuss (The Ethics Case Against Justice Donald L. Allegrucci, The Ethics Case Against Justice Lawton R. Nuss). I thought the case we made against Justice Allegrucci was compelling, but the Commission on Judicial Qualifications didn’t think so (The Wrong Canon; The Wrong Allegrucci). But someone did, as his wife — the link to Governor Kathleen Sebelius that was the source of the ethics problem — resigned her position. Readers might be asking where is the coverage in Kansas news media of these cases.

Judicial Abuse Authorized in Kansas
By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director, Kansas Taxpayers Network

A closed door meeting in early September in Topeka provided the excuse to expand judicial abuse at the highest level of Kansas government. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications met to consider the complaint that Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss should not participate in the school finance lawsuit. This commission decided that Justice Nuss did not need to recuse himself from ruling on this billion dollar lawsuit.

Prior to joining the Kansas Supreme Court in 2002, Nuss had been an attorney representing the lead school district plaintiff that is participating in this lawsuit. The Salina public schools had joined with Dodge City public schools in filing and financing this lawsuit back in the 1990’s and Nuss was one of Salina’s lawyers at that time. Nuss should have recused himself from this case since he had represented one of the plaintiffs when this case arrived in front of the court.

Three years ago when Nuss joined the Kansas Supreme Court he was expected to obey the ethics rules that supposedly exist for the members of Kansas courts. The judicial canon includes provisions that judges are supposed to avoid all appearances of impropriety. These rules in part say, “A judge shall not allow family, social, political, or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall the judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”

Would you like to go in front a judge who used to represent the person who is suing you? No one would want to do so. This is basic legal ethics. However, you are now a target of an aggressive tax funded plaintiff that is suing you indirectly as a taxpayer. Millions of tax dollars have been spent to finance this school finance litigation in Kansas. The school districts are now suing to transfer $1 billion from the private sector to the public school districts every year. This year they received $290 million more than last year. Next year is likely to be even more costly to Kansas taxpayers.

This appointed commission has now decided that it is perfectly appropriate for Justice Nuss to rule that hundreds of millions of additional tax dollars must be spent for one of the clients he use to represent according to this judicial commission. Well, who appointed this commission of judges, ex-judges, lawyers, and mainly members of the news media? The Kansas Supreme Court appointed them to their four year terms.

So who will oversee the appointed members of this court? The answer is that the Kansas Supreme Court is untouched by ethics rules for the rest of the legal profession. Nuss’ case follows the recent dismissal of similar ethics complaints by this commission. The second complaint concerned Justice Donald Allegrucci, whose wife was until recently the chief of staff as well as the 2002 campaign manager for Governor Sebelius. Governor Sebelius has been supporting the school district’s position that state spending must be dramatically raised.

An oxymoron is a word that describes a phrase that combines contradictory elements like, “thunderous silence.” The Kansas Supreme Court now orders legislators on what is appropriate as well as what amount should be in the appropriation, issues edicts that could shut down the schools, and capriciously re-writes Kansas law. The term, “judicial ethics,” for the highest court in this state is now an oxymoron. Kansans need to know that the appointed judicial elite is now untouchable by their own ethics rules. The fiscal abuse of Kansans by this state’s highest and, arguably, most activist state court in the entire country continues. Every Kansas taxpayer will have to pay this court’s huge bill.

Book review: What’s The Matter With Kansas?

What’s The Matter With Kansas?
Thomas Frank
Metropolitan Books, 2004

Much has been written about this book and its premise of the great backlash, the revolt against the increasingly liberal society of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Mr. Frank believes (I think) that working-class social conservatives in Kansas are not using their votes wisely, that they vote for Republicans for social reasons, and in turn Big Business Republicans turn around and mistreat them. Their social interest, in other words, works in opposition to their economic interest.

I have some quarrel with this, although I think it is true in some ways. Is it true that the interests of big business are opposite of that of the working man? That’s not always the case.

Reviewers of this book have remarked how witty and funny it is. I must have missed those pages. Mr. Frank is a liberal. He advocates liberal government positions, and there’s not much funny about that. Certainly, Mr. Frank is nowhere near as funny as P.J. O’Rourke. But then, I agree with most of what P.J. writes.

The best part of this book is the extensive research of Kansas and Kansas politicians that Mr. Frank did, and how much of that he includes. The footnotes are valuable. I read this book on loan from the library, but I may look for a used copy to keep as a reference work. It is for that reason that I can recommend reading this book.

Links to good reviews of this book: Resenting the Heartland’s Success by Kimberly Shankman

Kansas income has large drop in 2004, says census report

Kansas Income Has Large Drop in 2004 Says Census Report
By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

Kansas Taxpayers Network (KTN) expressed dismay at the latest Census Department income figures that show Kansas income dropping at the second worst rate among the 50 states in 2004. The U.S. Census Department released this data at the end of August in their report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2004.

This report is available online at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p60-229.pdf (see page 30 for the 50 state data). In this report Kansas is listed as having the second largest drop in income among the 50 states. Here’s how Kansas ranked with our five neighboring states and the U.S. average:

State                 % Change      Change in Dollars
KANSAS                - 4.2%            -$1,890
Colorado              + 0.3%            +$  164
Missouri              - 3.2%            -$1,419
Nebraska              + 0.1%            +$   53
Oklahoma              + 1.8%            +$  693
U.S. avg.             - 0.2%            -$   79

This large decline in income for Kansas also indicates that this state is lagging behind our neighbors. “The Census Department’s report of declining Kansas income indicates that this state continues to be in economic trouble. This should be worrisome to state officials who seem intent on figuring out more ways of spending taxpayers’ money instead of focusing upon growing this state’s economy,” said Karl Peterjohn, executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.

“The massive fiscal uncertainty created by the activist Kansas Supreme Court and the profligate state spending hikes supported by Governor Sebelius and the legislative big spenders during the special session have put this state in a fiscal bind. The increases in property and income taxes, various other state ‘revenue enhancements,’ and permanent extensions of supposedly ‘temporary’ state sales tax hikes are putting an anchor on this state’s economic prospects. This federal census data dramatically shows the recent decline in Kansans’ incomes. Soaring state spending will only worsen this problem.”

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Revenue Growth Lags As Kansas Falters

Revenue Growth Lags As Kansas Falters
By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

In early August Governor Sebelius issued a news release praising the economic growth that had allowed state tax revenues to grow significantly in the fiscal year that ended June 30. In the state’s general fund revenues were 7.1 percent or $322 million above last year.

