What Ray Merrick doesn’t want you to know

From Wichita Campaign for Liberty.

Dear Kansas Activist,

Leadership in Topeka doesn’t want you to know how your elected officials vote on your important issues this year.

In fact, Kansas House leader Ray Merrick dislikes transparency so much that he kicked Judge John Rubin off of the Rules Committee.

Ray Merrick, Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives
For years Judge Rubin has pushed the rules committee to pass rules to record all votes.

You see, he wants you to know how your legislator votes in committee, on amendments, and at every stage of the process in the legislature.

But the message from Ray Merrick is clear: They do not want you to know about the important votes where bills are weakened or destroyed.

Even worse: Ray Merrick doesn’t think you are going to do anything about it.

Prove him wrong.

Kansas Representative John Rubin
Contact Representative John Barker, the new Rules Committee Chair, immediately and tell him that voters deserve to know how legislators vote at every step. Call him at 785-296-7674 and email him at john.barker@house.ks.gov.

We’ve seen how bills get weakened and destroyed under Ray Merrick’s leadership.

Last year, we saw how the “Prairie Chicken” bill – that initially protected landowners who had prairie chickens on their property from federal agents wanting to destroy their property rights – was repeatedly watered down until it was sure to do nothing to protect Kansas land.

The destruction of this bill was committed without recorded votes.

Many other bills suffer the same fate.

Kansas Representative John Barker
Let me be frank. Getting the house to record all votes – in committee, on amendments, and on procedures – is the most important issue of the session.

You read that right.

You see, without recorded votes at every step, activists like you and me will be at the mercy of Ray Merrick and every liberal lobbyist with something to gain from destroying every one of our bills on your important issues. We will have to settle for what we get.

Don’t believe me?

Think of your most important issue. How far did your important issues get last year?

How much further could it have gotten if your legislators weren’t able to hide their votes from you?

It’s time to take action and demand that all votes be recorded.

The House will likely vote on their rules this week.

We don’t have much time.

Contact Representative John Barker, the new Rules Committee Chair, immediately, and tell him that voters must be allowed to know how legislators vote at every step. Call him at 785-296-7674 or email him at john.barker@house.ks.gov.

You deserve to know how your legislature votes at every step of the bill-making process. You deserve to know who waters down bills, and who stands firm.

At the end of this session, what will we have? Without recorded votes at every stage we will have more worthless bills, no real progress, and no clue who to hold accountable for it.

That is unacceptable.

In Liberty,
John Axtell

P.S. Demand to know how your representative voted. Contact Representative John Barker, Rules Committee Chair, immediately, and tell him that voters must be allowed to know how legislators vote at every step. Call him at 785-296-7674, or email him at john.barker@house.ks.gov.

Does economic development in the states use bait and switch?

Some wisdom regarding states’ use of targeted economic development incentives from Jeff Scribner:

“If you have to bribe a company to locate in your state or bribe one not to leave, your taxes and whatever else you are using to bribe them, are too high or otherwise onerous. If this were not so, companies and entrepreneurs would move to your state without being bribed and those already there would not be trying to leave. Low taxes and a favorable business climate, like that of Texas, bring in many companies from other places, like California, where the business climate and taxes are not favorable.”

“The point of the commercial was that it is wrong to treat new customers better than old ones. More importantly, state ‘incentives’ for new businesses, or those planning to leave, may amount to failure to provide equal protection under the (tax) law and may actually be bad for the state’s economy.”

“If a state that you are considering will offer you a ‘bribe’ to move there, how will they treat you when you become one of the ‘old’ companies there? If you are in the economic development office of a state, why do you think you should offer a new company something you would not offer to those already there? If you are a businessman in any state whose government will offer ‘incentives’ to a new company, you should consider suing for equal protection under the law!”

The full article is Bait & Switch: “Economic Development” in the States.

Kansas Policy Institute on Kansas budget

From Kansas Policy Institute.

KPI on Budget: Spending Records Still Being Set, Savings Good, but Still Room For More

January 15, 2015 — Wichita — Dave Trabert, president of Kansas Policy Institute, offered the following statement in response to the release of Gov. Brownback’s most recent budget:

On spending: “We’re very encouraged by the proposed spending reductions from this year’s record-setting level. Some may decry the changes but it should be noted that FY 2016 and FY 2017 will still be higher than any year prior to the current year. And there is still room for improvement. Proposed FY 2017 spending will be $547 million greater than if 2004 spending is adjusted for inflation.”

