In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Danedri Herbert of The Sentinel joins Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn to discuss news reporting and politics in Kansas. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 148, broadcast April 23, 2017.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Senator Ty Masterson joins Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn to discuss legislative issues and politics. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 147, broadcast April 16, 2017.
What can the rest of the nation learn from our experience in Kansas? Come to think of it, why haven’t we learned much?
Economists from American Legislative Exchange Council have looked at Kansas and derived some lessons from our state’s struggle with tax reform. The document is titled Lessons from Kansas: A Behind the Scenes Look at America’s Most Discussed Tax Reform Effort. A few remarks and quotations:
It may be difficult for us in Kansas to see how the rest of the country views our state. But it’s all about the struggle between those who want more government, and those who want more private sector activity: “… it is clear to most observers of state policy at this point Kansas was, and continues to be, a flashpoint in debates about state tax policy. That flashpoint has served as something of a proxy war between big government advocates and those who would prefer to shrink the size and scope of state government.”
While taxes were cut, the state failed to make the other needed reform: “Spending reductions necessary to implement the plan were eschewed in favor of other tax increases, making any honest judgement of the original plan’s success or failure impossible.”
On the 2012 plan, was it all for business pass-throughs, or for everyone? “Enacted an estimated $4.5 billion in tax relief over five years, about 80 percent of which was for individuals and 20 percent for business pass-through income.”
We have to remember the failure of the legislative process in 2012 and the next year: “It is important to note at this point that the revenue increasing offsets included in the 2013 tax plan were nowhere near as comprehensive as the revenue raising offsets in Governor Brownback’s original 2012 tax reform proposal. It was this discrepancy in revenue raising offsets and the failure to rein in state spending that would ultimately lead to revenue problems for Kansas down the road.”
Credit downgrades are a sign of a mismatch between revenues and expenses. Those who want more spending say the downgrades are caused by a lack of revenue, but we could have cured the mismatch by reforming spending, too: “Contrary to this popularly reported narrative, Moody’s cited much more than just recent tax cuts as the rationale for a downgrade, specifically failure to reduce spending to offset tax cuts, pension liabilities and state debt.
The purpose of tax cuts? Let us keep more resources in the productive private sector: “It is certainly true that in the years following the tax reductions, Kansas did experience lower revenue collections, even lower than what had been projected. But, part of the goal of the Kansas tax reform was to reduce the amount of money taken in by state government and enhance the resources available to the private sector. Importantly, however, was the resistance to any meaningful spending reductions. Even as the 2012 tax reductions were projected to let Kansans keep $4.5 billion more of their own money, the state increased spending in 2012 by $432 million.”
Would more taxes help the Kansas economy? “In a late 2012 literature review on this topic, William McBride, former Chief Economist for the Tax Foundation, found that of 26 peer-reviewed academic studies since 1983, only three fail to find a negative effect on economic growth from taxes.”
The 2015 legislative session: “A block of legislators held out for reductions in the cost of government rather than tax increases but they were unable to get a majority. … The final plan that passed both houses and was signed by Governor Brownback included two main tax increases. The state raised the cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack and increased the sales tax rate from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. The two tax increase proposals added up to $384 million in new state revenue and were bolstered by $50 million in spending cuts, although there was still a net increase in spending.”
Our legislature failed the people of Kansas: “The first lesson to glean from the Kansas experience is that politics affects policy. The final reforms that passed in 2012 were not the reforms that anybody wanted. Specific tax reform ideas are easily diluted and changed, and without the political will to fix imperfect reforms, unintended consequences can be difficult to avoid.”
Then, politicians should be so boastful. Don’t overpromise. (Ask Barack Obama about that. He said if we don’t pass the ARRA stimulus bill, the unemployment rate would rise above a certain level. Well, the stimulus passed, the unemployment rate went above that level, and it was several years before it fell below. In other words, unemployment was worse with the stimulus than Obama said it would be without the stimulus.) “The second important lesson that can be learned from the Kansas experience is economic growth resulting from bold tax reductions takes time. Governor Brownback’s previous comments about the Kansas tax reforms being ‘a shot of adrenaline’ to the state’s economy continued to hound him throughout the ups and downs of revenue and economic reports. Setting expectations too high or too early can make pushing forward with future reforms nearly impossible, while setting unrealistic expectations can lead to the unwinding of sound economic reforms.”
Finally: “Even though the tax reductions improved economic growth, the lack of commensurate spending reductions led to trouble for the state’s budget. Budget shortfalls and tough negotiations about possible tax increases mean uncertainty for businesses and families, which can hamper some of the positive economic effects of decreasing taxes.”
In Wichita, we see another example of how once government starts a surveillance program, it probably won’t produce the promised results, yet will be expanded.
