Tag Archives: Kansas state government

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

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

P.O. Box 20050
Wichita, KS 67208
316-684-0082 FAX 316-684-7527

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

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

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.

Report from Topeka, June 29, 2005 (afternoon edition)

A second report for today from Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.

The senate Republicans have weighed in and made a significant impact today. A majority of the GOP Senate caucus met with their leadership and made it clear that they would not be involved in other votes on school finance until the constitutional amendment protecting legislative powers issue is resolved.

This is important for a number of reasons. It is a message to the Senate President Steve Morris and the rest of the leadership that their positions are in some jeopardy without keeping a majority of the GOP caucus behind them. Second, it provides leverage for some house Democrats who would like to vote for a constitutional amendment but are being pressured behind the scenes by their leadership starting from the governor’s office and working its way down that want to keep the Democrats together (only one house D voted for the amendment last weekend) but some members do not want this to be locked into a position defending the court.

Since 84 votes are needed to pass any constitutional amendment in the house and there are 83 Republicans some Democrats will have to vote for this amendment since there are at least a handful of die-hard liberals led by lawyers Tim Owens and Ward Loyd who have publicly criticized on the house floor the senate passed amendment protecting the legislature’s fiscal powers in the strongest words possible. Any amendment would go to the voters in August.

What has made this turn of events quite interesting is the unified senate GOP support for the amendment with every senate Republican voting for this proposal. This includes some very liberal GOP legislators.

The house goes in at 4 PM (right now) and school finance is on the agenda. However, they were expected to start this debate at 11 AM and it has been postponed. It could be postponed again but even if a school finance expenditure bill is passed, the payment for this in the form of either higher taxes or expanded gambling must be resolved too. That’s why the senate’s position on the amendment is critical.

Quick passage in the house of a constitutional amendment followed by a supplemental appropriation for the schools could lead to a quick end to this special session. A lot of balls are still in the air and depending on which ones come down and how soon, will determine the outcome of this special session.

Report from Topeka, June 29, 2005

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

The legislative special session is going to reach a crucial turning point today at the Kansas statehouse.

A group of tax and spend Republicans, lead by Rep. Ward Loyd, Rino-Garden City met with Governor Sebelius and received her blessing for a $161 million school finance spending bill that will be debated and voted upon in the Kansas house today. Last year, Loyd begged Democrats to re-register before the August primary so they could vote for him in his tough primary race. Loyd barely won that contest.

If this spending bill passes the legislature will have begun surrendering their fiscal authority to the Sebelius dominated Kansas Supreme Court. While Governor Sebelius only appointed one of the current six judges on the court, Justice Carol Beier, her chief of staff is married to another judge on this court, Justice Donald Allegrucci. In addition, Governor Sebelius has been working to enact the court’s $1 billion edict to increase school spending in the Montoy school finance case. In April, the governor endorsed the school districts position opposing the $142 million school spending increase approved by the 2005 legislature and which became law without the governor’s signature. She is backing the court’s usurpation of fiscal power in this state by her actions.

The house is scheduled to come in at 11 AM this morning and this debate is likely to be long and acrimonious. The key will be whether or not there are 63 fiscally responsible house members who will reject this fiscal folly or not. This issue, and potentially the future of representative government in Kansas, is definitely in doubt.

If this spending package is passed the session will then move to trying to figure out how to raise roughly $75 million to finance this abomination in the fiscal year that begins Friday, July 1. Proposals to expand gambling or raise taxes will be on the table. The $86 million windfall the state received earlier this month will be spent but a lot more money will be needed.

This spending growth will be chump change compared to the revenue that will be needed to finance the rest of the court’s June 3 edict. The incredible irony about this matter is that the 15 school districts sued the state board of education over school finance funding and the court rules against the legislature and the taxpayers of Kansas–none of whom are parties to this lawsuit. None of whom are allowed to speak in front of this arrogant court. In fact, legislative lawyers were specifically denied the opportunity to address the court during oral arguments in May.

This court is treating the legislature with contempt.

