Archive for Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kansas lawmaker says it’s time to abolish KTEC

March 17, 2009


— A Lawrence-area lawmaker said Tuesday that a state economic development agency has outlived its usefulness and needs to be abolished.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, has introduced legislation to move the functions of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. into the Kansas Department of Commerce and state universities.

KTEC, established in 1986 to promote technology-based development, provided a good foundation, but has recently succumbed to high costs and little accountability to lawmakers, Holland said.

“With the state facing an unprecedented budget deficit, it is more important than ever that we look for better ways to reduce overhead costs while delivering critical investments in our state’s economy,” Holland said.

Tracy Taylor, KTEC president and chief executive officer, has been making the rounds to various legislative committees this session to defend the agency.

He says KTEC’s mission is important, especially during the current recession.

Holland also criticized the agency for failing to respond to his request for information about its expenditures. KTEC’s board chairwoman, Linda Reinhardt, told Holland in a letter that the agency doesn’t have some of the information and that KTEC has complied with his request as much as it can.


ashmole 9 years, 2 months ago

Good for Tom Holland. Time to drain some of the swamps in Topeka. I wish our other area legislators were out in front on tax-saving issues like this one.

Keith 9 years, 2 months ago

KTEC had a nice puff piece in todays KC Star Business section, trying to get support from the KC area.

clyde_never_barks 9 years, 2 months ago

Maybe Taylor doesn't want everyone to know that he makes more than $300K annually, for doing - not so much.

Orwell 9 years, 2 months ago

Why do we have a separate EcoDevo agency anyway? Isn't economic development part of the Department of Commerce's mission? How can it be efficient to have multiple state agencies operating independently of one another but pursuing the same objective – particularly if one of them doesn't seem to want to let the legislature know what's going on?

nobody1793 9 years, 2 months ago

I think KTEC is set up as a separate entity so that it can legally hold equity positions in startup companies, that the department of commerce itself cannot. I think the mission is important but hasn't been executed properly. Has anyone considered just getting new leadership that can reorganize/refocus them instead of just scrapping the whole thing?

kugraddc 9 years, 2 months ago

Of course he wants to abolish it! He wants to stifle any potential competition he could have.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 9 years, 2 months ago

It sounds to me as if the agency needs more oversight and accountability, but needs to remain. We need to do SOMETHING to get more business in KS.

deskboy04 9 years, 2 months ago

Why should an agency that gets state money be able to hide how much it pays people? I would think that people would be outraged about this, especially after the AIG thing.

deskboy04 9 years, 2 months ago

How do you know that it is working? I have seen no evidence of that.

JackKats 9 years, 2 months ago

KTEC played a part in getting the BioDefense Plant in Manhattan area. That is a big deal.

bad_dog 9 years, 2 months ago

deskboy, the article states Holland asked for information about KTEC's "expenditures", not payroll specifically. There is no allegation (at least in this article) that anyone was hiding payroll data. Having worked for a state agency in the past, I can assure you most state employees aren't overpaid, in fact far from it. While the legislature annually voted themselves higher salaries and per diems, we often got nothing extra-whether it was merit or cost of living increases.

While payroll is certainly part of their expenditures, this wasn't necessarily what Holland was looking for-perhaps, perhaps not. As state employees, I presume their salaries are already well known or easily ascertainable by legislators reviewing a given agency's budget.

Do we accept Holland's criticisms at face value or should we believe Ms. Reinhardt? If Holland believes KTEC isn't properly managed or is hiding something, he should have the Legislative Post-Audit Committee investigate. If there is something meritorious to discuss following their investigation, at least it will be more substantive than the "I want something because I say so" whining written above.

deskboy04 9 years, 2 months ago

I want to know their payroll. I want to know how much money they are spending. And I would like them to quantify their role in getting the bio defense plant. Every agency that gets our money should be able to do that. Why won't they share this information with us?

dinglesmith 9 years, 2 months ago

kugraddc: Your statement is ridiculous. More technology companies of the type that KTEC develops would result in business opportunities for Holland's company. If he were looking out for his own business interests, he would be blindly supporting KTEC.

I happen to disagree with Tom on this issue, but his integrity is without reproach. KTEC should definitely be reigned in, but not abolished.

bad_dog 9 years, 2 months ago

deskboy, while you may be entitled to some general information regarding KTEC's expenditures, you aren't necessarily entitled to drill down into individual employee's salaries and benefits. Overall budget expenditures for payroll, yes. Agency heads/department managers, probably so. Rank and file employees, not so much. If you believe you're personally entitled to KTEC salary info, write them a letter requesting it and/or file a Freedom of Information Act request.