This seemingly good news hides a big problem. Kansas revenues are growing well below the national averages. We are also lagging behind our neighbors and this includes job growth too. Nationally, the Wall Street Journal reported in July that federal revenues were 14.6% above the same period last year or over $204 billion. Oklahoma’s state government is taking $150 million of their increased tax revenue to use to cut personal income taxes but they will also raise spending by $750 million more according to Budget and Tax News in August.

Why is Kansas economic growth lagging? Some tax collections are actually down. In 2002 the state’s cigarette tax was raised from 24 to 79 cents a pack. Naturally, tax collections soared in 2003 with this 229 percent tax hike. However, the state’s revenue per penny of cigarette taxes started to fall and has continued to decline. Total revenues are falling in the last two years and are now over $10 million below the 2003 high point.

Before the cigarette tax was raised, this levy generated about $2 million for every penny of tax. Now it is barely $1.5 million per penny. While total revenues are about $119 million, or 2 percent of the state’s revenues, the proposal by Governor Sebelius for another large, 50 cent a pack tax hike will just shift a lot of cigarette purchases out-of-state, to the internet, or other tax avoiding alternatives. Sadly, this is also leading to more illegal cigarette sales and smuggling.

Severance tax collections soared over 22 percent or over $18 million in the most recent fiscal year as oil and gas prices enjoyed large hikes. This tax collected over $100 million for the first time but is also just 2 percent of state tax collections.

Personal and corporate income tax receipts enjoyed a large percentage growth of 11.9 percent or $244 million above last year. This increase alone was 75 percent of the total increase in state general fund revenues. In contrast, Kansans are shopping outside of Kansas since sales tax collections grew only 2.2 percent or $35 million. Many Kansans, particularly those in eastern Kansas, have learned that the lower state tax rates on groceries, cigarettes, gasoline, beer and alcohol lead to lower prices in western Missouri and in other border states.

This might also explain the generally flat overall, but in some individual cases, declining tax collections the state has on various forms of alcohol and related products. The state’s cereal malt beverage tax collections actually dropped over 4 percent or $88 thousand last year.

The state’s 20 mill property tax for public schools is excluded from the official state revenue estimates. However, the increase in appraisals resulted in estimates of a $40 million hike in the state’s tax collections for this levy that is excluded from the official Kansas General Fund figures.

So the shifting changes in Kansas tax collections shows the mixed nature of the economic recovery in this state. This is an additional reason why Kansas cannot afford another new state spending spree next year.

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Karl Peterjohn is the executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network and is a former news reporter and California Department of Finance budget analyst.

From Karl Peterjohn to Ann Mah

Here’s an open letter from Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network to Kansas Representative Ann Mah, a Democrat from district 53, which is southeast Topeka and areas southeast of there. Rep. Mah scored 12.5 on KTN’s 2005 Legislative Vote Ranking, which places here very near the left end of the spectrum. In other words, she didn’t see many taxes she didn’t vote for. Organizations like KTN bring facts like these to the public’s attention. Sometimes politicians do not like being exposed in this way, and as we have learned, we can’t rely solely on Kansas newspapers and other Kansas news media to report all that we need to know.

Rep. Mah:

I have heard that you made some derogatory comments about Kansas Taxpayers Network and myself on Jim Cates radio program yesterday. I look forward to a public debate on Kansas fiscal issues with you to correct the left-wing misinformation you are spreading.

I would be interested in your source for your assertion that HB 2247 contained a $400 million increase in taxes. I heard many descriptions of this bill during the regular session but I did not see any Legislative Research or other analysis that contained this information at that time. Ooops, in re-reading your post you prefaced this with the word “..potential..,” well the KTN vote rating likes to deal with specifics, like the votes to raise income and sales taxes in 2004 passed the Kansas house with EVERY house Democrat voting for it. Sadly, many fiscally liberal Republicans joined in passing that bill out of the house, like Bill Kassebaum, Cindy Neighbor, Stan Dreher, Mary Compton, and others you didn’t get a chance to meet because they did not return to the 2005 legislature.

Like I said in my previous post the SB 3 legislation was much more important in school finance than HB 2247.

You should be aware that most of the recorded votes cast on bills during final action are often unanimous or close to unanimous with a member or two missing due to health or other excused absences. I find it odd that you would want KTN to include bills on modifying insurance statutes, grain elevator regulations, the color of lights in emergency vehicles or recorded votes on similar legislation for KTN’s vote rating. Have you extended your critique of KTN’s vote rating to the other organizations, like the teachers unions (KNEA) or Kansas chamber (KCCI) which also use a much smaller number of votes than the 457 cast during the legislative session?

I am sorry that you have overlooked the massive tax hikes that were enacted between 1999 and 2003 during the second Graves administration. The Graves administration raised sales, cigarette, business franchise, gasoline, “enhanced” revenues, and raised a variety of charges and other fees. These votes were included in our vote ratings for each of these years and are available for viewing at www.kansastaxpayers.com. More recent tax hike and fiscal votes from 2003-05 Kansas legislatures are there now too.

Since Governor Graves left office this trend has largely continued albeit at a reduced level since the unsuccessful effort to raise broadbased state taxes under Governor Sebelius’ leadership failed in 2004. Democrats lost seats in the Kansas house due to their support for higher spending and taxes last year.

Growing Kansas spending and taxes have occurred due to pressure from liberals and fiscal leftists supporting an expansion of Kansas spending in both major political parties in this state since the 1970’s. I heard that you are claiming that our vote rating is “partisan”. I would point out to you that the two lowest scores in the 2005 house rating is for two Republican house members. In 2004’s scorecard there were four senators who receive scores of zero. Three were Republicans.

I am sorry that you seem to be unable to comprehend the meaning of oligarchy and the damange created by the appointed Kansas Supreme Court as you as an elected official helped surrender your constitutional powers to the judges. The courts treated you and your 164 legislative colleagues in such contempt that they refused to even let any legislator appear before them before they issued their edicts. You helped to meekly surrender your powers as an elected official and violated your oath of office to defend the Kansas Constitution.

Our form of government is in jeopardy in this state due to this judicial usurpation of power that you and over 40 other house colleagues repeatedly surrendered during the special session. Sadly, only two Democrats in the legislature resisted this surrender. If this trend is not reversed the Kansas legislature will become an elected advisory body to the real power in this state: the appointed judiciary and the governor. I have heard a number of legislators on the floor of the house point this out to the entire house. I was disappointed that you and so many of your colleagues ignored this problem.