Sadly, the liberal Kansas press, as well stated by the Wichita Eagle’s editorial of June 26, 2005 that is headlined, “Calm Down,” and subtitled,”Judges do have authority on schools,” begins, “Those clamorous groups advancing on the Kansas Supreme Court with torches and pitchforks should pause and take a long, deep breath. That includes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which opined portentiously last week that the six ‘unelected and unaccountable’ judes of the Kansas Supreme Cort had violated the separation of powers and formented a constitutional crisis..” and continued, “..In their carefully argued and precedent-based opinion, the Kansas Supreme Court justices addressed the authority issue directly, citing similar education battles in other states such as Kentucky…”

Sadly for the Wichita Eagle, the Kentucky Constitution is not phrased the same as the Kansas Constitution’s public school provisions. What is significant is the fact that six appointed judges (four are registered Democrats and one of the two Republicans used to represent the Salina school district that is promoting this school finance lawsuit) have usurped legislative budget authority by ordering the legislature to spend $143 million in additional funds by July 1, 2005. In addition, one moderate Republican lawyer who chairs the house judiciary committee, Rep. Mike O’Neal, warned the house federal and state affairs committee June 28 that the court has created a clear and present danger by continuing to issue orders to the legislature that is not a party to this lawsuit. The court has not actually gotten around to overturning its 1994 ruling that school finance is constitutional and is operating under “interrim” rulings. The court’s January 3 interrim edict conflicts with the court’s June 3 edict.

Unfortunately, the Kansas house recently rejected a proposal to provide a constitutional amendment (73-to-50 with 84 votes needed to send it to the voters to ratify it) that would clarify that fiscal authority lies with the legislature and not with other branches of Kansas government and stop this judicial usurpation.

Kansas is in danger of a judicial oligarchy that is being supported by a governor who is deeply indebted to the government school spending lobby that is promoting this litigation and her Democrat legislative allies. The governor and the school spending promoting legislators deeply believe that the end justifies the means and the court’s actions are promoting public policy outcomes supported by these officials. Legislative skeptics are asking these legislators how they would feel about the court’s decision if the court was ruling that spending should be reduced instead of increased? This appeal to logic does not seem to be having much of an impact as of June 28.

The real question is whether or not the average Kansas taxpayer is paying attention and cares about this critical fiscal fight at the statehouse. There are so many distractions. Besides the usual summertime diversions Wichita is still digesting the Dennis Rader atrocities and his 10 murder convictions. The transfer of Boeing Commercial Aircraft to Onex Corporation is transforming what used to be this state’s largest private employer in Wichita. In the Kansas City area General Motors recent announcement that it will be cutting 25,000 jobs over the next few years could definitely impact the car assembly plant in that area. The legislative sessions normally end in late April or early May so this is an unusual event that is not at the forefront of the news coverage in many parts of this state.

Fiscally concerned Kansans should contact their legislators (this might be hard considering that some legislators have not turned on their email) by calling or writing (state capitol, Topeka, KS 66612).

It is interesting to note how invisible Governor Sebelius has been in this special session. The governor called this special session but provided legislators with only a single sheet of platitudes when they arrived back at the statehouse. The “behind-the-scenes” meeting I mentioned above on June 28 (which was also reported in the news pages of the June 29 Wichita Eagle) between a bipartisan group of tax and spend legislators and the governor shows how far she has walked away from her 2002 campaign promises for fiscal conservatism and opposition to raising taxes. Like a lot of candidates who decline to sign KTN’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, she walked away from her promises of fiscal responsibility once she took her oath of office.

Here’s one example of her tax and spend behavior. The governor took a temporary sales tax hike that her predecessor had set at 5.3% and made it permanent. Sadly, all too many legislative Republicans voted for this back door tax hike. The sales tax rate was supposed to phase back down to 5.0 percent based upon the 2002 tax changes.

In addition, the state’s General Fund is going to exceed $5 billion for the very first time if the governor gets her way on the state budget. Remember, it was 1981 when the state had its first $1 billion General Fund budget. Kansas’ All Funds budget (which includes KDOT, Medicaid, and other off-budget items) topped $11 billion for the very first time this year.

The future of Kansas remains at risk and is dependent upon the fortitude of a majority of the Kansas House of Representatives today.

Report from Topeka, June 28, 2005

Thank you, Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of Kansas Taxpayers Network.

Here’s a legislative update from Topeka as of noon Tuesday. A proposal to raise income and sales taxes has appeared now that the gambling measures are unable to pass out of the Kansas senate in the on going battle over judicial interference with the legislature and school finance in this state.

The house is working on two tracks: the federal and state affairs committee is working on a constitutional amendment that would provide specific boundaries to protect the legislature’s appropriation powers. The second track is a supplemental appropriations bill. The latter requires 63 votes to pass in the Kansas house while a constitutional amendment needs 84 house votes and then is submitted to voters for their final approval.