On KPERS: “Taking out new debt via bonds for KPERS is a non-starter unless it is explicitly tied to a larger reform of a 401(k)-style system for future government employees. This “defined contribution” plan would likely provide a better benefit for retirees, free taxpayers from the burden of pension debt, and honor the promises our state has made to those already in KPERS – maybe even allowing for COLAs in the future.”

Below is Trabert’s statement in regards to yesterday’s State of the State address:

Overall Impressions: “Governing is solely about choices. Gov. Brownback made some good choices in his speech tonight and offered some that leave us with questions. Kansas is in this budget situation because of a choice made years ago — reforming taxes without cutting spending. Until we choose to deliver better government service at a better price we’ll be left with some of the false choices we’ve already seen bubble up in the legislature this year. It won’t be easy, but Gov. Brownback laid out some items this evening that move us in the right direction.”

On Taxes: “The governor is to be applauded for adhering to the key elements of Kansas’ new tax structure but we look forward to seeing more details in the days ahead. Before asking Kansans to give more money to government, the governor should push for more cost reductions and the use of unnecessary carryover cash reserves. It’s clear that Kansas does not have a revenue problem as 2014 tax revenue outpaced the growth of inflation over the past decade.”

On K-12 Finance: “A new, student-focused funding formula is long overdue and if block-granting K-12 funding is a bridge to a longer-term solution then we believe it is a step in the right direction. The current formula funds districts rather than students and is providing more money than is needed to efficiently operate schools. It is based on an old cost study that was deliberately skewed to produce inflated numbers and it is well-established that schools are not operating efficiently.”

Do Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves?

From Tax Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan tax research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Can a tax cut pay for itself? Most economists would probably agree that the answer is generally “rarely, but usually not.” However, this question is often mixed up with a different one – “can reforms that lose revenue on a static basis pay for themselves?” It’s incredibly important to realize that the second question is distinct from the first, and that the answer can easily be “yes.” Tax reform is not a matter of raising or lowering a single tax – it’s a combination of tax cuts and tax hikes, and the swapping of particular sources of revenue for others. Since the economic effects of different taxes differ, reforms that are scored as a static revenue loss (and thus be popularly thought of as a “tax cut”) can easily raise revenue when their economic effects are accounted for. The people who completely dismiss the idea that a tax cut can pay for itself are usually on solid ground when considering a single tax only, but it’s wrong to extend this skepticism to any tax reform that shows a static revenue loss.

Continue reading at Do Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves?

Determining Which Economic Development Tools are Most Important and Effective in Promoting Job Creation and Economic Growth in Kansas, Part 2

An audit from Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit, February 2014. Here is the conclusion:

Kansas appears to have an appropriate mix of economic development incentives. Although Kansas and other comparison states configure their programs differently, all states aim to achieve similar economic goals using similar funding mechanisms. Overall, Kansas stakeholders are pleased with the state’s array of programs and incentives, particularly its newest programs, PEAK and JCF. That is largely because these programs provide businesses with fast and predictable cash which can be reinvested for further growth. Nevertheless, it is equally important to remember that other factors, such as an educated and skilled workforce, play a major role in businesses’ decisions to locate or expand in Kansas. Stakeholders viewed the recent income tax rate reductions for individuals and certain entities favorably, but also expressed some uncertainty about whether the tax policy would be successful in the long run. Lastly, while numerous studies have shown that states must offer economic development incentives to remain competitive, it is critical for programs to be evaluated on a periodic basis to ensure those programs remain efficient and effective.

The moral case for fossil fuels

In his new book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels Alex Epstein explains “You’ve heard that our addiction to fossil fuels is destroying our planet and our lives. Yet by every measure of human well-being life has been getting better and better. This book explains why humanity’s use of fossil fuels is actually a healthy, moral choice.”

From the Amazon.com page for the book:

Could everything we know about fossil fuels be wrong?

For decades, environmentalists have told us that using fossil fuels is a self-destructive addiction that will destroy our planet. Yet at the same time, by every measure of human well-being, from life expectancy to clean water to climate safety, life has been getting better and better.

How can this be?

