Archive for Friday, March 9, 2018

Editorial: A few numbers to consider

March 9, 2018

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Kansas lawmakers spent time this week considering a bill that would add Kansas to the list of states calling for a convention of the states to propose changes to the U.S. Constitution.

What was driving this need for change? An urgent need to rein in the power of the federal government.

Putting aside the nagging question of whether the current group of Kansas legislators is a qualified editor for the Founding Fathers, this makes perfect sense. It is hard to go wrong politically in a Republican state arguing for limited government.

For whatever reason, the bill, rightly so, didn’t win enough votes in the Kansas Senate to advance. Maybe some remembered that the proponents of this bill are the same limited government champions who routinely cause the Kansas Legislature to stay in session past its allotted number of days, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the pleasure of seeing these public servants work their magic.

Although those numbers are interesting, there is perhaps an even better set of numbers to gauge lawmakers’ commitment to limited government. Each year, the state puts out a report called a “debt study.” The state so strongly believes in limited government that government leaders do next to nothing to highlight the findings of this important report. But the 2017 Debt Study is on the Kansas Development Finance Authority’s website for those who want to look at it.

Here are some numbers from that report, which might be instructive as lawmakers and others think about limited government in Kansas:

  • In fiscal year 2005, Kansas made $39.7 million in state general fund debt payments. In fiscal year 2018, it will make $189.2 million in debt payments.
  • In fiscal year 2005, those debt payments accounted for 0.82 percent of the state’s general fund revenues. In 2018, they will account for 2.78 percent of state general fund revenues.
  • In 2017, the amount of state tax-supported debt in Kansas stood at $1,575 per person. Here’s the per capita debt numbers for other states in our region: Missouri: $579 per person; Oklahoma: $365 per person; Colorado: $353 per person; Iowa: $228 per person; and Nebraska: $18 per person. Just for good measure, Kansas is above the national average, too, which is $1,473 per person. Kansas’ per capita debt levels are the 18th highest among the states.
  • Based on 2015 personal income figures, the amount of tax-supported debt in Kansas is equal to 3.4 percent of the state’s personal income — in other words, how much of your money is going toward paying off the state’s debt. Among the area states, only Missouri had a figure above 1 percent at 1.4 percent.

It is worth noting that Republicans have controlled both houses of state government — and thus the checkbook — during the entire time period of this study. During the entire time period they also have preached the value of limited government. They probably believe that. They do want government to stay out of your lives — as long as it can still get into your wallets.

These debt numbers are important. State lawmakers should spend some time contemplating the trend line that the numbers show. Maybe in a low interest rate environment, it is fine that the state has significantly increased its debt, just like it may be fine to have a national conversation about whether the federal government is overstepping its constitutional role.

But surely state lawmakers can understand why many Kansans guffaw at the idea of Kansas lawmakers helping solve the large national problems of the day. The amount of bumbling that occurs in Topeka is hard to watch. A particularly galling category of bumbling is when state lawmakers start preaching about what is wrong elsewhere.

On this issue, like so many others, the first convention Kansas lawmakers ought to convene is one with a mirror.

Comments

Steve Hicks 2 months, 1 week ago

Well put.

I'm grateful to the few legislators who keep honestly trying to do their job. That must be hard during the clown-ideologues' continuing dance-routine in the chamber.

I'm thankful our few honest legislators keep holding on, believing voters will eventually start sending them more colleagues who want honest government for Kansas.

I hope they're right.

Ken Lassman 2 months, 1 week ago

Agree, Steve. The Brownback legacy has been one of shutting off the fiscal revenues and gutting state services, all for the illusionary vision of a supply-side heaven that will magically transform our state with job growth and a vital economic boom. Instead, we just crippled our legacy of good public education, squeezed down rural health care to the point of breaking in several areas, wiped several state agencies of their collective intelligence by kicking their leadership out the door, played fast and loose with privatized Medicaid, leaving it suspended between a dismantled past and an uncertain future, and a depleted Transportation budget that was used as a bank until all the money was gone.

Such is the face of the debt obligation that the state has created for its citizens, with none of the economic shangri-la that it promised in return. Brownback has gone off to protect religious freedom in Rome, and while Jeff Colyer has made some moves to change the tune a bit, the beat remains the same.

Kansans deserve better. I hope we make that choice in November.

P Allen Macfarlane 2 months, 1 week ago

In the long run, we get what we deserve. Conservative Republicans have a habit of the pot calling the kettle black.

Bob Summers 2 months, 1 week ago

There are too many parasites in government plundering the working stiff's productivity.

Most of the over weight parasites in government are there to process the plunder.

Cut 20 to 30 percent of these people in government.

The are not needed.

Greg Cooper 2 months, 1 week ago

Really, Bob? I've asked and asked you to provide specifics for your ham-handed budget cuts, but you stand on silence and never, ever, provide specifics. Perhaps you'd advocate cutting 20 to 30% from road and bridge funds. Or perhaps not, as you have to use the publicly funded roads and bridges. So, never mind that. OK, perhaps you'd advocate cutting 20 to 30% from education funds. That seems more reasonable, since you exhibit little of the logical outcomes that a good education provides for the students and adults of the state. Maybe that's the thing. Or, maybe you'd like to cut 20 to 30% of the folks we send to Topeka. That's a great idea, but then you'd have to decide which part of the state becomes under-represented. But I'm certain that little bug wouldn't bite you, either, because you really, really don't want everyone represented equally anyway. OK, then, health funding. I'll bet that's the ticket, since we are embroiled in controversy regarding children's health care, can't even account for dozens of children lost in the foster system, have thousands who have no health care now, you know, stuff like that. But, hey, those who can't care for themselves should get a job and suck it up, shouldn't they, Bob? Doesn't matter that they might be 3 months or 87 years old: put 'em to work, make responsible citizens of 'em, make them responsible for their portion of the state debt.

I guess that all would do it. thanks, Bob, for making us all think.

Bob Summers 2 months, 1 week ago

What part of cut 20 to 30 percent of the parasites out do you not understand?

Greg Cooper 2 months, 1 week ago

What part of "show us what you mean" do you not get, Bob? You may get by with this kind of non-answer in your daily life but not here, not with anyone who thinks, anyone who actually is looking for solutions. As you well know, you have dodged this question numerous times, and have suggested anywhere from 5% to the current 30% cuts. Not once, no, not ONE TIME, have you ponied up to the bar and told us just exactly who and how these cuts should be done. Your knowledge of economics is apparently limited to the counting of change in your pocket.

"If you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem". I don't disparage your non-responses because of my own frustration, but because your inane comments in this vein lead others to think your impossible suggestions may actually be possible. You, Bob, are a constant purveyor of "fake solutions". Fortunately, the number of adults who are taking this whole economic thing seriously has grown, and sanity will, eventually, rule once again in Kansas.

Stuart Sweeney 2 months, 1 week ago

The part that is not mentioned in any talk of a constitutional convention is this--there is no method for limiting the scope of a constitutional convention. We have people who are advocating, as our representatives, for the power to throw the entire constitution in the trash and abandon the form of government as we know it. This is scary to contemplate and we need to be careful when we vote for our representatives as they may give us something we truly do not desire. No where in this blind call is there a reason for this action. We have methods of amending the constitution without using a nuclear option like this and they protect us from such tyranny. If necessary that is the route that needs to be used!

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