The legislature is operating under the Sebelius Supreme Court’s July 1 deadline of appropriating an additional $143 million for the fiscal year that begins on Friday. More is expected next year. Here are the major players and their positions:

Governor Sebelius called the special session and wants expanded gaming (although apparently not by Indian tribes but by state owned franchise monopolies) and the legislature to submit to the court’s spending order on school finance. Legislative Democrats are backing her position but have begun expressing support for increased income and sales taxes. It is unclear how big a tax hike the governor is supporting since she relies upon the court and legislative leaders like senate Minority Leader Tony Hensley, D-Topeka when it comes to various revenue measures.

Legislative conservatives are strongest in the house where many of them are saying that they will not appropriate a penny of new money (the state’s latest revised revenue estimates are showing that the Bush tax cuts nationally have recently produced about $86 million state revenue windfall) until the constitutional amendment clarifying the legislator’s budget powers is approved.

GOP liberals are trying to work a deal in the house with legislative Democrats but it is unclear if they have anywhere close to the 63 house votes needed to submit to the court’s order. The senate passed a $161 million spending plan last Friday on a 25-to-14 vote. There were 15 Republican senators who voted with all ten Democrats for this spending bill (one liberal GOP senator is sick and absent) and 14 Republicans voting against it. The entire senate GOP caucus along with one Democrat then followed this vote by rejecting expanded gaming 17-to-22 and then voted for the constitutional amendment clarifying the legislators budget powers. This was highly unusual since the senate Republicans can seldom agree on where the sun is going to set.

There are some GOP moderates who are outraged by the court and have backed the constitutional amendment to protect their constitutional powers. However, when this came up for a final vote in the Kansas house on Sunday, it failed on a 73-to-50 vote with two legislators missing and 84 votes needed for passage. 40-of-the-41 Democrats voting opposed the amendment. Nine Republicans voted with the Democrats led by several Johnson County “moderates” along with a handful of liberal and rural legislators. The GOP legislators voting with the Democrats on this included: Jeff Jack, Jim Yonally, Tim Owens, Stephanie Sharp, Barbara Craft, Don Hill, Dale Swenson, Pat Colloton, and Ray Cox.

The Kansas Supreme Court has one vacancy since the April death of one of its members. The six members include four registered Democrats (one was appointed by former Governor Bill Graves) and two Republicans. One of the Republicans was a lawyer who represented the lead school district behind the school finance lawsuit. What is interesting about this lawsuit and perhaps unique about Kansas is these facts: A) the legislature is not a party to the lawsuit and when they sought to participate before the court during the May oral argument the court denied them the right to appear; B) the legislature is being ordered to appropriated specific amounts by a date certain by this court; C) It is possible (I am basing this upon the testimony of the Attorney General and Rep. Mike O’Neal before the house’s federal and state affairs committee today) that the court may decide to allocate the funds in a manner that differs with the legislators’ appropriation and allocation of these funds.

Attorney General Phill Kline is clearly informing the entire legislature of their options and situation. Kline is trying to protect the citizens from a court that the moderate Rep. O’Neal described as engaging in a form of “…judicial extortion…” against the legislature and ultimately against the taxpayers of this state. O’Neal was careful in stating that the court had not overreached in their January 3 opinion on this case but had done so in their June 3 edict.

Interestingly enough, AG Kline reported that the court has not actually overruled their previous decision from 1994 in the USD 229 case where that KS Supreme Court declined to assume the powers that the 2005 KS Supreme Court has now grabbed. No final ruling has been issued by the court.

Regardless of how the legislature gets out of the current situation these facts are clear: 1) Increasing revenues are likely to be thrown at the schools if a constitutional option is sent to the people but this can occur without a tax hike but at a level well below $143 million; 2) gaming remains an issue; 3) while tax hikes are not the first option, tax hikes are going to appear among the tax ‘n spenders among most Kansas Democrats and all too many “moderate” Republicans; 4) the senate rejected on a 18-to-19 vote a proposal to cut spending by under $40 million yesterday (9 Republicans joined all ten senate Democrats on this vote).

The fact that tax ‘n spend legislators like Bill Kassebaum, Cindy Neighbor, and Dave Corbin were retired by the voters in 2004 is the primary reason that both expanded gaming and taxes have not moved further through the legislative processes this year.

Please feel free to forward this or send it along to Kansas web sites and blogs that are interested in this issue.