Kansas is in trouble. This state is stagnating economically due to hostile fiscal policies that have been created before you took office but also by these liberal/left wing policies that you are helping promote while you have been in elected office. I’ll provide you with some excellent commentary from a Kansas businessman that was posted earlier this week on www.kssmallbiz.com that discusses this economic trend. I could share with you stories about the odious “rich” that leftist politicians have helped drive out of this state but this action does have consequences. I hope you’ll read this commentary and see a private sector perspective and how this trend is occurring:

FUNDING OF BUSINESSES: A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE PART II
By Kenneth Daniel
August 31, 2005

In my article of last week, I made the point that the risk capital of businesses is almost exclusively made up of personal savings invested in the business by the owners plus profits left in the business. When we take money away from businesses in the form of taxes, we are curtailing their financial viability, their growth, and their ability to compete with businesses in lower-tax states.

Employees and others, including governments, that depend on our businesses to provide salaries and tax revenues are better off if businesses are financially sound than if they are not. And, we really, really want our businesses and their owners to park their wealth here instead of elsewhere to support jobs and generate taxes for Kansas.

What other things are preventing our business owners from keeping wealth here?

Last week the American Shareholders Association released a report on
the impact of the American Jobs Creation Act, signed into law in 2004 by President Bush. A provision of the act allows companies to bring their foreign profits back to the U.S. at an income tax rate of 5.25% instead of the normal 35% domestic rate.

Previously, companies had to leave the profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes, and wealth that could have supported jobs in the U.S. was left overseas. Among the study’s findings:

According to the International Strategy and Investment Group (ISI), 91 companies listed on the S&P 500 have repatriated more than $191 billion back to America that otherwise would have been invested in other countries.

JP Morgan estimates the provision will increase GDP by an additional 1 percent over the next two years.

JP Morgan further estimates $120 billion will be used for new investment, which will create 500,000 new jobs over the next two years.

The lesson here is the same – business wealth is good. We want and need our businesses to keep their money here. An interesting question is whether Kansas businesses that repatriate money will be hit with the full state income tax for doing so. If they are, multi-state businesses will almost certainly repatriate their profits to some other state that does not have a state corporate income tax.

Another way we punish our Kansas businesses for keeping their money here is through our Franchise Tax. Kansas is one of fewer than twenty states that have a stand-alone tax on the net worth of a business. The old adage is “if you want less of something, tax it”. Kansas apparently wants less business wealth in the state.

Kansas has yet another tax to punish business owners who keep their wealth here, and that is the estate tax. In 2010, when the federal estate tax goes away, Kansas will be one of fewer than twenty states with an estate tax. This is a virtual guarantee that our wealthiest business owners will retire elsewhere or sell their Kansas business interests so they can move their wealth. Even if they don’t, the business is at risk of losing part of its capital or of being sold to pay estate taxes.

Kansas is likely to continue to be one of the slowest-growing states as long as we continue to eat our business nest eggs with punitive taxes. Even when the business owners aren’t whining, those eggs are being eaten, and we will continue to ship most of our best and brightest kids to other states.

The federal government has figured this out. By lowering taxes on businesses and getting businesses to bring their wealth back to the U.S., the national economy is cooking along extremely well. Will we ever figure this out in Kansas?

— END —

Kenneth Daniel ([email protected]) is a Topeka small business owner and free-lance writer. He is publisher of www.kssmallbiz.com, a website dedicated to Kansas small business.

Sadly, the benefits from this 2004 federal legislation are likely to diminish in the near future. This is going to result in a reduction in the growth rate of state tax collections. This will make the legislature and governor’s job of finding more money to feed the avaricious and litigious spending lobbies even more difficult next year.

Unless the Kansas Supreme Court backs down from their spending edict (I don’t know why they would) the fiscal hole facing the governor and the legislature in 2006 is massive. If we follow the traditional Kansas path of raising taxes we will make our uncompetitive fiscal climate even worse. We will lag behind the rest of the country. This trend will worsen. Our young people will leave school with degrees but with few if any local job prospects. These young people will become “Kansas tourists,” who come back to their state at Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or perhaps a week during the summer to visit their family after finding employment in more competitive parts of the country.

This is a terrible fiscal trend that I have been trying to stop for over a dozen years. Sadly, elected officials like yourself have succeeded in your liberal/leftist spending and tax policies across Kansas over a number of decades. Government’s share grows while the private sector recedes. I will look forward to debating you on fiscal issues on Jim Cates show in the near future.

The middle class you claim to represent is moving away from the Kansas state oligarchy by voting with their feet. Since the 2000 census Kansas has dropped behind Arkansas in population. Arkansas! In 2010 or 2020 this state will lose another congressional seat under current fiscal trends and we’ll have only three. Kansans may be limited at the ballot box (no property tax referendums, and very few other tax/bond votes–unlike CO, MO, & OK) but hard working Kansans can still vote with their feet.

Karl Peterjohn

Consider carefully all costs of gambling in Wichita

In a free society dedicated to personal liberty, people should be able to gamble. But that’s not what we have, as in a free society dedicated to personal liberty, people wouldn’t be taxed to pay for the problems that others cause in the pursuit of their happiness.

How does this relate to the issue of casino gambling in or near Wichita?

There is a document titled “Economic & Social Impact Anlaysis [sic] For A Proposed Casino & Hotel” created by GVA Marquette Advisors for the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Greater Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, dated April 2004. This document presents a lot of information about the benefits and the costs of gambling in the Wichita area. One of their presentations of data concludes that the average cost per pathological gambler is $13,586 per year. Quoting from the study in the section titled Social Impact VII-9: “Most studies conclude that nationally between 1.0 and 1.5 percent of adults are susceptible to becoming a pathological gambler. Applying this statistic to the 521,000 adults projected to live within 50 miles of Wichita in 2008, the community could eventually have between 5,200 and 7,800 pathological gamblers. At a cost of $13,586 in social costs for each, the annual burden on the community could range between $71 and $106 million.”

If all we had to do was to pay that amount each year in money that would be one thing. But the components of the cost of pathological gamblers include, according to the same study, increased crime and family costs. In other words, people are hurt, physically and emotionally, by pathological gamblers. Often the people who are harmed are those who have no option to leave the gambler, such as children.

Quoting again from the study: “While this community social burden could be significant, its quantified estimate is still surpassed by the positive economic impacts measured in this study.” The largest components of the positive economic impacts are employee wages, additional earnings in the county, and state casino revenue share, along with some minor elements. Together these total $142 million, which is, as the authors point out, larger than the projected costs shown above. But this analysis is flawed. Employee wages don’t go towards paying the costs of pathological gamblers, as employees probably want to spend their wages on other things. And the state casino revenue share is supposed to go towards schools.