This week the Wichita City Council will consider adding more surveillance cameras to Old Town. City documents don’t specify how many video cameras will be installed as part of the $618,261 program (for one-time installation costs only), except that it may be “as many as 100.” The city is also asking council members to pass an ordinance with bonding authority of up to $750,000 to pay for this project. In other words, the city is borrowing to pay for this system.1
This proposed expansion of camera surveillance is another expansion of police powers in Wichita at the loss of civil liberties.2 In 2014 the city designated Old Town an “entertainment district,” giving the city increased powers to attempt to control crime.3 Critics are concerned that the extra enforcement measures granted to entertainment districts are discriminatory to certain minority groups.4
This proposed expansion of cameras is not likely to be the last. Wichita’s police chief is seeking to add more surveillance and cameras.5
Across the county, those concerned with the loss of civil liberties and privacy are concerned about the expansion of the surveillance state. Adding irony to this debate are the remarks of Wichita City Council Member Janet Miller (district 6, north central Wichita). She called the addition of the new cameras “huge” and “exciting,” adding that she is “very, very happy” at their addition.6 The irony is that she would insist that she is a protector of civil rights.
What are civil rights important in this matter? Discussing this matter on Facebook, one local political activist wondered, “How long before someone is being blackmailed with footage from a police surveillance cam, for stumbling down the road, or some other harmless but embarrassing scenario?”
In response, I added, “Or blackmailed for marital infidelity, or entering a gay bar, a marijuana dispensary, a church, an STD clinic, an abortion doctor’s office, or maybe being spotted dropping off an anonymous tip to the newspaper.” (Well, we don’t have marijuana dispensaries, but we do have complimentary stores.) (There are two newspapers in Old Town. Well, one is across the street from Old Town, but is moving into Old Town.)
We have to wonder whether the cameras work as advertised. The website You Are Being Watched, a project of the American Civil Liberties Union, comes to this conclusion: “An increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems. But few are closely examining the costs and benefits of those investments, or creating mechanisms for measuring those costs and benefits over time. There is extensive academic literature on the subject — studies carried out over many years — and that research demonstrates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates. Several studies on video surveillance have been conducted in the UK, where surveillance cameras are pervasive. The two main meta-analyses conducted for the British Home Office (equivalent to the US departments of Justice and Homeland Security) show that video surveillance has no impact on crime whatsoever. If it did, then there would be little crime in London, a city estimated to have about 500,000 cameras.”
An irony is that law enforcement likes recording citizens, but not the other way around. As John Stossel has noted, police don’t like to be recorded. In some states its a crime to tape a police officer making an arrest. A video excerpt from Stossel’s television shows the attitudes of police towards being recorded. At Reason Radley Balko details the problem, writing “As citizens increase their scrutiny of law enforcement officials through technologies such as cell phones, miniature cameras, and devices that wirelessly connect to video-sharing sites such as YouTube and LiveLeak, the cops are increasingly fighting back with force and even jail time—and not just in Illinois. Police across the country are using decades-old wiretapping statutes that did not anticipate iPhones or Droids, combined with broadly written laws against obstructing or interfering with law enforcement, to arrest people who point microphones or video cameras at them. Even in the wake of gross injustices, state legislatures have largely neglected the issue.”
Writing for Cato Institute, Julian Sanchez noted:
It is also unlikely that cameras will be especially helpful in deterring such attacks. Even when it comes to ordinary crime — where the perpetrators are generally motivated by the desire to make a quick buck without getting caught — studies have been mixed and inconclusive about the value of CCTV cameras as a crime deterrent.
Some show significant declines in crime in some regions of cities with camera networks, which may be attributable to the cameras — but many show no discernible effect at all.
Of note, one country with a government that really likes surveillance cameras is China.
- Wichita City Council agenda for February 14, 2017. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Surveillance state arrives in Wichita. https://wichitaliberty.org/liberty/surveillance-state-arrives-in-wichita/. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Wichita seeks to form entertainment district. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-government/wichita-seeks-form-entertainment-district/. ↩
- Class-action lawsuit alleges racial discrimination at Power & Light. Kansas City Star, March 10, 2014. http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article341880/Class-action-lawsuit-alleges-racial-discrimination-at-Power–Light.html. ↩
- Finger, stan. Police seek answers, reversal as aggravated assaults surge. Wichita Eagle, February 10, 2017. http://www.kansas.com/news/local/crime/article132071799.html. ↩
- Lefler, Dion. Wichita working to bring Old Town under camera surveillance. Wichita Eagle, February 10, 2017. http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article131952109.html. ↩
A new initiative to provide residents of Sedgwick County with more information about their elected county commissioners.