Karl Peterjohn

Report from Topeka, June 24, 2005

Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network

The $160.7 million school spending bill approved by the Kansas senate yesterday passed with the votes of all 10 senate Democrats and 15 GOP tax ‘n spenders. These legislators were also willing to surrender their constitutional and budget authority to the six appointed members of the Kansas Supreme Court.

Here is the list in alphabetical order:

Pat Apple, R; Jim Barone, D; Don Betts, D; Pete Brungardt, R; Jay Emler, R; Marci Francisco, D; Mark Gilstrap, D; Greta Goodwin, D; David Haley, D; Tony Hensley, D Minority Leader; Laura Kelly, D; Janis Lee, D; Steve Morris, R Senate President; Ralph Ostmeyer, R; Roger Pine, R; Roger Reitz, R; Derek Schmidt, R Majority Leader; Vicki Schmidt, R; Jean Schodorf, R; Chris Steineger, D; Mark Taddiken, R; Ruth Teichman, R; Dwayne Umbarger, R; John Vratil, R Vice President; David Wysong, R.

This list includes a variety of folks whose work includes school teachers and school district lawyers. Sen. Barbara Allen, who regularly votes for higher spending and taxes, is suffering from cancer and has not been attending this special session.

Fortunately, the house Education Committee took $149 million out of this outrageous spending plan when they got their hands on it. Three Democrats walked out of the committee meeting in protest of this action. The house will debate this bill later today.

Before the house gets to this education bill it is scheduled to debate two constitutional amendments to restrict the court’s from their legislative activities in the future. It will be fascinating to see if the tax ‘n spenders from both the Democrat and Republican caucuses will be willing to defend their constitutional and historic powers of the purse when these amendments are being debated. It will take 84 votes for final passage of any constitutional amendment out of the house and several members are absent today.

This session is definitely running into this weekend and could wrap up early Sunday morning. If it does, it will be sometime between 3 and 8 AM Sunday. However, I would not bet on that outcome and expect to be back in Topeka next week as this constitutional crisis created by the left-wing Sebelius Supreme court continues.

A correction: yesterday, I believe I mispelled the senate majority leaders last name. It is Derek Schmidt. I apologize for any mispellings contained within these posts and any other insults to the English Language I have accidently and unintentionally committed.

This message will be posted shortly on www.kansastaxpayers.com and other quality web/blog sites. Please feel free to forward to fiscally and constitutionally concerned Kansans.

Report from Topeka, June 23, 2005

Writing from a rest stop on Interstate 80 in Iowa where there is free wireless Internet access: Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, for your insights into the Kansas Legislature’s special session.

The Kansas senate begin surrendering their legislative powers to the Kansas Supreme Court when a 25-to-14 majority approved a $160 million school spending bill. This surrender took the form of the supreme court may want $143 million but we’ll show them with a $160 million!

Take that, Kansas Supreme Court!

Next for the senate is gambling and that wrangling will take quite a while. Last night the senate met until about 9 PM which I cannot recall ever occurring on the first day of any session. Yesterday was the “first day” for this special session.

Only one slight piece of good news was the pro-tax and spend senator Barbara Allen from Johnson County is absent and that means it is a bit harder for the fiscal damage to occur without her consistent record of fiscal profligacy. I wish the reasons for her absense was not tied to her illness. Despite policy differences on fiscal issues I do not wish cancer upon anyone in public or private life…..well there might be a Bin Laden exception.

The house has not done much. They could take up some constitutional amendments to restrict the activist, left-wing supreme court, but they need 84 votes to pass anything. With only 83 Republicans and a solid dozen left-wing RINO tax and spenders who cannot wait to surrender their fiscal powers to the court, this is a very high hurdle to overcome. The house is instead going to fund the Attorney General’s appeal of the death penalty case to the U.S. Supreme Court and aid national guardsmen from Kansas with their insurance.

And….please don’t forget to forward this to friends who share your concerns about the fiscal/judicial climate in Kansas. This will be posted shortly at www.kansastapayers.com as well as other quality web sites and blogs in this state.

Report from Topeka, June 22, 2005

Here’s a report on the special session of the Kansas Legislature from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network. Thanks to Karl for his fine reporting and commentary.

Here’s the start of a blog for KTN and any other quality Kansas sites interested in this state’s fiscal crisis thanks to our left-wing, prejudiced Kansas supreme court. For the details on the court’s conflicts of interest see the recent KTN editorial column discussing Justice Nuss and Justice Allegrucci’s need to recuse themselves in the school finance litigation.

