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Archive for Sunday, February 3, 2013

Editorial: Kansas aspirations

Will Kansas be better off if it becomes more like Texas or Florida?

February 3, 2013

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In a number of venues, including his State of the State address, Gov. Sam Brownback has promoted Florida and Texas as states Kansas should strive to emulate.

Setting aside the sunshine and tourist attractions in those two states, do the majority of Kansans really want their state to be more like Florida or Texas?

Brownback’s main focus is on the fact that neither Florida nor Texas has a state income tax, a goal the governor also has set for Kansas. Eliminating the state sales tax, he maintains, will lead to new economic vibrance in Kansas and improve the general quality of life in the state.

So would Kansas be better off if it was more like Texas or Florida? Let’s look at a few figures. According to U.S. Census figures based on a three-year average from 2009 through 2011, Kansas already had a lower poverty rate (14.2 percent) than either Florida (15.2 percent) or Texas (17.7 percent). As of November 2012, Kansas also had significantly lower unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kansas unemployment stood at 5.4 percent, while Texas had 6.2 percent unemployment and Florida had 8.2 percent.

The Census also reports the median income in the states. The two-year average for 2010 and 2011 has the median income in Kansas ($48,827) barely below the median income in Texas ($48,902) and well above that in Florida ($45,281).

Although it’s difficult to measure the quality of public education in other states, we can at least look at graduation rates. According to the U.S. Department of Education the high-school graduation rate in Kansas for 2010-11 was 83 percent, compared with 71 percent in Florida and 86 percent in Texas.

Brownback has expressed a special concern about fourth-grade reading scores. According to the 2011 Nation’s Report Card compiled by the Department of Education, 71 percent of Kansas fourth-graders achieved the “basic” level in reading and 36 percent were “proficient.” Those scores were almost identical to the scores of Florida fourth-graders (71 percent basic and 35 percent proficient) but significantly higher than scores for Texas fourth-graders (64 percent basic and 28 percent proficient).

The state of Kansas education funding has come up recently in Missouri, whose Legislature is talking about trying to lower state income taxes to discourage businesses from moving to Kansas. Some Missouri legislators are enthusiastic about cuts, but others are more cautious. According to Sen. Paul LeVota, a Democrat who lives in Independence, Mo., and works in Lenexa, “The truth is, people leave Missouri and move to Kansas because of their schools, not because of their taxes. I don’t want to do something that is going to endanger the quality of life in Missouri.” However, LeVota also warned, “If we’re going to look at Kansas, they’re not doing good. They have cut, and they can’t fund their schools now.”

Many Kansans probably share LeVota’s concerns. They are proud of their public schools — schools that some Missourians apparently think are worth moving across the border for — and they also fear Kansas is “not doing good” when it comes to funding its schools, at least in part, because of efforts to cut taxes in the state.

Kansans almost certainly want to feel like they’re a step ahead of their neighbors to the east, but is aspiring to be more like Florida or Texas the answer? The numbers suggest that such a strategy would be a step in the wrong direction.

Comments

Keith 1 year, 7 months ago

Once again I'd like to thank your newspaper for endorsing him, and I'll thank you in advance for endorsing him in his next run for public office.

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Kookamooka 1 year, 7 months ago

Yep. Kansas is messing with the one thing that made us appealing at the state line. Schools. If the big businesses we gave temp tax breaks to would cough up the money they owe the State in taxes we would be in better shape. The Legends is restructuring debt in bankrupcy and on the auction block to ESCAPE their tax obligation that recently kicked in. I dont want sneaky businesses to screw the Government...the people...of our state. They hurt more than help.

Businesses lie. Why do people trust them?

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Bruce Bertsch 1 year, 7 months ago

Is Dolph saying that Kansans don't want to have the #45 education system in the US (Texas)? That we don't want the complete lack of a social safety net (both Florida and Texas)? That we would prefer not to see acres of vacant housing (Nevada)? But those states all have no income taxes. We have one other thing in common with Texas; a staggering budget deficit. Sam really should move to Texas. Even this year's license plate stickers are orange.

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Phillbert 1 year, 7 months ago

As someone who often criticizes LJW editorials, I want to praise this one, particularly for its use of specific, provable facts to back up its thesis.

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Lynn Grant 1 year, 7 months ago

There is no way Kansas can emulate Texas or Florida. We do not have the tourism that either of those states has and that counts for a lot. of income. We do not have a major league team of any kind to draw the sports crowd and the money that generates. We have no beaches and few hills. And who wants Kansas to be just like any other state? Each state is unique. What we do have are good schools and good roads, but that could change quickly. We have good people in Kansas and good opportunities for them. If only the current administration and the majority of the legislature would work for Kansans not Koch and the Chamber.and not for a Brownback run for the White House, which will turn out just like the last one did!

