Record Setting Spending in Topeka
By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network
Now that the inconvenience of the 2006 election is behind us, the statehouse is getting back to what it does best: spending your tax dollars. Governor Sebelius’ latest state budget will set two new records for increased spending.
Is this news to you? State spending is growing at close to double digit rates so these fiscal milestones are being passed with a rapidity that would stun the frugal founders of this state.
The next state General Fund budget is proposed to be $6.015 billion. That is a 7.7 percent hike above last year. That percentage growth is actually down from the 8.7 percent spending growth in the fiscal year that will end June 30. That’s an increase of over 17 percent over two years.
Have you had a 17 percent pay hike in the last two years? Not many Kansans have had increases at half that rate as our average income continues to lag well below the national average.
A second dubious spending distinction was contained in Governor Sebelius’ budget. The state’s All Funds budget, that includes highway, Medicaid, and other federal program spending, is being revised up. Way up. The initial budget approved by the 2006 legislature kept this spending growth under $12 billion and 4.0 percent. The governor’s revised budget raises this amount to almost $12.4 billion, or an 8.2 percent hike.
There have been the usual complaints about spending growth but there have seldom been so many examples of dubious and wasteful spending to provide. The rapidly growing spending for the state capitol remodel now has a price tag that could eventually exceed $300 million.
The state’s bonded indebtedness tops $4 billion. That’s almost $1,500 per Kansan or over $5,900 for a family of four.
The state’s universities are seeking over $700 million for facilities. This includes dubious projects like over $607,000 for Chancellor Hemingway’s home, guest house, and garage at K.U. That university would like taxpayers to provide $8,176,385 to spend on Allen Field House. Where else could they find money to refurbish that sports facility? Ditto for K.S.U. that at least had a smaller request of $3,171,040 for Ahearn Field House.
Wichita State University had initially included the usually vacant Cessna Stadium but pulled this off the official list when an Americans for Prosperity lobbyist raised questions about it being listed. W.S.U. ended their football program decades ago and the stadium gets very light use. The last significant event there was hosting the Rolling Stones last October.
Another example of wasted state spending was provided to legislators early this year. There are roughly 17 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunches who are ineligible according to a state audit. This is critically important when measuring state spending for K-12 public schools since this lunch count is the basis for a massive amount of “at risk” student spending. That translates into taxpayers paying $19 million for ineligible students. That doesn’t include breaking out the out-of-state students or dare one say it, illegal alien students that taxpayers must fund in Kansas. Legislative Post Audit published a two-part audit on this over spending and legislative hearings were held this month.
If tax growth and the private sector continue to expand, the statehouse spending spree will continue. If tax growth stops, watch out for more tax hikes besides the usual appraisal and inflation “revenue enhancement” increases.