County may be close to sales tax threshold
How much does a $500 suit cost? In most of Johnson County, you will pay about $545 for that new outfit thanks to sales tax rates now approaching – and in many places surpassing – 9 percent. Taxes on that suit and every other purchase are about three times higher than they were several decades ago, as state and local governments increasingly have embraced the sales tax as their revenue enhancer of choice.
Truth Emerging on Unencumbered Education Funds
What could Kansas do with an extra $743 million? That’s a question legislators and the governor-elect want answered. Kansas K-12 schools had $1.567 billion in unencumbered or carryover cash on July 1 and as much as $743 million of it could be made available for discretionary spending by school districts, according to state government research.
Those numbers, released in November, came as a surprise to legislators who were told in April, during final 2011 budget deliberations, that schools’ carryover balances would be $1.156 billion, $411 million lower than they actually were on July 1.
Kansas business economy slumps in December
Business conditions in Kansas slumped in December to an index of 48.4 according to the newest survey from Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss. The Business Conditions Index measures economic strength on a 1-100 scale. December’s 48.4 index is down from a rating of 50.8 in November. Kansas is the only state out of nine surveyed whose score dropped below growth neutral, which Goss said doesn’t bode well for job growth in the new year. “In 2010, Kansas failed to recover manufacturing jobs lost from the recession. Based on our survey results, the state's job growth will be nil for the first half of 2011,” Goss said.
Much of the same for PV retailers in 2010
For better or worse, 2010 didn’t bring a whole lot of change to the retail sector in Prairie Village. The report showed occupancy rates in the area had dipped slightly, by .3 percent, while lease rates recovered a bit from the impact of the recession, increasing by 4.3 percent.
Kansas: Get Ready for Wind Energy Sur-Tax
You'd think we have had enough economic troubles without the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission placing a $300 million to $500 million annual surtax on the state's electric utility bills. But on December 16 FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff announced new rules that would essentially socialize the cost of transmission lines across 13 states in the Midwest.
City Wants to Fund International Art Exhibit
The Lenexa City Council was approached Tuesday about the possibility of establishing a China/U.S. culture sculpture park within the city. Gary Ristow, parks and recreation director, said the Chinese delegation would fund the production of the pieces and the shipping and handling to Lenexa. The city would be responsible for providing a suitable location for the sculpture park, pads for the sculptures, assistance with the final installation and future maintenance expenses. The city would also provide a recognition ceremony (excluding travel) for the American and Chinese contingents when the sculptures are formally dedicated to the city.
Energy Subsidies for Wind and Ethanol
The Wall Street Journal has also long been opposed to this intervention in the market for ethanol, recently quoting a report by a group of U.S. Senators: “Historically our government has helped a product compete in one of three ways: subsidize it, protect it from competition, or require its use. We understand that ethanol may be the only product receiving all three forms of support from the U.S. government at this time.” Incoming Kansas governor Sam Brownback is in favor of wind energy too, and he also supports federal subsidies and mandates for ethanol production and use.
Blockbuster will close 180 stores, effect Kansas City
Movie rental giant Blockbuster will close 180 stores by the end of the first quarter, the company said.
Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September, the Dallas-based company has shuttered 58 stores. Several Kansas City-area Blockbuster stores have closed; the company’s website lists about 30 area locations. One Blockbuster is located in Mission.
Former Lansing Officer Indicted
A former Kansas police officer and school board member was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on charges that he crossed state lines and attempted to entice a minor over the Internet for illicit sex. William Brian Duncan, 40, of Leavenworth, Kan., is accused of communicating on Facebook with what he thought was a 14-year-old boy and setting up a meeting with the boy for sex. Prosecutors said Duncan was actually communicating with agents with the FBI's Cyber Crimes Task Force. Duncan is a former DARE officer with the Lansing Police Department, coordinator of the Safe Kids program, and in 2008 was named the department's officer of the year.
Texting Law Now Being Enforced
Beginning Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011, motorists can expect to receive traffic tickets if they text and drive in Kansas. State and local law enforcement officers have been issuing warnings for this violation since July 2010, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation. However, the law provides that tickets can be issued beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Drivers receiving citations will be subject to a minimum fine of $60, plus court costs.
The Times Public Service: Registered Sex Offenders
As a public service to the residents of Northeast Johnson County the Times offers Family Watchdog as a web generator to view if an offender lives near you.
by The Shawnee Mission Times
Gov.-elect Sam Brownback made an impressive pick with the selection of Jefferson County Attorney Caleb Stegall to serve as chief counsel to his Administration.