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sciencegeek 1 year, 7 months ago

As Phillbert says, this editorial uses facts to make its case. Unfortunately, the Brownback administration ignores any facts that don't support their case, and use cherry-picked numbers to support it.

Now to the real problem--the only reason Sam and his cronies have near-total control of the state is because too may registered Republicans didn't bother to get off their duffs and vote in the primary. Had they done that, we wouldn't have the rubber stamp Legislature that is dragging us down to the level of TX and FL. With all the money thrown into campaigns by the only-the-rich-matter crowd, voters have to 1) question the glossy brochures 2) pay attention to what's being done to them, and 3) VOTE IN THE PRIMARY, REPUBLICANS! In Kansas, it's the only election that matters.

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blindrabbit 1 year, 7 months ago

Why would Kansas want to emulate two old segregationist/secessionist states from Olde Dixie. Also, Kansas has no tourism industry, no seacoast/port facilities, drastically different weather, minor population compared to either Florida or Texas, Kansas also has minimal major industry compared to the two, and little likliehood to gain major newcomers. And although both Florida and Texas have tended to swing to the right politically, as has Kansas, both Florida and Texas are likely to swing back to the Progressive side as their population becomes more latino and other minorities, Kansas will liklely continue it's drift to obscurity to the Right (really wrong) as it's population mix will not change significantly, and the moderates GOP'ers die out.

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Michael LoBurgio 1 year, 7 months ago

Governor Brownback is doing his damnedest to make Kansas more like Texas: more regressive, worse schools, more poverty, and less worker protections. You can find some disturbing facts about the state of Texas below:

 27% of Texas children live in poverty, ranking Texas 42nd nationally.

18.5% of all Texans live below the poverty line, good for 40th nationally.

24% of Texas’s population is uninsured, the highest rate in the nation.

Texas also leads the nation in uninsured children with 17% of Texas children having no insurance. In Kansas, only 8% of children are uninsured.

9.5% of TX workers make minimum wage and receive no medical benefits, making Texas the state with the most workers at earning minimum wage.

28% of Texas 4th graders read at or above a proficient level 39th nationally. In contrast, 36% of Kansas 4th graders read proficiently or better, good for 12th best nationally.

Texas has the 7th most regressive tax system, taking over 12% of the bottom 20% income while only receiving 3% of the wealthiest 1% income.

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Cait McKnelly 1 year, 6 months ago

On two separate occasions, I uploaded a photo to this article that had facts about Texas and it's regressive tax system. Both times it was removed without explanation. (It was not in any violation of the TOS.) The first time, I put it down to a glitch in the system, although I could see the image immediately after I uploaded it, so I re-uploaded the image (and could once more see it). That one has since "disappeared" as well nor does either upload appear on my comment history. Since, obviously, some one there doesn't like the image, I will type out in text the facts that were on the image.
1. According to the Institute on Taxation and Policy, Texas has the fifth most regressive tax system in the US. The poorest 20% of Texas households paid 12% of their total income in state and local taxes in 2009. The wealthiest 1% of Texans paid only 3% of their total income in state and local taxes.
2. Texas' budget deficit ballooned to an astounding 27 billion dollars in 2012. Standard and Poors blamed Texas' budget problems on the state's tax structure, NOT the economy.
3. Texas cut $5.4 billion from public education in 2012. Texas now ranks 45th in per pupil spending and FIRST in number of adults without a high school diploma.
4. Texas has the sixth highest poverty rate in the United States at 18.4% according to the 2010 census.
5. At 9.5%, Texas has the greatest percentage of people working who work for minimum wage and have no medical benefits.
THIS is what Governor Brownback wants Kansas to become. What a high standard to aspire to. Not.

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John McCoy 1 year, 6 months ago

I am a Texan who wishes Texas was more like Kansas. Our schools are going down the tube for lack of funding; our roads are beginning to look like Mississippi's, and our Governor's politics are even to the right of Brownback's. The state of Texas is being sued by 600 school districts for cutting funding to education in violation of the state Constitution. Through gerrymandering our state Legislature has been taken over by a cabal of right-wing nuts who make Brownback look like Jimmy Carter. These people fear science, anyone who doesn't look like them, and higher education. But most of all, they hate President Obama. Texas has become so conservative that it is self-destructive. Surely your Governor is not serious when he points to Texas as a state to be admired. If he is serious about this, you need to get him out of office.

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