The house is likely done for the day (June 22) with all eyes watching efforts to put together a bill that would raise state school spending beyond the $143 million sought by the court and try and turn Kansas into a state with franchise casinos dotting the state. Kansas would be the only state that I know of where the casinos would be “owned” by the state and then contracted out to operators.

In theory there is a one subject limitation on any bills but once the court threw the rule book out the window it seems like anything goes and this bill could have gambling, appropriations, and new plumbing for the judicial center (tongue-in-cheek on last item) combined into one fat piece of legislation.

What makes this special session unique is the remodeling of the statehouse has forced the Kansas senate into meeting in the third floor chambers that once upon a time belonged to the Kansas Supreme Court. I jokingly asked if black robes were being issued to each senator. It is standing room only inside the chamber with senate leaders seated like judges at the front of the room and the backbench senators seated at a table in front of their leaders.

This is quite a change from the usual senatorial operations at the statehouse. It does seem appropriate in an era of judicial edicts setting and perhaps even determining the legislative outcome. First we have a bunch of black robed judges behaving like legislators. Now we have the Kansas senate meeting in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

There seems to be a determination on the part of the liberal senators in both parties that a spending package of expanded gaming and reduced cash balances will allow them to expand spending according to the order from the court. Some senators want to expand the spending well beyond the court’s edict. I guess that will show them that they are not subservient to their judicial masters!

House members as a whole are not nearly as submissive as the senate. However, it is not clear what will be offered in the way of constitutional amendments to stick it to the court and defend the legislature’s constitutional and historic powers. The problem is that any amendment needs 27 senate votes and 84 house votes to be sent to the voters. that is a very difficult threshold to cross. There are hallway discussions on statutory provisions that would make it more difficult for the court to continue to meddle in legislative matters. Sadly, all too many legislators appear ready willing and able to submit to whatever nonsense the court ordered June 3 and could order in the future.

The school spending lobby held a rally this morning but the statehouse was ready for an anti-judicial tyrrany rally over the lunch hour. Elsewhere in the statehouse it looked like it was spend and fritter the taxpayers money away as usual. More details in an upcoming post.

Nationally, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has an editorial today entitled, “Jayhawk Judgment,” and sub-titled, “A constitutional showdown oer the power to tax.” It is excellent and I recommend it highly. Here are a couple of fair use quotes from it: “…under the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, the legislative branch makes the laws and the judicial branch interprets them. No so in Kansas these days. There the state Supreme Court has commanded that the legislature must increase spending on the schools, as well as the taxes to pay for it, by precisely $853 million over the next two years.” Later it says, “The legislature is sworn to abide by the Kansas Constitution, but that doesn’t mean abandoning its own powers of the purse to an unelected judiciary. This is a showdown between the branches of government, and the legislature has every right to protect its own constitutional prerogatives from judicial intrusion. In this case that means protecting Kansans from judicially ordered, and thus unconstitutional, tax increase.”

This is a national warning that any business looking to locate or expand in Kansas with our runaway courts and unlimited tax and spend policies would be crazy. Our neighbors will benefit from our spendthrift legacy. In fact there is vivid evidence of this legacy.

It is interesting to note that an important and largely unknown former Kansan died yesterday. The inventor of the integrated circuit chip Jack Kilby, originally from Great Bend, died at 81. This 2000 Nobel Laureate is an excellent example of a former Kansan who grew up here and moved elsewhere, like to Texas as in Texas Instruments to pursue his career. We graduate a lot of Jack Kilby’s from Kansas who return as regular “Kansas tourists” visiting family and friends over a week in summer or during the holiday season at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is part of the price Kansas pays for being a high tax and big government state that regularly stifles entrepreneurship with the highest business property taxes and high corporate income taxes that were strongly criticized by Scott Hodges, the head of the Tax Foundation, at a Topeka forum June 14. Our property, income, sales, and excise taxes are lousy too. See other parts of KTN’s web site: www.kansastaxpayers.com for details.

How children lose in the Kansas Legislature’s special session

USD 259 (Wichita) public schools superintendent Winston Brooks plans to use the majority of the anticipated increase in school funding to reduce class size. Evidence cited in other articles on this website show that smaller class sizes don’t produce better educational outcomes for students.

Because the conventional wisdom is that smaller class sizes are good for students, the extra money and smaller class sizes will be saluted as a victory for the children. Editorial writers, school administrators, teachers, and those who don’t care to confront facts will thank the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Legislature for saving the children.