Brownback Says Welfare Discourages Marriage
by The Shawnee Mission Times
Kansas Gov.-elect Sam Brownback believes that the rules for state social service programs discourage marriage and it’s his plan to change those rules.
Going Green: Leawood Spends $1.96M to Save $43K a Year
By Shawnee Mission Times
Local governments continue to spend millions in “Green” energy and Leawood is the latest example of that spending. Last Monday, the Leawood City Council moved ahead with $1.96 million in energy upgrades to city-owned facilities slated to begin next year.
Kansas “Drudge” Site Now Online
By Shawnee Mission Times
The KansasMeadowlark.com has changed formats and has a new look. The blog was originally formed in 2004 by Earl Glynn. The Kansas Meadowlark was started after Glynn became frustrated that local media outlets were ignoring certain stories about political money and content. Glynn said that even after he did the research and tried to interest media outlets in the story, they were non-responsive. So he started his own website.
Secretary of State-Elect Kobach Announces Staff
By Shawnee Mission Times
Secretary of State-Elect Kris Kobach (R) announced today the members of his leadership team when he takes office in January. Eric Rucker will serve as Assistant Secretary of State, Ryan Kriegshauser as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Policy, Kay Curtis as Public Affairs Director, Tom Treacy as Assistant to the Secretary of State, and Debra Banister as Executive Assistant.
KCNet and Kansans for State and Local Reform Sponsors Event
By Shawnee Mission Times
The political event, co-sponsored by KCNet and Kansan’s for State and Local Reform, was held at a crowded Blackdog Coffee House in Lenexa on December 19. This event featured former Johnson County Sheriff and current Shawnee Mission Times publisher Currie Myers, Kansas City Missouri Mayor Mark Funkhouser former Shawnee City Councilman Kevin Straub and recently elected Johnson County Commissioners Jason Osterhaus, and Michael Ashcraft. The importance of conservatism and fiscal restraint in government were the key topics.
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Prosperity Is Achievable — If We’re Willing To Change
By Dave Trabert, President, Kansas Policy Institute
“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” — Thomas Sowell, The Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Sowell’s point about the scarcity of resources is essential to understanding economics, which may be as much about human behavior as supply, demand and other commonly-associated factors. Taxpayers have finite resources, so the more they must pay in taxes, the less they have to spend on goods and services. Accordingly, raising taxes always has a negative impact and especially so when taxes rise faster than the ability to pay.
Unfortunately, the last ten years were defined by Sowell’s first law of politics. State and local governments in Kansas ignored the implications of finite resources and significantly increased the tax burden. From 2000 to 2009, state and local taxes increased 59 percent but personal income available to pay taxes only rose 44 percent. (The 2010 figures aren’t yet published but last year’s increase in sales, unemployment and property taxes certainly didn’t ease the burden.)
Predictably, we suffered the consequences.
Kansas had 18,800 fewer private sector jobs in 2009 than in 2000, a reduction of 1.7 percent. There was job growth prior to the recession but it was well below the national average. From 1998 to 2008 (Kansas employment peaked in April, 2008) private sector jobs increased 7.9 percent nationwide but only 5.2 percent in Kansas. And comparing the performance of low-burden and high-burden states (as ranked by the non-partisan Tax Foundation) makes the implications of defying Sowell’s first law of economics even more clear. The ten states with the highest combined state and local tax burden averaged 6.1 percent private sector job growth, whereas the ten states with the lowest burdens averaged a remarkable 16.5 percent gain.
Domestic migration (U.S. residents moving in and out of states) is another good measure. Between 2000 and 2009, the ten states with the lowest tax burdens averaged a 3.8 percent population increase from domestic migration; the ten states with the highest burdens lost an average of 3.3 percent. Kansas lost 2.5 percent population from domestic migration.
Jobs and people naturally gravitate toward low-burden states where they get to keep more of their hard-earned, finite resources. The next ten years must therefore be defined by Sowell’s first law of economics or Kansas will continue to suffer the consequences. In order to compete for jobs and attract new residents, the state and local tax burden must be reduced — and that means government must spend less.
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce spending and still provide essential services. Ineffective and unnecessary programs have to go and government must operate much more efficiently.
Change won’t be easy but the choice is simple — reduce the tax burden and create an environment that attracts jobs and new taxpayers or preserve big government and continue to suffer the consequences.
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