Indexes of voting behavior are common at the national and state levels. These indexes let voters examine how elected representatives have actually voted, rather than having to rely on their rhetoric and campaign promises. Indexes also provide a useful institutional memory.
Based on my experience on producing the Kansas Economic Freedom Index for several years — a service now provided by Kansas Policy Institute — Sedgwick County will have such an index.
It’s a timely launch, as this week Sedgwick County commissioners will consider a matter that merits inclusion in this index. The item, if passed, will restart the Sedgwick County Health Department’s travel immunizations program. More information from the county commission is available here.
Some of the criteria to be considered in building the index include these, in draft form:
- Increasing or reducing the overall tax burden.
- Expanding or contracting agencies, programs, or functions of government.
- Expanding or reducing government’s power to regulate free market activity.
- Expanding or reducing government’s role in health care.
- Improving or harming the environment for economic growth and job creation.
- Expanding or reducing individual property rights.
- Protecting the integrity of elections.
- Rewarding or harming specific individuals, business firms, industries, organizations, or special interest groups.
- Creating or eliminating functions that can be performed by the private sector.
- Increasing or decreasing long-term debt.
- Increasing or decreasing government transparency and open records.
- Using government funds for political purposes.
- Encouraging or discouraging citizen participation in government and decision-making.
The Relation between Economic Freedom and Political Freedom
It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements. The chief contemporary manifestation of this idea is the advocacy of “democratic socialism” by many who condemn out of hand the restrictions on individual freedom imposed by “totalitarian socialism” in Russia, and who are persuaded that it is possible for a country to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements. The thesis of this chapter is that such a view is a delusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain arrangements are possible and that, in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom.
Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week: A forum for Republican candidates vying to fill the vacant position of former Congressman Mike Pompeo, who is now Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Ths program was moderated by Kelly Arnold, who is Chairman of the Kansas Republican Party.
Candidates appearing were, in order of initial appearance:
- Wichita City Council member Pete Meitzner
- Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes
- Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt
- Donald Trump adviser Alan Cobb
- Attorney George Bruce
- Aerospace engineer and radio host Joseph Ashby
This program was recorded February 3, 2017. Republican delegates will meet to select their candidate on February 8. The election is April 11.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Co-host Karl Peterjohn joins Bob Weeks to discuss a few big developments in Kansas politics, school choice, and civil asset forfeiture. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 136, broadcast January 29, 2017.
Soon in Wichita: A panel discussion with audience interaction on the topic “The Future of News in Our Digital Age.”
New Symposium is a group of Wichitans who hold regular meetings of public interest. New Symposium describes its goal is to “engage in the kind of thoughtful and respectful dialogue that is so seldom experienced in our modern world of political propaganda and social media sound-bites … but which still characterizes men and women of good will when they take the time to step back and logically think things through together.” It also uses the motto “New Symposium: Rescuing Discourse from the Political Parties.”
New Symposium’s next event is on January 31, and I will be a symposiast. This event is a public forum on the topic “The Future of News in Our Digital Age.” It is a panel discussion with audience interaction.
This event will be held on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. The location is Social Networking Technologies, Inc., located in the High Touch Building at 110 S. Main in downtown Wichita, Kansas. (Link to Google map.)
There is no cost to attend this event.
- W. Davis (Buzz) Merritt, Former Senior Vice President and Senior Editor of The Wichita Eagle; Adjunct professor of journalism at University of Kansas
- Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute and Board Member of The Sentinel, a new online news service
- Mike Marlett, Former owner of local, weekly newspaper F-5; current manager of website content at Wichita State University
- Mark McCormick, Former professional journalist and current Executive Director of The Kansas African American Museum
- Bob Weeks, Publisher of the Voice for Liberty at wichitaliberty.org
For updates and dialogue on the symposium, see
newsymposium.blogspot.com. Much more information may be found there. In particular, questions for consideration at this event include:
- What are the motives and incentives that shape the “news” produced by the different forms of media (some more centralized, traditional, or corporate than others)? What should they be?
- Given the internet’s enormous potential for misinformation, how can one find “just the facts”? When everyman’s a journalist, what happens to accountability for telling the truth?
- Has the centralized, legacy media been caught up in the hyper-polarization of American politics? If so, is there a remedy? Can we have tough, independent investigative journalism that does not start with presupposition and prejudice?
- What is the future of explanatory journalism that emphasizes nuance and context in a digital age in which speed and headlines are prized? How could Twitter and Snapchat ever properly inform?
- Are digital media/communications making us all attention-deficit? Are we too easily “informed”?
Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2016. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas?
Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like journalist, novelist, and blogger Bud Norman; Radio talk show host Joseph Ashby; David Bobb, President of Bill of Rights Institute; Heritage Foundation trade expert Bryan Riley; Radio talk show host Andy Hooser; Keen Umbehr; John Chisholm on entrepreneurship; James Rosebush, author of “True Reagan,” Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); Gidget Southway, or Danedri Herbert; Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education; and Congressman Mike Pompeo.