The sad fact is that this seeming victory, a victory which does nothing to help children, will delay desperately needed reform for another year. In all likelihood reform will be delayed even longer, as if the legislature accedes to the court’s demand this year, it may also do so next year, when the court has called for even more spending.

Who benefits from smaller class size? The teachers unions do. Smaller class sizes mean a lighter workload for current teachers. More teachers (paying more union dues) need to be hired, as is the plan in Wichita.

But as mentioned earlier, smaller class size doesn’t help the students. That’s the danger in spending more on schools. It seems like the additional money should help the schools, and those who procure the money are treated as heroes. This illusion of a solution delays the reform that is badly needed.

What would truly help children? Overwhelming evidence points to school choice. As Harvard economist and researcher Caroline M. Hoxby said about the school voucher program in Milwaukee:

From 1998-1999 onwards, the schools that faced the most competition from the vouchers improved student achievement radically–by about 0.6 of a standard deviation each year. That is an enormous, almost unheard-of, improvement. Keep in mind the schools in question had had a long history of low achievement. Yet they were able to get their act together quickly. The most threatened schools improved the most, not only compared to other schools in Milwaukee but also compared to other schools in the state of Wisconsin that served poor, urban students.

Milwaukee shows what public school administrators can tell you: Schools can improve if they are under serious competition.

Why, then, don’t we have school choice in Wichita? The teachers unions and education establishment are against it. They don’t want to face the same type of free market forces that the rest of us face. They are in charge of educating children, they tell us they are doing the best they can, that everything they do is for the children and only the children, but they oppose desperately needed reform.

The cthics case against Justice Donald L. Allegrucci

I have filed an ethics complaint against Kansas Supreme Court Justice Donald L. Allegrucci. This complaint is on the agenda of the July 1, 2005 meeting of the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

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 or the causes that we support benefit from the judge’s rulings.

I have yet to see much newspaper reporting on this. The Associated Press wrote a story based on Karl Peterjohn’s column, and the Wichita Eagle and Topeka Capital-Journal printed it, although in Wichita it was pretty far back in the paper’s pages.

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 Allegrucci is married to the Governor’s Chief of Staff. The Governor has taken a position on a case before Justice Allegrucci’s court.

For the details of the complaint, I wrote this:

In the case Montoy v. State, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has taken a position. In an article titled “School finance plan delivered to state Supreme Court” published in the Lawrence Journal-World on April 7, 2005, she is quoted as stating “As governor, I believe the Legislature’s school funding plan is neither responsible nor sustainable. It jeopardizes the state’s finances, as well as jobs and economic growth throughout Kansas.” The legislature’s school funding plan is now before the court Justice Allegrucci serves on.

Justice Allegrucci is married to Joyce Allegrucci, who serves as the Governor’s Chief of Staff.

In the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct, Canon 2, paragraph B states: A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.

Through marriage, Justice Allegrucci has a family relationship to Joyce Allegrucci. Through employment and political considerations, Joyce Allegrucci has a relationship to Governor Sebelius.

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 the family relationship to an important member of the Governor’s staff, we can never be sure whether Justice Allegrucci’s rulings are affected by this relationship. This is appearance of impropriety, if not actual impropriety.

What’s the Matter with Kansas?

By Alan Cobb, State Director of Americans For Prosperity, Kansas

Many would describe that much of Kansas is in decline. Over 75 percent of the counties in Kansas have lost population just since 2000. Over half of Kansas’ counties have fewer residents today than 1900.

Recently, the Associated Press reported that Kansas is in real danger of losing a Congressional seat during the next reapportionment because of anemic population growth. Kansas population growth from 2000 to 2004 was only 1.7 percent while the nation as a whole grew 4.3 percent. Sedgwick County’s growth was only 2.3% during this time. Kansas’ annual growth of less than one-half of one percent should startle anyone concerned about the future of our fine State.

No matter how you measure growth, Kansas is struggling, particularly when compared to the other 50 states. Kansas is in the bottom ten among states in population growth, income growth and job growth.

Unbelievably, this century Kansas has lost 16,700 private sector jobs while the government sector actually added 15,000 jobs.

The same week it was reported that Kansas may lose a Congressional seat, the Tax Foundation released a study that stated Kansas has the 15th highest state and local tax burden. We are tied with New Jersey and higher than Massachusetts and California. Kansas has a higher tax burden than all of our neighboring states except Nebraska.