The absurdity mounts as we realize that gambling is promoted, by none other than Governor Kathleen Sebelius, as a way to raise money for schools. Often the figure quoted for the amount of money gambling would generate for the state is $150 million per year. But here is a study concluding that the monetary costs to just the Wichita area would be a large fraction of that, and when you add the human misery, it just doesn’t make sense to fund schools with revenue from gambling.

Why I Voted Against the Amendment

On April 5, 2005, the State of Kansas voted on an amendment to our constitution. The amendment would prohibit same-sex marriage.

I voted against this amendment. I don’t think we want a government that cares who we decide to marry. Before the election, The Wichita Eagle published a list of over 1,000 benefits that arise from marriage. This list alone, outside the context of the controversy over gay marriage, shows just how intrusive government at all levels is. Even if we agree that marriage is a good thing, it doesn’t follow that we want a government to practically force it upon us. Granting these benefits treats people who choose not to marry as second-class citizens.

The amendment passed with 70% of the vote.

Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session: Part II

Thank you, Karl, for this insight into the character of our leading Kansas politicians, and for another example of how Kansas newspapers and other news media aren’t giving us the information we need.


Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session: Part II

By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director, Kansas Taxpayers Network

Early in the special session of the Kansas legislature the house speaker, Representative Doug Mays, R-Topeka, spoke one-on-one with Governor Sebelius. Following this conversation Rep. Mays relayed his discussion with the governor to his house GOP caucus as he laid out a variety of public policy options for the special session. This event deserves more public attention than it has received.

Speaker Mays said that he and Governor Sebelius did not find a lot of common ground. Mays did say that the governor was willing to do a deal. The governor wanted expanded gambling while the conservative GOP legislators behind Mays wanted a constitutional amendment to defend the budgetary authority of elected officials from the Kansas courts.

The two constitutional amendments both ended in failure on the house floor with 41 of 42 house Democrats voting against both proposals to limit the Kansas Supreme Court’s spending edict. A 2/3 vote or 84 out of 125 house members would be needed to send a constitutional amendment to Kansas voters after two separate amendments passed the senate. Unified house Democrats have the votes to stop any constitutional amendment.

This proposal to swap gambling for constitutional restrictions on judicial activism and protecting legislative budget power is major news. I asked Rep. Mays why this has not been reported statewide? “I have no idea why they (the press) didn’t,” Mays said. He also said, “It’s public knowledge,” based upon the caucus discussion. Some press members sit in on the caucuses since they fall under open meetings provisions.

The governor’s spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said that the governor spoke with many legislators during the special session but that her office had no knowledge of this proposed swap on these two major issues.

I asked Mays if he was surprised that this has not been reported statewide. Mays expressed frustration that this deal has not become public knowledge. Mays went on to explain that is most of the state house press, “Didn’t seem to be inclined to report anything to put the governor in a bad light.”

Mays went on to acknowledge that he had been clobbered by a number of critical newspaper editorials concerning his legislative actions during the special session. This editorial page criticism does not bother Mays because the bulk of the public feedback he has received has been positive.

The editorial criticism is not as important as the news reporting. Kansans need to know that there was talk about trading votes for a constitutional amendment in exchange for state expansion of casino gambling. This is important information since we no longer have a judiciary that has usurped legislative budget authority. Kansas now has an oligarchy of appointed judges. The average Kansan needs to know about this deal was being discussed at the statehouse during 2005 special legislative session.

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Karl Peterjohn is the executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network and is a former news reporter and California Department of Finance budget analyst.

Governor Claims Growth While Jobs Disappear

Governor Claims Growth While Jobs Disappear
By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network

Governor Sebelius’ press office issued a news release headlined, “Kansas economy continues to grow under Governor’s leadership,” August 4. The same day the Wichita Eagle headlined the layoffs in Winfield as 1/3 of the 600 employees at Rubbermaid Inc. were laid off.

Is the Kansas economy growing or are the layoffs plaguing the private sector in Kansas aberrations? Recently, the Kansas branch of Americans for Prosperity has been reporting that for every new state and local government jobs that have been created in Kansas in the last five years, a larger number of private sector jobs have disappeared.

This is a distressing trend when Kansas state and local government employment is measured. Kansas is already one of the top states for government employment as a percentage of the workforce when census figures compare the Sunflower state to our neighbors.

Despite the shrinking private sector in Kansas, it is certainly true that state revenues are growing. If there had been any limits on fiscal spending, there would have been plenty of money to start making the Kansas tax climate competitive. Instead, the money was spent by profligate “moderates” from both major political parties that dominate the statehouse. Governor Sebelius, a very liberal “moderate,” happily signed this increased spending into law.

State revenues for the fiscal year that ended June 30 were 7.1 percent, or $322.5 million, above the previous year’s total. This is good news and the governor deserves the credit, right? Well, you need to look at the rest of the country. The Wall Street Journal reported July 12 that federal tax revenues were 14.6%, or $204 billion, above the same level as last year.

So, Kansas is actually growing its tax base at less than half the national rate. Governor Sebelius claimed, “Kansas businesses are hiring more employees, Kansas workers are earning more, and Kansas consumers are spending more.” The governor went on to cite additional public school “investment,” the most popular euphemism for increased government spending, as a reason for this growth.

The actual reason for the growing revenues is the 2003 federal tax cuts passed by Congress and President Bush and the economic stimulus that federal tax cuts are generating. The positive economic impact of this tax cut is covering the entire country. Even Kansas is getting some benefit from the federal tax cut that was opposed by almost every Democrat in Congress. Ironically, these cuts may improve the Kansas economy enough to help Governor Sebelius win a second term in office next year.

What is clear about this data is that Kansas is lagging behind the rest of the country. Many Kansans, including our governor, do not even realize this fact. This situation is going to get worse even before the activist Kansas Supreme Court can expand their fiscal damage with more edicts in 2006.

Oklahoma recently enacted personal income tax cuts that will lower that state’s top income tax rate to below Kansas’ top rate beginning in 2006. Instead of spending their fiscal windfall like Kansas, Oklahoma is investing it in their people in the form of a six percent personal income tax cut. In Kansas, the only growth industry is bigger government and rising prospects for future tax hikes.

The ethics case against Justice Lawton R. Nuss

I have filed an ethics complaint with the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications against Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton R. Nuss.