The explanation, energy expert Alex Epstein argues in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, is that we usually hear only one side of the story. We’re taught to think only of the negatives of fossil fuels, their risks and side effects, but not their positives—their unique ability to provide cheap, reliable energy for a world of seven billion people. And the moral significance of cheap, reliable energy, Epstein argues, is woefully underrated. Energy is our ability to improve every single aspect of life, whether economic or environmental.

If we look at the big picture of fossil fuels compared with the alternatives, the overall impact of using fossil fuels is to make the world a far better place. We are morally obligated to use more fossil fuels for the sake of our economy and our environment.

Drawing on original insights and cutting-edge research, Epstein argues that most of what we hear about fossil fuels is a myth. For instance . . .

Myth: Fossil fuels are dirty.
Truth: The environmental benefits of using fossil fuels far outweigh the risks. Fossil fuels don’t take a naturally clean environment and make it dirty; they take a naturally dirty environment and make it clean. They don’t take a naturally safe climate and make it dangerous; they take a naturally dangerous climate and make it ever safer.

Myth: Fossil fuels are unsustainable, so we should strive to use “renewable” solar and wind.
Truth: The sun and wind are intermittent, unreliable fuels that always need backup from a reliable source of energy—usually fossil fuels. There are huge amounts of fossil fuels left, and we have plenty of time to find something cheaper.

Myth: Fossil fuels are hurting the developing world.
Truth: Fossil fuels are the key to improving the quality of life for billions of people in the developing world. If we withhold them, access to clean water plummets, critical medical machines like incubators become impossible to operate, and life expectancy drops significantly. Calls to “get off fossil fuels” are calls to degrade the lives of innocent people who merely want the same opportunities we enjoy in the West.

Taking everything into account, including the facts about climate change, Epstein argues that “fossil fuels are easy to misunderstand and demonize, but they are absolutely good to use. And they absolutely need to be championed. … Mankind’s use of fossil fuels is supremely virtuous—because human life is the standard of value and because using fossil fuels transforms our environment to make it wonderful for human life.”

The author appears in a podcast produced by Libertarianism.org. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. This video is an audio podcast.

Tax increment financing and local government

The Most Popular Tool: Tax Increment Financing and the Political Economy of Local Government

Richard Briffault
University of Chicago Law Review, Winter 2010

Article is available here. Abstract follows:

Tax increment financing (TIF) is the most widely used local government program for financing economic development in the United States, but the proliferation of TIF is puzzling. TIF was originally created to support urban renewal programs and was narrowly focused on addressing urban blight, yet now it is used in areas that are plainly unblighted. TIF brings in no outside money and provides no new revenue-raising authority. There is little clear evidence that TIF has done much to help the municipalities that use it, and it is also a source of intergovernmental tension and a site of conflict over the scope of public aid to the private sector.

Yet, the expansion of TIF makes sense in light of the basic structure of American local government law. Studying TIF can illuminate central features of our local government system. TIF succeeds — in the sense of its widespread adoption and use — because it, like local government more generally, is highly decentralized; reflects and reinforces the fiscalization of development policy; plays off the fragmentation of local governments and the resulting interlocal struggle for investment; and fits well with the entrepreneurial spirit characteristic of contemporary local economic development policy. A better understanding of TIF contributes to a better understanding of the political economy of American local government.

The ‘but-for’ justification for TIF

Economic development incentives like tax increment financing are usually justified by the “but-for” criteria. That is, nothing will happen unless an incentive is granted. Is this realistic?

There is now some light shed on this topic. The paper is this: “Does Chicago’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Programme Pass the ‘But-for’ Test? Job Creation and Economic Development Impacts Using Time-series Data.” Its publication page is here, and it may also be read here. Here is the abstract:

“Chicago uses tax increment financing (TIF) to promote economic development to a greater extent than any other large American city. This paper conducts a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of Chicago’s TIF programme in creating economic opportunities and catalysing real estate investments at the neighbourhood scale. This paper uses a unique panel dataset at the block-group level to analyse the impact of TIF designation and investments on employment change, business creation and building permit activity. After controlling for potential selection bias in TIF assignment, this paper shows that TIF ultimately fails the ‘but-for’ test and shows no evidence of increasing tangible economic development benefits for local residents. Implications for policy are considered.”