Recently the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas compared every Kansas County that borders another State. Except for the Kansas counties bordering Nebraska, the Kansas counties fared worse than their neighbors in Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma when measuring economic activity, income growth and population growth.

Of the top twenty states in population growth this century, all but two states, Utah and Hawaii, have lower tax burdens than Kansas.

I have heard a Kansas legislator comment that that’s just the way it is; Kansas is a rural, Great Plains state and rural, Great Plains states aren’t growing. I do not believe that is true, but even if it were, I am not ready to accept that.

What are we to do about our population predicament? First we must decide that the lack of economic growth is a problem. And we must be brutally honest about the solutions. Is more government spending and taxation the solution? Are more government owned and constructed buildings the solutions for Wichita or Salina or Lakin?

Are we, as a State, willing to honestly assess our State’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary policy changes needed for growth?

Without any changes to the path we’re on, rural Kansas faces a bleak future.

I am not willing to accept the declining status quo as the best we can do, and I don’t think most Kansans are either.

What are we prepared to do?

Kansas Attorney General Has it Right

TOPEKA — Alan Cobb, director of the Kansas chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, today released the following statement in response to the briefs filed in the State vs. Montoy case currently before the Kansas Supreme Court:

“As questions and concerns swirl about whether or not the Kansas Supreme Court can order a statewide tax increase, we applaud Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline for putting this issue to rest.

In a brief filed yesterday with the court and in response to questions from reporters, AG Kline said clearly that the Kansas Supreme Court does not have the authority to impose taxes or raises the current level of taxation.

From the summary of the brief filed by the Attorney General:

“The Kansas Constitution Prohibits the Supreme Court from Raising Taxes and Prohibits any Expenditure from the State General Fund from Occurring Unless Authorized by Laws Passed by the Legislature.” (emphasis added)

The bottom line is that the Legislature has the responsibility to tax and to fund schools appropriately. They’ve met that burden.

The Kansas Legislature and the Attorney General understand that our state’s taxpayers suffer the 15th worst state and local tax burden in the nation as a percentage of income. That’s an even heavier tax burden than citizens in the notoriously high-tax states of California and Massachusetts must carry! Also, our ranking this year is twice as bad as it was 20 years ago, when we ranked a much better 31st.

“The short-term solution to over-taxation in Kansas is for the legislature to continue rejecting any and all proposed tax increases, and the long-term solution is the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. If Kansas had implemented a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992, taxpayers would have received $1.1 billion in tax rebates and reductions and we would have squirreled away $1.4 billion in Rainy Day funds that would have offset the budget shortfalls that occurred during the recent economic downturn. And Kansas taxpayers would have a little more money in their pockets as they file their taxes this week.”

The Decline of Kansas Documented By Census

By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

Kansas is in a decline. This state is shrinking relative to its peers in the other 49 states. However, some might say, and with some degree of accuracy, that this trend is nothing new. It is clear that the size and impact of this decline is likely to shape this state throughout the first part of the 21st century.

April 21 the U.S. Census Department issued projections for population growth showing that Kansas population will grow at less than 1/3 of the rate of the rest of the country over the next 25 years. This followed Census data showing that over 3/4 of the Kansas counties have lost population since the 2000 census.

The relative decline of Kansas is continuing and this is most vividly demonstrated in the declining numbers of Kansans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is a little known fact that over a 40 year period ending after the 1930 census, there were eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas. At one time, Kansans represented over two percent of the national population.

Recently, Kansas slid and became just under one percent of the national population and if the census population trends occur, Kansas will soon see that number drop by 1/4 in the next 25 years. As the population has declined with the rest of the country so has the congressional delegation.

Kansas lost members of congress following the 1930, 1940, 1960, and 1990 censuses and is shrinking like a Florida glacier. In mid-April an Associated Press report quoted Xan Wedel, a researcher at K.U.’s Policy Research Institute, saying the state was at risk of losing another member in the house in 2010. If you think the big first congressional district is large today when there are four members, let your imagination consider how large it will be if there are only three, or later in this century only two. If the census forecast is correct the decline in Kansas, as represented by our shrinking congressional delegation, is continuing.