Kansas legislative resources. Citizens who want to be informed of the happenings of the Kansas Legislature have these resources available.
School choice in Kansas: The haves and have-nots. Kansas non-profit executives work to deny low-income families the school choice opportunities that executive salaries can afford.
Kansas efficiency study released. An interim version of a report presents possibilities of saving the state $2 billion over five years.
Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly. Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 15, 2016. This is an audio presentation.
Pupil-teacher ratios in the states. Kansas ranks near the top of the states in having a low pupil-teacher ratio.
Kansas highway conditions. Has continually “robbing the bank of KDOT” harmed Kansas highways?
Property rights in Wichita: Your roof. The Wichita City Council will attempt to settle a dispute concerning whether a new roof should be allowed to have a vertical appearance rather than the horizontal appearance of the old.
Must it be public schools? A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association exposes the attitudes of the Kansas public school establishment.
Kansas schools and other states. A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association makes claims about Kansas public schools that aren’t factual.
After years of low standards, Kansas schools adopt truthful standards. In a refreshing change, Kansas schools have adopted realistic standards for students, but only after many years of evaluating students using low standards.
Brownback and Obama stimulus plans. There are useful lessons we can learn from the criticism of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, including how easy it is to ignore inconvenient lessons of history.
Spending and taxing in Kansas. Difficulty balancing the Kansas budget is different from, and has not caused, widespread spending cuts.
In Sedgwick County, choosing your own benchmarks. The Sedgwick County Commission makes a bid for accountability with an economic development agency, but will likely fall short of anything meaningful.
This is why we must eliminate defined-benefit public pensions. Actions considered by the Kansas Legislature demonstrate — again — that governments are not capable of managing defined-benefit pension plans.
Kansas transportation bonds economics worse than told. The economic details of a semi-secret sale of bonds by the State of Kansas are worse than what’s been reported.
Massage business regulations likely to be ineffective, but will be onerous. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Inspector General evaluates Obamacare website. The HHS Inspector General has released an evaluation of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, shedding light on the performance of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Kansas highway spending. An op-ed by an advocate for more highway spending in Kansas needs context and correction.
Brookings Metro Monitor and Wichita. A research project by The Brookings Institution illustrates the poor performance of the Wichita-area economy.
Wichita: A conversation for a positive community and city agenda. Wichita City Manager Robert Layton held a discussion titled “What are Wichita’s Strengths and Weaknesses: A Conversation for a Positive Community and City Agenda” at the February 26, 2016 luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
In Kansas, teachers unions should stand for retention. A bill requiring teachers unions to stand for retention elections each year would be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.
In Kansas, doctors may “learn” just by doing their jobs. A proposed bill in Kansas should make us question the rationale of continuing medical education requirements for physicians.
Power of Kansas cities to take property may be expanded. A bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature will give cities additional means to seize property.
Wichita TIF district disbands; taxpayers on the hook. A real estate development in College Hill was not successful. What does this mean for city taxpayers?
Kansas and Colorado, compared. News that a Wichita-based company is moving to Colorado sparked a round of Kansas-bashing, most not based on facts.
In Wichita, the phased approach to water supply can save a bundle. In 2014 the City of Wichita recommended voters spend $250 million on a new water supply. But since voters rejected the tax to support that spending, the cost of providing adequate water has dropped, and dropped a lot.
Wichita Eagle, where are you? The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done.
Wichita on verge of new regulatory regime. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Wichita economic development and capacity. An expansion fueled by incentives is welcome, but illustrates a larger problem with Wichita-area economic development.
Rich States, Poor States, 2106 edition. In Rich States, Poor States, Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance, and fell sharply in the forward-looking forecast.
In Wichita, revealing discussion of property rights. Reaction to the veto of a bill in Kansas reveals the instincts of many government officials, which is to grab more power whenever possible.
‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ … oops! An event in Wichita that made national headlines has so far turned out to be not the story news media enthusiastically promoted.
Wichita doesn’t have this. A small Kansas city provides an example of what Wichita should do.
Kansas continues to snub school choice reform that helps the most vulnerable schoolchildren. Charter schools benefit minority and poor children, yet Kansas does not leverage their benefits, despite having a pressing need to boost the prospects of these children.
Wichita property tax rate: Up again. The City of Wichita says it hasn’t raised its property mill levy in many years. But data shows the mill levy has risen, and its use has shifted from debt service to current consumption.
AFP Foundation wins a battle for free speech for everyone. Americans for Prosperity Foundation achieves a victory for free speech and free association.