I happen to disagree with the ruling the Kansas Supreme Court made in the case cited in my complaint. I have been asked whether I would have filed the same complaint if I had agreed with the court’s ruling. The answer to that question is probably not. My level of interest would probably not be what it is. That troubles me, as we as citizens need to be watchful for these types of judicial transgressions, no matter what our political beliefs are, and not mattering whether we benefit from the judge’s rulings.

The form I filed with the Commission asks for a twenty-five word statement of what the judge did that was unethical. This is what I wrote:

Justice Nuss was a member of the law firm representing a party whose case is now before his court.

For the details of the complaint, I wrote this:

In the case Montoy v. State, the Salina School District is a lead plaintiff. Justice Nuss’s former law firm previously represented and may still represent this plaintiff.

In the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct, Canon 3E(1)(b) states that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself where “the judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter …” This seems to apply to Justice Nuss in this case.

Furthermore, Justice Nuss’s involvement in this case raises questions of impartiality and appearance of impropriety.

Canon 2, paragraph A states: A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

In the commentary: A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.

Because of Justice Nuss’s close association with this case, a reasonable person could conclude that the judge cannot carry out his duties with impartiality.

Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session

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

July 19, 2005

Untold and Under Reported Stories From the Kansas Special Session
By Karl Peterjohn

The Kansas legislature abjectly surrendered their fiscal powers to the demands of the Kansas Supreme Court at the end of their special session in July. This victory for this liberal activist court and Governor Sebelius has generated a lot of news articles and positive editorial commentary for all of them in the Kansas press. Sadly, a significant part of the story behind this constitutional and spending battle has either been totally ignored or under reported. Here are some important pieces of information that should not be overlooked in the wake of these transformational changes in Kansas government.

First, let’s begin with the basics. Kansas’ General Fund will now officially top $5 billion for the first time. This is an important milestone when you consider that the state had its first $1 billion budget only 25 years ago in 1980. This spending growth is more than three times faster than Kansans’ wages and is over $1,850 for every Kansan each year.

In addition, the special session means that the state’s All Funds budget that includes highway, Medicaid, and a variety of other non General Fund spending will now top $11.5 billion for the first time. This budget passed the $10 billion spending milestone only a couple of years ago in 2003 but is growing rapidly as welfare and medical spending is included.

Despite all of the inaccurate information about “tight budgets” and even “budget cuts,” the growth of state government in Kansas is rapid and continuing. Many spending proponents were pleased to see the growth in state revenues during the first 11 months of the 2005 fiscal year. This 6.9 percent increase appears impressive until you consider the fact that this is well below the average growth in the other 49 states.

The Wall Street Journal reported July 12 that federal revenues are 14.6 percent or $204 billion above the previous year’s level. Besides showing the success of President Bush’s 2003 tax cuts, this data is important to Kansans. This data clearly shows that the relative decline of Kansas compared to the rest of the country is continuing. This data warns Kansans about the economic peril they now face if they want their children to find jobs in the Sunflower state after graduation.

The decline in Kansas is also showing up in the continued small declines in public school enrollment. In the last seven years there has been a small and continuing decline in student enrollment. That decline is a factor that is largely ignored in the debate over “budget cuts for schools,” while the reality is the exact opposite.

The $290 million state spending increase in schools is going to mean a huge windfall for spending in Kansas public schools. Since the enrollment has declined to less than 442,000 FTE students, this is going to mean over $650 per pupil or over $13,000 per classroom with 20 students in it. This figure does not include additional local or federal tax dollars that are likely to increase too.

This spending spree is the tip of the spending iceberg from the very liberal and appointed Kansas Supreme Court. The plaintiff school districts that funded the school finance lawsuit can begin their spending spree. The less visible balance for this spending spree is another $600 million this Sebelius and Democrat dominated court is demanding that will become vividly visible in six months. Hang onto your wallets or you can join the line of people, like former Governor Bill Graves, who used to be Kansans and now have moved to fiscally sane parts of the country where legislators vote on budgets and judges don’t legislate from the bench.

The wrong canon; the wrong Allegrucci

In May 2005, Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, wrote an editorial that explained how Kansas Supreme Court Justice Donald L. Allegrucci needed to recuse himself from matters involving the Kansas school finance lawsuit. That’s because his wife, Joyce Allegrucci, is Governor Kathleen Sebelius’s chief of staff, and the governor has taken a public position on the case.

After reading Peterjohn’s editorial, I decided that more action was necessary. I found out that the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications might be a forum that could deal with ethical lapses like Justice Allegrucci’s. I filed a complaint against Justice Allegrucci, and so did Peterjohn. You can read the details of my case in the article The Ethics Case Against Justice Donald L. Allegrucci published on The Voice for Liberty in Wichita. The basis of the case is the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct, Canon 2, paragraph B, which states: “A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.” Furthermore, in the commentary to Canon 2, paragraph A: “A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.”

I thought that a judge ruling on a matter of importance to his wife’s boss qualified as the appearance of impropriety, if not actual impropriety.

My complaint was considered on July 1, 2005. In a letter dated July 12, 2005, the commission informed me that based on Canon 3E(1)(d)(iii), there was no case. This is curious, as I did not cite this canon. It says:

E. Disqualification.
(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:

(d) the judge or the judge’s spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:

(iii) is known by the judge to have a more than de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding;

“De minimis” denotes an insignificant interest that could not raise reasonable question as to a judge’s impartiality.

I do not know whether the commission did any fact-finding, but evidently they concluded that Joyce Allegrucci, who is the governor’s top employee and who has managed all her political campaigns, doesn’t care very much about the outcome of a case that the governor cares very much about. This is not reasonable. It is laughable.

There is still the issue of the Canon 2 appearance of impropriety, which was not addressed by the commission. I think that Joyce Allegrucci’s resignation speaks volumes about that. I’m sorry that she resigned. I didn’t file a complaint against her. To my knowledge, she has committed no infraction. It is her husband, Justice Allegrucci, who had the responsibility to disqualify himself.

(By the way, I happen to disagree with the court’s ruling, but that is beside the point. The point is that we don’t know whether Justice Allegrucci’s rulings are affected by his family relationship. It may be that the Allegruccis are not getting along very well, and the judge might rule to spite his wife. Or, perhaps he is capable of making a ruling without letting the family relationship influence his judgment. But we don’t know, and we probably can’t ever know. That is why this is the appearance of impropriety.)

I believe that press coverage of this matter is missing this point. Politicians are missing it, too. Consider this, as reported by The Wichita Eagle: “‘There’s no conflict of interest, absolutely none,’ said Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood. ‘Many people don’t understand what conflict of interest is. They perceive it as any situation they don’t like.’ He said Allegrucci wasn’t involved in the school finance discussions between legislative leaders and the governor’s office during the special session.”

