Topeka Kansas has spent about $1.5 billion during the past five years on economic development, and studies indicate it's difficult to determine if such expenditures do any good, according to an audit released Wednesday.
Key policymakers said the report's findings will help in discussions on how the state tries to grow the economy.
But they also noted that the second half of the study, which will focus on the effectiveness of Kansas economic development programs, has not been completed. That is scheduled to be done in May.
"A billion and a half dollars is a lot of money to put on the table without being certain what you're getting in return," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who is chairman of the House-Senate Legislative Post Audit Committee.
The report by the Legislative Division of Post Audit sought to find out how much money has been spent on economic development during the past five years and then review what past studies have shown about the effectiveness of such efforts.
From 2003 through 2007, the audit found that state agencies reported spending $630 million, mostly in federal funds, on various economic development programs. In addition, there was an estimated $860 million in "forgone revenue" through tax credits. Together, that equals nearly $1.5 billion.
And that doesn't include $400 million in additional costs to state and local governments during the next five years because of the recent repeal of the property tax on business machinery and equipment.
But in a review of studies both locally and nationally, the jury was out on whether such economic development efforts actually helped, the audit said.
"There are a number of problems in trying to assess the effectiveness of economic development programs and activities," the report concluded. One of the main ones is that it is difficult to prove that a particular result was caused by economic development assistance.
Kansas Secretary of Revenue Joan Wagnon said she was not surprised by the audit findings.
"That is the nature of the beast," Wagnon said. "It is very hard to put measures in place that will give you exactly the data you need."