Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Shakes fist at Department of Commerce

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shakes fist at Department of Commerce

So, yesterday I handed Sen. Denning a little bit of a stick. Perhaps I should have led with a carrot, because he deserves heaps of praise for being the catalyst that shut down (or at least slowed) an insane Kansas Department of Commerce effort to use taxpayer money to build a horse arena. 

This deserved more press than it initially received. 

Under the cover of virtual darkness, the KDOC was working to build a hotel, children's museum, hockey arena and move the American Royal arena from Kansas City, Mo., to Wyandotte County. The plan would have used STAR bonds to fund the project. 

There's no kind way to say this: Brownback and the KDOC should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe they never received the memo, but Kansas' budget is in tatters, largely due to overspending, in my humble opinion. But also because we divert taxpayer funding to pet projects and friends instead of using public money for critical and necessary services. How else to explain a bloated state budget that somehow manages to underfund the Kansas Highway Patrol? (Public safety seems like a necessity, whereas a horse arena does not.)

STAR bonds essentially take an increment of sales tax revenues from a project and divert them to developers. (Obviously, it's a lot more complicated than that. For more, click here.) Basically, we give developers a tax break, which means the rest of Kansas gets to subsidize the project. 

I don't even... 

Hence, a widely reported effort by the Senate to cease and desist on the use of STAR bonds immediately. Initially, it was to be a statewide ban on the use of STAR bonds, but people in Salina have some project that they think everyone in Kansas should underwrite. As it now sits, only Wyandotte County, which has an atrocious history where STAR bonds are concerned, is exempted from using STAR bonds temporarily. 

Denning told Jim Mclean that he discovered the plan by examining budget documents and projects. He said had he not been bean counting the Kansas budget, legislators would have learned of the plan to lure the American Royal to KCK by reading the newspapers. 

I have a YUUUGE problem with that. What on earth is the Brownback administration doing? I've said in the past that who Brownback really detests is Republican legislators and I stand by that. Brownback, it appears, goes out of his way to stab legislators in the back, surprise them at every turn, and in general make their lives exceedingly difficult.

Do I think GOP members of the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback need to be in lock step on every issue? Of course not. (In fact, I think a healthy debate is a best practice).

That said, I know for a fact that Brownback's young staffers (Don't get me started on the way Brownback surrounds himself with youngsters and others who coddle and stroke his ego. Ick.) have threatened legislators with well-funded primary challengers if they refuse to handle issues behind closed doors. This means, don't run to the media, essentially.

The problem is that Brownback is largely inaccessible to many lawmakers, and even if they can get a meeting, good luck having a real discussion or reaching a consensus. That's generally not the point of any meeting Brownback takes with legislators.

If the American Royal wants to come to Kansas, I'd like to be the first to roll out the welcome mat. But it needs to pay its own way, just like the rest of Kansas is supposed to. Call me un-American, but I don't want to subsidize wealthy developers (and Cerner). 

For what it's worth, the STAR bonds have a pitiful record. Prairiefire is really cool, but taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing it. Shlitterbahn is nice, I suppose, but I'm not riding that giant slide, AND I don't want to subsidize it. 

Here's the money shot: Last year, three of six STAR bond projects in the state did not meet revenue projections. Even if you're someone who thinks government should be in the business of picking winners and losers (gross), you must admit that government is really bad at it.

1 comment:

  1. You got it exactly right. I could go on at length about the Topeka experience with STAR bonds but its actually worse than KCK but on a smaller scale, just millions not hundreds of millions