Sen. Vratil seems to think that we accused Joyce Allegrucci of committing an ethical violation. Instead, we accused her husband, Justice Donald L. Allegrucci, as it is he who violated the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct.

Further in the same article: “Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, called Allegrucci’s departure a loss of a ‘talented staff member,’ but noted the governor won’t have to deal with the criticism of her staff being too close to the court in an [sic] re-election year.”

Sen. Schmidt treats this matter as merely “inside politics.” It is true that people probably won’t remember this matter by the time of next year’s elections. Again, I don’t believe that Governor Sebelius or Joyce Allegrucci committed any ethical violations. It is Justice Allegrucci who should have recognized the impropriety of the situation and disqualified himself.

In summary, we have a Kansas Supreme Court Justice who has committed an ethical violation. The Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications didn’t agree, and didn’t consider an applicable canon when making its ruling. The press and some Kansas politicians fail to understand the importance of this matter. Instead of our state using this situation as an opportunity to reinforce the importance of ethics through a careful review and discussion of “impropriety” and the “appearance of impropriety,” the wrong person has resigned and the issue appears to have been resolved. A scapegoat isn’t what Kansas needs to increase confidence in our government. We need a press that sees the issue as vital and a group of representatives that realize confidence is their ticket not only to reelection, but to respect.

Report from Topeka, July 3, 2005

Thanks again for this report from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network


It was a hard, long slog for the 11 days of the Kansas legislative session that began June 22. Using the phrase, “hard, long slog,” is one that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had used in describing the war in Iraq.

The hard, long slog of the Kansas constitutional crisis continues with a break for legislators until Wednesday July 6. By then, the final FY 2005 revenue figures should be in.

Yet there is a phrase from the Vietnam war that is quite descriptive for the situation in Kansas.

“We had to destroy the village to save it.”

This phrase has been attributed to various sources and most seem to (dis)credit it to left-wing flak Peter Arnett who was last seen generating excuses for Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet that phrase accurately describes what the Kansas Supreme Court’s latest edict: “We have to destroy public schools in order to save it.”

The court’s July 2 edict threatens the closure of the state’s public schools unless its spending mandate is met. This edict represented a judicial hissy fit because the divided Kansas legislature did not meet the court’s July 1 date for increasing spending. The court issued an unusual Saturday afternoon ruling while the legislature continued to meet.

This edict is odd because it will hurt the court’s position in this constitutional crisis. This is despite the fact that increasing spending by $143 million seems to be a goal which the bulk of the legislature is quite willing to meet, and then wants to spend more! Since the state does not have the revenues any increase in funding to these levels leads to a fiscal/gambling meltdown.

The state does not have the capability to fund any increase in K-12 spending above about $86 million for the fiscal year that began last Friday (unless there is a surprise among the last tax collections coming in for the fiscal year). To increase funding to the $143 million (court’s level) or $147 million (house’s last offer) or $149 million (senate’s last offer) will require increasing taxes/fees/whatever or expanded gambling (the governor’s preferred option). All three of these options destroys the ability of Attorney General Kline to take a case into federal court’s concerning this state court’s outrageous edict since the legislature is on track to surrender their fiscal powers to the court. If the legislature succumbs this year they will have no basis for challenging the court’s $568 million in increased public school spending (the court’s figures, its actually a lot more) for next year.

If the legislature approved a funding bill of only $11 million in additional spending, like the house’s initial offer last week, would have provided AG Kline with plenty of room to argue the legal case against the Kansas Supreme Court in federal court. Sadly, tax and spenders RINO’s like senators Jean Schodorf and John Vratil passed out of the senate with all ten Democrats and half of the GOP senators supporting a $160 million spending increase. This is fiscal follies that only the federal government, with their unlimited ability to print money, could even contemplate following.

Sen. Vratil bragged to reporters last Friday that the senate had “compromised” by offering to cut the spending increase to $149.9 million and came “2/3” of the way down to the house’s last offer of $145 million in increased public school spending (this would be on top of the $142 million approved last April for a total that is now approaching $300 million or about a 10% increase). This was misleading to the press and public extended to other remarks he made in the conference committee. Sadly, the legislators who came to Topeka threatening to vote against a penny more for public schools have steadily retreated with the overwhelming vote supporting the school spending lobby in the senate and the very narrow majority that fiscal conservatives and constitutionally concerned house members have been able to maintain within the GOP caucus in the house as the final opposition to fiscal insanity. Eroding away the house Republicans are at least 17 GOP house members who are voting with all 42 house Democrats for any and all opportunities for higher spending.

In the school finance conference committee Vratil said that the senate opposed any hard trigger that would require passage of a constitutional amendment for voters before the additional spending would occur. This was the opposite of what he had told his GOP colleagues in the senate a couple of hours earlier. This is a key for fiscal and constitutional conservatives in both houses. This statement generated outraged comments within his own senate caucus. Conservative Sen. Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe went public calling him and the rest of the GOP senate leadership as “liars” in press interviews she conducted Friday night.

Fiscally responsible Kansans need to inform their legislators how they feel about the constitutional usurpation that is continuing in Kansas. Please feel free to forward or quote from this article.

The decline and fall of Kansas and this state’s economy continues as Governor Sebelius, the Sebelius dominated Kansas Supreme Court, a majority of the state seem to trip over each trying to destroy the private sector in this state by irresponsible fiscal policies.

Today, the Kansas press predictably blamed this impasse on conservative house speaker Doug Mays and the legislature. The liberal and left-wing editorial pages in this state are already starting to target legislators who are trying to prevent fiscal insanity at the statehouse. Today’s Wichita Eagle editorial (July 3) is a good indication of the nonsense being distributed to among the Kansas press. Sadly, there is a strong chance that portions of this editorial will end up in the news coverage of the Kansas press too.

Karl Peterjohn
KS Taxpayers Network
www.kansastaxpayers.com

Report from Topeka, July 2, 2005

Thanks again for this report from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director Kansas Taxpayers Network


The Kansas constitutional crisis expanded Saturday afternoon as the Kansas Supreme Court issued their latest school finance edict that threatened to shut down the public schools in this state because the legislature is not behaving properly under the court’s instructions.

This is a sad day for the people of Kansas and their elected representatives when the appointed officials on this court, including apparently (the order was only signed by the chief justice and no other members of the court) two justices who have conflicts of interest in this case, continue to their assault on representative government and the separation of powers in this state. Kansas is truly in a constitutional crisis that is unique in this state’s history.