You can draw your own conclusions from that, although it appears you've already decided KTEC is a problem child. Again, how do you come to the conclusion KTEC hasn't provided payroll info to Holland, or it is not otherwise available to him? As I stated above, if Holland believes there is a problem with expenditures, get Post-Audit involved. Otherwise, it appears he lacks the substantive basis necessary to turn this from mere supposition to fact-based, rational criticism.

Budgets_Smudgets 9 years, 2 months ago

@badboy. Perhaps you don't understand the law. Every state salary IS very much public information (county and city too, for that matter) and can be obtained by request, like it or not.

KTEC is a quasi-state organization, albeit not a typical state agency. It was created by statute, is funded in part by the State, and has public officials on its board. As a public entity, the open records law clearly applies except for any specific particular exemptions listed within the law. I'm pretty sure CEO salaries is not among them.

Clyde-never-barks asserts above this person is being paid more than "$300,000/yr" If so, I am sure this is what is driving part of this issue.

bad_dog 9 years, 2 months ago

deskboy, I have a great deal of dislike and mistrust for AIG. Those feelings and beliefs are based partially on professional experience and the balance on current events.

bad_dog 9 years, 2 months ago

Budgets_Smudgets-thx for the input. I had forgotten about the Open Records Act-doh.

My point about legislators, however, remains accurate. They have the capacity to access this info. If Holland merely wants payroll info, he knows how to obtain it. If he wants something else "expenditure" related and KTEC has it, I have to believe they would provide it to him. Otherwise, he can sic Post-Audit on them, provide them with a clear and concise basis for investigating and wait for the results.

Budgets_Smudgets 9 years, 2 months ago

bad_dog: "If Holland merely wants payroll info, he knows how to obtain it. If he wants something else “expenditure” related and KTEC has itIf I am reading the articles"

I still think you are incorrectly appreciating the situation. If I am reading the articles correctly, the problem is that KTEC has not been forthcoming with this financial information. And an individual legislator can NOT 'sic' Legislative Post-Audit on anybody. It is a committee process.

Perhaps the LJW should publish the Holland information letter. He may be asking for things which are a matter of interpretation and conjecture. But CEO compensation is not that, and any compensation and/or employment contract should be totally public.

LloydDobbler 9 years, 2 months ago

A Legislative Post Audit conducted last year indicated that Kansas has not received benefits commensurate with the budget applied to KTEC. And let's be clear about the NBAF in Manhattan...KTEC had little or no impact on Kansas being selected for that facility. It was primarily the efforts of Kansas State, our Washington delegation, and, to some extent, the KBA that was responsible for that success.

bad_dog 9 years, 2 months ago

Budgets, I understand it is a committee process. I was referring to the issue in a general sense. My point was merely that Holland can initiate the necessary interest to undertake the process. If there is/was merit to his allegations, there should be plenty of interest in doing so.

I've been through Post-Audits before and worked directly with the Legislature, albeit almost twenty years ago, so I do understand the process.

Given what Lloyd stated above, it appears this already occurred last year. I fully support transparency and accountability, so if there is merit to Holland's allegations, I support taking action.

As for your belief KTEC hasn't been forthcoming, the article states in pertinent part: " Holland also criticized the agency for failing to respond to his request for information about its expenditures. KTEC’s board chairwoman, Linda Reinhardt, told Holland in a letter that the agency doesn’t have some of the information and that KTEC has complied with his request as much as it can."

I read this as two sides of the same dispute; you seem to be viewing only Holland's perspective and ascribing the "expenditure" isssue solely/primarily to payroll. That's really all I ever addressed; the single minded perspective initiated by deskboy that does not appear to be inherently supported by the information in the article.

bad_dog 9 years, 2 months ago

Oh and Budgets, according to the legislative Post-Audit website: "Any legislator or legislative committee can request a performance audit by contacting any member of the Committee or by contacting Legislative Post Audit directly." The requesting process is what I was alluding to above when I described it as "siccing" Post-Audit on KTEC. Yes, the Committee still has to approve the audit, but if a given legislator either has enough political clout or there is sufficient public or general legislative interest in a topic, it will happen, or as is the case here, has happened.

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