Kansas Center for Economic Growth. Kansas Center for Economic Growth, often cited as an authority by Kansas news media and politicians, is not the independent and unbiased source it claims to be.
Under Goossen, Left’s favorite expert, Kansas was admonished by Securities and Exchange Commission. The State of Kansas was ordered to take remedial action to correct material omissions in the state’s financial statements prepared under the leadership of Duane Goossen.
Spirit Aerosystems tax relief. Wichita’s largest employer asks to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Wichita mayor’s counterfactual op-ed. Wichita’s mayor pens an op-ed that is counter to facts that he knows, or should know.
Electioneering in Kansas?. An op-ed written under the banner of a non-profit organization appears to violate the ban on electioneering.
Wichita city council campaign finance reform. Some citizen activists and Wichita city council members believe that a single $500 campaign contribution from a corporation has a corrupting influence. But stacking dozens of the same $500 contributions from executives and spouses of the same corporation? Not a problem.
In Wichita, more sales tax hypocrisy. Another Wichita company that paid to persuade you to vote for higher taxes now seeks to avoid paying those taxes.
Wichita student/teacher ratios. Despite years of purported budget cuts, the Wichita public school district has been able to improve its student/teacher ratios.
KPERS payments and Kansas schools. There is a claim that a recent change in the handling of KPERS payments falsely inflates school spending. The Kansas State Department of Education says otherwise.
Regulation in Wichita, a ‘labyrinth of city processes’. Wichita offers special regulatory treatment for special circumstances, widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
They really are government schools. What’s wrong with the term “government schools?”
Kansas City Star as critic, or apologist. An editorial in the Kansas City Star criticizes a Kansas free-market think tank.
State and local government employee and payroll. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
Kansas government ‘hollowed-out’. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
In Wichita, Meitzner, Clendenin sow seeds of distrust. Comments by two Wichita city council members give citizens more reasons to be cynical and distrusting of politicians.
David Dennis, gleeful regulatory revisionist. David Dennis, candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, rewrites his history of service on the Kansas State Board of Education.
Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning. Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office.
Roger Marshall campaign setting new standards. Attacks on Tim Huelskamp reveal the worst in political campaigning.
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce on the campaign trail. We want to believe that The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and its PAC are a force for good. Why does the PAC need to be deceptive and untruthful?
Which Kansas Governor made these proposals?. Cutting spending for higher education, holding K through 12 public school spending steady, sweeping highway money to the general fund, reducing aid to local governments, spending down state reserves, and a huge projected budget gap. Who and when is the following newspaper report referencing?
Wichita Business Journal editorial missed the news on the Wichita economy. A Wichita business newspaper’s editorial ignores the history of our local economy. Even the history that it reported in its own pages.
Sedgwick County Health Department: Services provided. Sedgwick County government trimmed spending on health. What has been the result so far?
School staffing and students. Trends for the nation and each state in teachers, administrators, and students, presented in an interactive visualization.
Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2015 is $4.1 million. The depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena.
School spending in the states. School spending in the states, presented in an interactive visualization.
Kansas construction employment. Tip to the Wichita Eagle editorial board: When a lobbying group feeds you statistics, try to learn what they really mean.
Wichita has no city sales tax, except for these. There is no Wichita city retail sales tax, but the city collects tax revenue from citizens when they buy utilities, just like a sales tax.
CID and other incentives approved in downtown Wichita. The Wichita City Council approves economic development incentives, but citizens should not be proud of the discussion and deliberation.
Cost per visitor to Wichita cultural attractions. Wichitans might be surprised to learn the cost of cultural attractions.
GetTheFactsKansas launched. From Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a new website with facts about the Kansas budget, economy, and schools.
The nation’s report card and charter schools.
* An interactive table of NAEP scores for the states and races, broken down by charter school and traditional public school.
* Some states have few or no charter schools.
* In many states, minority students perform better on the NAEP test when in charter schools.
School choice and funding. Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm traditional public schools, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position.
Public school experts. Do only those within the Kansas public schooling community have a say?
Kansas and Arizona schools. Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
Video in the Kansas Senate. A plan to increase visibility of the Kansas Senate is a good start, and needs to go just one or two steps farther.
Kansas, a frugal state?. Is Kansas a frugal state, compared to others?
Topeka Capital-Journal falls for a story. The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
Kansas revenue estimates. Kansas revenue estimates are frequently in the news and have become a political issue. Here’s a look at them over the past decades.
Kansas school fund balances.
* Kansas school fund balances rose significantly this year, in both absolute dollars and dollars per pupil.
* Kansans might wonder why schools did not spend some of these funds to offset cuts they have contended were necessary.
* The interactive visualization holds data for each district since 2008.
In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud. A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money.