What makes this situation fascinating is the continuing legislative special session. The legislature is deadlocked. At the moment there aren’t 63 house members who are willing to surrender their fiscal authority to the court so the school finance bills and test votes have failed there. The most recent failure was a 63-to-59 procedural vote conducted in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

The house is in recess until 4 PM and the senate, which has easily and regularly surrendered their fiscal authority by usually 25 of its members, watches and waits for the house. The flip side of this stalemate are the constitutional amendments to limit the court’s activism and usurpation in this case. A 2/3 vote is needed to pass any constitutional amendment and the Democrats have the ability to block any amendment with a unified caucus. However, there are about a dozen GOP liberals house members lead by Tim Owens, Jim Yonally, and Ward Loyd in the house who are voting with the Democrats to prevent any amendments limiting the court’s usurpation from getting to Kansas voters. Nine of ten Democrat senators voted against the constitutional amendment defining legislative appropriation powers in the senate a week ago.

The court order today will schedule another hearing July 8 in Topeka with the court threatening an injunction to close the schools. Someone might inform the court that it is now summer and even many summer school programs are finished until the middle of next month. What is fascinating is the reports that Governor Sebelius (who called this special session following the court’s June 3 interrim edict in this case) was aware of the court’s actions yesterday and this was mentioned by her to the various legislative leaders who met in her office late on Friday night according to various legislators. Legislators are talking among themselves about this violation of judicial decorum by someone on the court who shared this information that somehow reached the governor before the official announcement.

The governor’s chief of staff, Joyce Allegrucci, is married to one of the justices, and this family connection has raised questions about Justice Donald Allegrucci’s participation in this case in light of the canon of ethics for Kansas courts which states in part, “A judge shall not allow familly, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.” Multiple complaints have been filed with the commission responsible for handling complaints against judicial misconduct concerning Justice Allegrucci. A closed door hearing was held in Topeka on July 1, 2005. Complaints have been filed by Robert Weeks of Wichita (see www.wichitaliberty.org) and myself. Allegrucci is a former Democratic legislator and unsuccessful congressional candidate and party activist prior to joining the court in the 1980’s.

A second ethics complaint was filed against Justice Lawton Nuss who represented the Salina public schools. The Salina public school district is the lead school district financing the Montoy (school finance) lawsuit. Nuss joined the court in 2002 after being appointed by then Governor Bill Graves. The Montoy case goes back to the late 1990’s. No one would like to go to court and face a judge who used to represent the person who is now suing them. Justice Nuss should have recused himself and not participated in this lawsuit to avoid any appearance of “improper conduct” and “impropriety,” as called out in this canon of ethics.

The improprieties of these two members of the court are significant but not as sizable as the constitutional and fiscal dimensions of this latest edict. The court is trying to mandate additional state spending of over $640 per pupil in addition to the roughly $6,000 a year the state is now spending for each of the 445,000 FTE public school students in Kansas this year alone. Passage of this edict requires a dramatic increase in state revenues and many legislators point out that this judicial edict fits nicely into the governor’s proposal for expanded gambling in Kansas. However, that is only for this year and this court’s edict for next year is roughly twice as large as this year’s!

However, the usual battles over school funding and expansion of gambling are being overshadowed by the separation of powers and judicial usurpation of legislative powers by this court. Ultimately, the court will be dominating the state’s educational appropriations despite the fact that the legislature was never a party to the Montoy lawsuit. The public school portion of the state’s budget is already well over half of the state’s entire General Fund budget. The court has denied the legislature any ability to even appear before it. Ditto for citizens of the state who are expected to pay the bill for the court’s fiscal profligacy.

After the court’s spokesman issued the order this afternoon, several legislators like Rep. Eric Carter, a lawyer from Johnson County, spoke about the court’s destruction of the constitutional and historic power of the legislature. Sen. Karin Brownlee, a Johnson County Republican agreed with Carter’s grim prognosis for representative government in this state. Instead of getting legislators to appropriate funds, a quick district court decision followed by a supreme court verdict has now become a viable path for government school spending.

Sadly, no one on this Alice in Wonderland court has bothered to notice that the latest federal figures from the 2005 Statistical Abstract show that Kansas is already spending more per pupil than all of the surrounding states; that Kansas is spending more than the U.S. average; and that Kansans are paying for this spending with lower than average incomes compared to the U.S. national average. The court did not notice that Kansas school district employees are now regularly retiring in their 50’s under the “85 and out” provisions while workers in the private sector must work at least a decade longer for a normal retirement.

National news attention is showing up concerning this crisis. There are several reasons for this national attention. Texas is having a special session on school finance right now in Austin. These school finance lawsuits are part of a national trend occurring in states as disparate as New York, Arkansas, Montana, as well as Kansas and Texas. If legislative authority is surrendered to activist courts, and the Kansas court has gone well beyond any ground that the U.S. Supreme court, despite its egregious and recent activism, has dared to tread, then the future of representative government is now in jeopardy by these appointed officials at the state level.

So the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and National Review are just three of the non Kansas publications who have spoken out about the Kansas constitutional crisis. The Kansas: “Closed for Business,” sign has been posted since the massive spending edicts issued by the courts are being followed by the governor and her legislative supporters. Why would any business person with a lick of common sense come to crazy Kansas where the court’s rule and fiscal responsiblity in government is an oxymoron?

Massive tax hikes will be needed to finance just the Montoy edict of June 3, 2005. The exodus of productive Kansans and the firms that employed them was already underway because of the already high property taxes and overall hostile fiscal climate across this state prior to the court’s decision. This state is facing a fiscal implosion of economic contraction and stagnation once the fiscal burden ordered by the court is placed upon the 2.7 million Kansans.

Interesting enough there is a model for this type of mess. It occurred in the early 1970’s in Ohio when that state enacted its state income tax and began a policy of state fiscal expansion under the leadership of the liberal Democratic governor named John Gilligan. The private sector in Ohio shrunk and jobs disappeared under the tax and spend policies of Governor Gilligan. Ohio faltered and stagnated and that state has continued to lose congressional seats as Ohioans, like myself who initially left in 1973, departed for more economically competitive parts of the country. People can, and do, vote with their feet, regardless of the edicts and fiscal profligacy of the courts.

There is a Kansas connection here. John Gilligan is Kathleen Sebelius’ father. Like father like daughter and those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In addition, like Kansas, Ohio has been burdened with school finance lawsuits.