Kansas would be on track for a decline that could shrink this state’s delegation down to the size of Idaho or Rhode Island during the next 50 or 60 years. At the same time Kansas’ population declines, the states in our region that have placed limits on state and local government taxes and spending growth are growing faster. Colorado, which once

lagged behind Kansas in congressional representation but now has seven, will grow more than 3.5 times faster than Kansas. Missouri and Oklahoma will grow 50 percent faster than Kansas while Arkansas will pass Kansas too. Arkansas is growing more than twice as fast as Kansas. Only higher tax Nebraska is projected to grow at a lower rate than Kansas among our four adjacent states at only 6.4 percent.

Nationally, states without state income taxes will be growing much faster than the states that penalize income earners. The nine states without personal income taxes are projected to grow at twice the rate of the rest of the country. There is a wide variance between these nine states’ projected growth rates but Texas and Florida are both projected to gain three additional members each to their congressional delegations following the 2010 census. Florida is also projected to overtake struggling New York to become the third largest state in population in 2010. Texas, which is the number one state that Kansans are moving to when they leave, is already the second largest nationally.

These census figures demonstrate that Kansans can and do vote with their feet. As business and industry move to more competitive parts of the country Kansas is being left behind and the political and judicial leadership in Kansas is busy trying to raise income, sales, and other Kansas taxes. The tax and spend formula for state government in Kansas is leading to an economic failure that will destroy our future.

Kansas Faces Challenges for Growth

By Alan Cobb, Americans For Prosperity Kansas State Director

Many would describe that much of rural Kansas is in decline. Nearly 60 percent of the counties in Kansas have lost population just since 1990. Over half of Kansas’ counties have fewer residents today than 1900.

Just this week the Associated Press reported that stated Kansas is in real danger of losing a Congressional seat during the next reapportionment because of anemic population growth. Kansas population growth from 2000 to 2004 was only 1.7 percent while the nation as a whole grew 4.3 percent. Kansas’ annual growth of less than one-half of one percent should startle anyone concerned about the future of our fine State.

No matter how you measure growth, Kansas is struggling, particularly when compared to the other 50 states. Kansas is in the bottom ten among states in population growth, income growth and job growth. While I do not like to scream crisis, we, as a State, clearly have urgent needs that must be addressed soon.

The solutions to our growth problems will take time. There are no overnight fixes. Thus, we need to get started immediately.

For most Kansas communities, if they do not grow, they die. We might like to think the quaint small Kansas town depicted in Hollywood never grows or shrinks, but stays the same. That isn’t reality.

The changes and population decline are gradual but unmistakable.

I have heard a Kansas legislator comment that that’s just the way it is; Kansas is a rural, Great Plains state and rural, Great Plains states aren’t growing. That is not the case, but even if it were, I am not ready to accept that. It simply isn’t a fact that Kansas can not grow.

So, what are we to do about it? How can we encourage real economic development? How can we encourage population and income growth? Do we want population growth and economic development?

There are those who don’t want growth and the problems associated with it. They want their town to stay the same as it has for years. They like the comfortable and familiar feel.

Kansans move to places that provide economic and professional opportunities for themselves and their families. While the residents of a small Kansas town appear to enjoy their seemingly unchanging community, the most capable leave for places providing better economic possibilities and their former hometown slowly decays. These place Kansans move to are frequently in other states, but certainly are not in rural Kansas.

What are we to do about this? First we must decide that the lack of economic growth is a problem. And we must be brutally honest about the solutions. Are government grants the solution? Is the new convention center for the county seat a key for reversing the fortunes of the community?

We must take a hard look at systemic change to Kansas to being reversing the alarming trend.

Recently the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas compared every Kansas County that borders another State. Except for the Kansas counties bordering Nebraska, the Kansas counties fared worse than their neighbors in Missouri, Colorado and Oklahoma when measuring economic activity, income growth and population growth.

Clearly the Colorado counties of Cheyenne and Kiowa are no different that Greeley and Wallace Counties in Kansas, yet the Colorado counties have experienced more growth than their Kansas counterparts. Are Texas and Beaver County, Oklahoma really any different than Morton, Seward and Meade Counties in Kansas? Why are the Oklahoma counties growing faster than their Kansas neighbors?

Overall, more people are moving out of Kansas than moving in to Kansas. If not for our birth rate exceeding our death rate, we would actually have negative population growth. And without the growth in Johnson County, our State would not be growing at all.

Why is that? Are we, as a State, willing to honestly assess our State’s strengths and weaknesses and make the necessary policy changes needed for growth?

Without any changes to the path we’re on, rural Kansas faces a bleak future.

I am not willing to accept the declining status quo as the best we can do, and I don’t think most Kansans are either.

What are we prepared to do?