Wichita, give back the Hyatt proceeds. Instead of spending the proceeds of the Hyatt hotel sale, the city should honor those who paid for the hotel — the city’s taxpayers.
Kansas Democrats: They don’t add it up — or they don’t tell us. Kansas Democrats (and some Republicans) are campaigning on some very expensive programs, and they’re aren’t adding it up for us.
How would higher Kansas taxes help?. Candidates in Kansas who promise more spending ought to explain just how higher taxes will — purportedly — help the Kansas economy.
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Explaining to Kansans what the teachers union really means in its public communications.
Kansas school spending: Visualization. An interactive visualization of revenue and spending data for Kansas school districts.
Decoding Duane Goossen. The writing of Duane Goossen, a former Kansas budget director, requires decoding and explanation. This time, his vehicle is “Rise Up, Kansas.”
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Decoding and deconstructing communications from KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, lets us discover the true purpose of the union.
Government schools’ entitlement mentality. If the Kansas personal income grows, should school spending also rise?
Wichita bridges, well memorialized. Drivers on East Twenty-First Street in Wichita are happy that the work on a small bridge is complete, but may not be pleased with one aspect of the project.
Gary Sherrer and Kansas Policy Institute. A former Kansas government official criticizes Kansas Policy Institute.
Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief. Several large employers in Wichita ask to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Economic development incentives at the margin. The evaluation of economic development incentives in Wichita and Kansas requires thinking at the margin, not the entirety.
The Wichita economy, according to Milken Institute. The performance of the Wichita-area economy, compared to other large cities, is on a downward trend.
State pension cronyism. A new report details the way state pension funds harm workers and taxpayers through cronyism.
In Wichita, converting a hotel into street repairs. In Wichita, it turns out we have to sell a hotel in order to fix our streets.
In Wichita, we’ll not know how this tax money is spent. Despite claims to the contrary, the attitude of the City of Wichita towards citizens’ right to know is poor, and its attitude will likely be reaffirmed this week.
A new report details the way state pension funds harm workers and taxpayers through cronyism.
Updated to accurately reflect the time period of the targeted investments.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has released a report detailing the various ways state employee pension funds are harmed by cronyism. The report may be read at Keeping the Promise: Getting Politics Out of Pensions.
The problem, ALEC reports, is: “Unfortunately, many lawmakers and pension plan officials have other priorities besides doing what is best for workers. They see the billions of pension fund dollars they manage as an opportunity to advance their own agendas. Rather than investing to earn the best return for workers, they use pension funds in a misguided attempt to boost their local economies, provide kickbacks to their political supporters, reward industries they like, punish those they don’t and bully corporations into silence and behaving as they see fit.”
One form of pension fund cronyism is Economically Targeted Investments (ETIs). These are local investments “that have been selected for their economic or social benefits in addition to the investment return to the employee benefit plan.” Kansas has its own experience with this type of cronyism. During the first half of the 1980s KPERS, the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, made numerous targeted investments that led to large losses. One newspaper article reported: 1
It all seemed so easy to many economic development planners.
In an era of hard-to-get money for business start-ups and small business expansion, why not tap into the state’s healthy $3 billion-plus retirement funds as a source for seed capital?
After all, it is there. And much of the profits earned by the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Systems have come from out-of-state investments.
For many Kansas legislators, the lure of using KPERS money for economic development was tempting. So KPERS, under considerable legislative pressure, agreed to target nearly 10 percent of its fund for business expansions in Kansas.
But three years after that decision, it is clear that KPERS money is not a panacea for economic development.
Here is one particularly egregious example of how KPERS did business.2 In this case, the chair of KPERS benefited personally from KPERS investment decisions, and in a brazen manner:
Take, for example, the $7.8 million investment in Emblem Graphic Systems, a company based in Kansas City and Denver that manufactured specialty package labels. According to court documents:
KPERS Chairman Mike Russell was on the Emblem board of directors and had personally guaranteed $200,000 in loans to the company.
Shortly before KPERS invested $5.3 million in Emblem in 1985, Russell resigned from his Emblem seat. The KPERS loan, however, was used to relieve Russell of his obligation to cover the earlier loans totaling $200,000.
KPERS continued to invest in the company until 1988, At one point, KPERS even paid $273,305 to itself to pay back the money it had lent Emblem when the company was sold. KPERS got back only $1.76 million of the $7.8 million it had lent the company.
Russell, however, was able to make a profit on his 3,000 shares in Emblem when the company bought him out for $48,330 — using KPERS money.
KPERS is suing, among others, Russell, the lawyers who approved the transactions, and Kenneth Koger, who managed the Emblem investment and about 70 percent of the investments in question.
Russell was not available for comment.