Sadly, the litigating for government spending model will not improve the public schools in Kansas. In the 1980’s a federal judge imposed his will upon the citizens of the Kansas City Missouri school district trying to improve their public schools. He made a hash out of that school district at a cost of over a $1 billion to taxpayers. Sadly, the Kansas court has forgotten this disaster and seems intent upon helping Governor Sebelius and the other tax and spend officials from both major political parties in Kansas, to repeat it.

Please feel free to forward, post, or quote this article.

Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director
Kansas Taxpayers Network
www.kansastaxpayers.com

Karl Peterjohn

Report from Topeka, July 1, 2005

Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, for your insights into the Kansas Legislature’s special session.


The Kansas house begins their 10:30 AM session with a constitutional amendment to reassert their fiscal powers in a key vote for this special session. Last Sunday a similar amendment failed getting only 73 of the 84 (2/3) votes needed to be submitted to voters.

Yesterday’s house vote on school finance tied the $140 million in additional funding to the passage of an amendment in the constitutional battle between the court and the other two branches of Kansas government. Yesterday, the governor declined to state her position on the constitutional amendment proposals but many legislators believe that she is holding house democrats away from any amendment.

The vote last Sunday was critical since the senate had already passed this amendment and house approval would have allowed Kansas voters to have a voice in this crisis. Kansas voters continue to be largely disenfranchised in this process.

What has been missing from the school finance debate is perspective. Sadly, the figures tossed about by the various sides do not reflect numbers that most Kansans can easily relate to understanding. Should government school spending be raised by $161 million or $86 million?

The regular legislative session approved a $142 million increase that was roughly five percent of total state funding. Let me try to make this number more understandable. If this increase was spread evenly across the state (it will vary district-to-district) it would result in a per pupil increase of almost $320 a year!

The court mandated another $143 million beginning today (the first date of the 2005-06 school year and the 2006 state fiscal year) that would raise this figure to over $640 per pupil. The cost of this spending will be over $620 for the average family of four in Kansas this year or just over $155 per person.

The Rockefeller Institute reported recently that state revenue figures are growing at a rate of almost 12 percent for the first quarter of this year over the same period in 2004. State revenues have not grown fast enough in Kansas to support spending increases above the $100 million figure depending upon the final numbers for the fiscal year that ended only yesterday. In Kansas, this growth rate in tax collections is roughly half this rate. Kansan continues to lag behind the rest of the rest of the country and soaring state spending will be a growing boat anchor restraining this state’s economy.

A couple of interesting insights in hallway discussions at the statehouse. A number of legislators are pointing out how similar the increased spending figures are to the projected state revenues from expanded gambling. It is interesting to note that Kansans would be sending an additional $3-to-4 million a week to the state to finance the increased gambling revenues. Critics of expanded gambling continue to complain that no one is projected the loss in state revenues from decreased sales and other excise tax collections if gambling is expanded.

One of the largest school districts in Kansas, the Shawnee Mission School District has decided to drop its membership in the powerful school spending lobbying organization, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB). The Shawnee Mission district’s representatives to the KASB have served as its president and had an assigned seat on the organization’s board of directors. The Johnson County school districts have been upset by the legal challenges to the 2005 school finance bill that provided additional spending authority to
the Johnson County school districts. KASB lobbyists have been strong advocates for the spending growth that is hampering economic growth in this state.

Fiscally responsible Kansans need to let their legislators know how they feel about the constitutional amendment and the soaring state spending. The legislative hotline’s 800 number is working: 800-432-2924. I believe that there is strong legislative support for putting specific restrictions in place to prevent the Kansas Supreme Court from ordering the closure of public schools too.

Please feel free to forward this to fiscally responsible Kansans.

Karl Peterjohn
Kansas Taxpayers Network

Americans for Prosperity Statement on the Current Special Session

Americans for Prosperity Statement on the Current Special Session
June 29, 2005

“Americans for Prosperity — Kansas is pleased that both legislative leaders and Governor Sebelius have ruled out tax increases on Kansas families and businesses as a way to meet the recent Supreme Court ruling.

The tax burden on Kansans is already too high and combined with the private sector job losses it is clear that a tax increase would be not in the long term interests of our state. After the misguided tax increase effort of 2004 and the initial call in some quarters this year for a tax increase it is positive to see that legislative leaders and Governor Sebelius and legislative leaders have realized the need to set a new course.

We want to thank the literally thousands of Kansas citizens from across our state and from all walks of life who have called, written and met with their elected leaders to demand more efficient government, relief from higher taxes and a return to the entrepreneurial spirit that has made Kansas so great. These grassroots activists — many of whom are AFP-Kansas members — are helping bring a new political culture to our state.

As our elected leaders decide how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision requiring hundreds-of-millions of dollars in new education spending AFP-Kansas encourages them to consider ways to improve education results with forward-looking reforms. Like the vast majority of Kansans, we have supported needed funds for education. As a massive new infusion of tax dollars for education is considered, now is the time to make sure that Kansas’ children are receiving the full benefits of this money. That means actively looking for ways to get more dollars directly into classrooms instead of seeing them wasted on bureaucracy, giving parents greater input into their children’s education, and making sure that every child is given the very best opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Study after study has shown that spending more money does not increase the quality of education. Our focus needs to be on improving education for Kansas students, not on building a large bureaucracy that siphons money from the classroom.

We also applaud the efforts of those legislators pushing the Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the role of the courts vs.. the legislature in how taxes are levied and public funds are spent. The passage of this amendment will ensure that the public’s voice on spending and tax issues is not overruled by judges that face little public accountability and virtually no public input in their selection.

Report from Topeka, June 30, 2005

Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, for your insights into the Kansas Legislature’s special session.


The Kansas house passed on a 64-to-59 vote a school spending plan that is contingent on the court not removing any parts of this plan and the voters getting their hands on a constitutional amendment to reaffirm the legislature’s fiscal authority. This bill, house substitute for SB 3 goes to the senate for either concurrence or conference committee.

The house is scheduled to take up a constitutional amendment but that won’t occur until 2 PM at the earliest. The senate will meet at 2 PM.

It will take at least 4-to-6 house Democrats to vote for a constitutional amendment to offset the Republicans who have been voting against a constitutional amendment in this 125 member body. There are 84 votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Two have been discussed.

The house vote is good news in the constitutional battle but it is not decisive by a long shot. If the constitutional amendment(s) is (are) passed and the senate concurs on this bill this special session could end today with this as a response to an overbearing court and a reassertion of legislative powers. However, the senate could easily decide not to concur and a variety of events could then take place.