In 1992, Russell pleaded no contest to one felony count of aiding and abetting securities fraud regarding a different KPERS investment.3
In September 1991 the loss to KPERS was given as $92 million. 4 Lawsuits continued until 2003.
The governor of Kansas during the time of the targeted KPERS investments was John Carlin (1979 to 1987).
- S. Gossett/The Wichita Eagle, F 1989, ‘Disappointing returns the percentage of the KPERS fund given over to new business ventures has been reduced in light of big losses’, Wichita Eagle, The (KS), 16 Oct, p. 7D, (online NewsBank). ↩
- Hobson, G 1996, ‘Full Accountability’, Wichita Eagle, The (KS), 22 Sep, p. 1A, (online NewsBank). ↩
- Press, A 1992, ‘Former KPERS Chief Sentenced To Probation For Securities Fraud’, Wichita Eagle, The (KS), 25 Jun, p. 4D, (online NewsBank).} ↩
- “After six years of investing in small- and medium-sized companies in Kansas, the state pension fund has 87 investments that are worth $231 million less than the fund paid for them, analysts told the fund’s trustees Friday. Considering that KPERS has collected about $139 million from those companies, however, the fund has lost $92 million in cash on its so-called ‘direct placement’ program, according to estimates by the staff of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.” Cross/The Wichita Eagle, J 1991, ‘Kpers Losses Put At $92 Million Lawyer Predicts ‘Monumental’ Suit’, Wichita Eagle, The (KS), 14 Sep, p. 2D, (online NewsBank). ↩
Art is too important to be dependent on politicians and injecting politics into anything inevitably tarnishes it, writes Lawrence W. Reed of Foundation for Economic Education.
Economist Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.
While in Wichita Reed appeared on WichitaLiberty.TV in this episode. An abridged version of the following appeared in the Wichita Eagle.
Beware of Government Arts Spending
By Lawrence W. Reed
While visiting Wichita in October, I learned that city government subsidies for the arts is a local, contentious issue. I’d like to offer a perspective: Don’t do it. Art is too important to be dependent on politicians and injecting politics into anything inevitably tarnishes it.
Proponents of art subsidies argue that because a large majority of people enjoy art and even personally engage in it, it’s therefore a government responsibility. But even larger majorities of people enjoy things like clothing, pets and good movies; this fact is actually an argument for government to butt out and stick to doing its proper duties.
Those “studies” that purport to show X return on Y amount of government arts spending are a laughingstock among economists. The numbers are cooked and almost never compared to alternative uses of tax money. Even less frequently do subsidy advocates consider what people might choose to do if their earnings weren’t taxed away in the first place.
Every interest group with a claim on the treasury argues that spending for its projects produces some magical “multiplier” effect. Routing other people’s money through politicians and bureaucracy is supposed to somehow magnify wealth, while leaving it in the pockets of those who earned it is somehow a drag. Assuming for a moment that such preposterous claims are correct, wouldn’t it then make sense to direct all income through the government?
What if “public investment” simply displaces a certain amount of private investment? Arts subsidy advocates never raise this issue, but I know that I personally am far less likely to make a charitable donation to something I know is on the dole than to something that depends on the good hearts of willing givers.
What if I, as a taxpayer, could keep what the government would otherwise spend on the arts and invest it in my child’s education and get twice the return than the government would ever get on the arts? The more that government takes, the less we can purchase of the things we value, including tickets to the theatre or a concert.
Money which comes voluntarily from the heart is more meaningful than money that comes at gunpoint (taxes). For that reason I don’t believe in either arts welfare or shotgun marriages. There’s an endless list of desirable, enriching things, very few of which carry a tag that says, “Must be provided by taxes and politicians.”
If we don’t rob Peter the worker to pay Paul the artist, perhaps Paul may have to become a better artist or a better marketer of his art, or perhaps find another profession entirely. Welcome, Paul, to the real world of willing customers and earning an honest living.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Bud Norman was a reporter for many years at the Wichita Eagle, covering a variety of beats including Kansas state government. Today he is a novelist, freelance writer, and author of the blog The Central Standard Times, subtitled “A view from the middle of America.” You can read it at centralstandardtimes.com, and also sign up for the daily email. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 133, broadcast November 13, 2016.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: Alan Cobb, who is National Coalitions Director for the Trump/Pence presidential campaign. His topic was “Make America Great Again Presidential Campaign.” This is an audio presentation recorded on September 23, 2016.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Radio Show Host Joseph Ashby joins host Bob Weeks to talk about Kansas judges, Kansas schools, and presidential politics. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 128, broadcast September 11, 2016.
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week: Martin Hawver briefed members and guests on the state of Kansas politics. Judge Phil Journey provided the introduction. Recorded August 19, 2016.
Hawver is the dean of Kansas Statehouse press corps, having covered the beat longer than any current Statehouse reporter — first for 17 years as a Statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal and since 1993 for Hawver’s Capitol Report, for which he is the primary reporter/writer. He also writes a column syndicated to Kansas newspapers, is interviewed about Kansas government and politics on TV and radio shows, and is a speaker for seminars and conventions.
Hawver’s Capitol Report is owned by Martin and his wife Vickie Griffith Hawver, who met and married while both worked at the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper. Their website is havernews.com.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita’s economic development, Sedgwick County spending, editorials ignoring facts, your house numbers, Kansas governors, taxpayer-funded political campaigns, and the nature of economic competition. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 127, broadcast August 21, 2016.
Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office.
As reported by the Wichita Eagle, it is perfectly allowable for some Kansas state government employees to work on political campaigns.1
Not all Kansas state government employees can work on campaigns while being paid by taxpayers. Only personal staff members of elected officials can. But this can be quite a large number of people. The Eagle reports that Governor Sam Brownback has 21 personal staff members.
It’s not only the governor that has taxpayer-paid employees on the campaign trail. The Eagle also reports that a member of Senate President Susan Wagle‘s office has been on the campaign trail.
That senate employee, along with an employee of the governor’s office, were spotted campaigning for Gene Suellentrop. His Facebook page seemed pleased with their participation, again according to Eagle reporting:
Rep. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, who is seeking the vacant seat in Senate District 27, posted a photo of himself and 10 campaign door walkers on Facebook last month with a message saying, “The Suellentrop for Senate crew! Coming soon to your door step.”
The photo, posted on June 14, a Tuesday, includes Ashley Moretti, a member of Brownback’s staff, and Eric Turek, who works for Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.
“Those two showed up late that afternoon on their own, I have not requested any help from any leadership,” Suellentrop said in an e-mail. “They were sure happy to get into a picture of our winning campaign.”
The first question the taxpayers of Kansas ought to ask is this: If these taxpayer-paid staff members have time to work on political campaigns, who is doing the work of the people of Kansas in their absence? What tasks are postponed so that these staff members can work on campaigns?
The answer to this question, I’m afraid, is that there are too many staff members.
The second question we should ask is this: Why is this practice allowed? There is a ruling from the ethics commission that allows this use of personal staff. Which leads to the third question: Why hasn’t the legislature passed a law to prohibit this practice?
The answer to that last question, I’m afraid, is that the ruling class protects its own. For example, there is an organization known as the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Its job is to re-elect Republican senate incumbents. It doesn’t say this, but that is what it does. This is representative of the attitude of the political class. Once most officeholders have been in office a few years, they comfortably transition to the political class. Thereafter, their most important job is their re-election campaign, followed closely by the campaigns of their cronies.
This is why you see Brownback and Wagle lending taxpayer-funded staff to the Suellentrop campaign. Should he be elected to the Kansas Senate, well, how can’t he be grateful?
Here’s what needs to happen.
First, this process must stop. Even though it is allowable, it is not right. We need leaders that recognize this. (Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty.)
Second. The trio of Suellentrop, Brownback, and Wagle need to reimburse Kansas taxpayers for the salaries of these staff for the time spent working on campaigns. (We should not blame the staff members. It’s the bosses and rule makers that are the problem.)
Third. Brownback and Wagle need to send staff to work for Suellentrop’s Republican challenger to the same degree they worked on the Suellentrop campaign. Either that, or make a contribution of the same value of the campaign services these taxpayer-funded Kansas state government workers supplied. Any other candidate in a similar situation — that of having taxpayer funds used to campaign against them — should receive the same compensation.
Now, some may be wondering how is this different from the governor endorsing senate candidates in 2012. It’s one matter for an officeholder to endorse a candidate. It’s an entirely different matter to send taxpayer-paid staff to work on campaigns. I hope that didn’t happen in 2012.
Fourth. Apologies to Kansas taxpayers are in order, as is a quick legislative fix. And, a reduction in personal staff members, as — obviously — there are too many.
Finally, thanks to the Eagle’s Bryan Lowry for this reporting.
- Lowry, Bryan. Taxpayer-funded campaign staff can knock at Kansans’ doors. Wichita Eagle, July 17, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article90179637.html. ↩
From the Wichita Pachyderm Club this week: Republican primary candidates for Kansas Senate were invited to participate in a forum. Candidates invited were:
- In Kansas Senate District 25: William Eveland and Jim Price. (map)
- In Kansas Senate District 26: Byron C. Dunlavy and Dan Kerschen. Dunlavy did not attend. (map)
- In Kansas Senate District 28: Jo L. Hillman and Mike Petersen. Hillman did not attend. (map)
This is an audio presentation recorded on July 15, 2016.