Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday June 20, 2011

CIDs to start collecting tax. Soon two community improvement districts in Wichita will start collecting their additional sales tax, and so a Wichita city webpage is now available to warn consumers of the extra taxes they’ll pay at these merchants. There were some — like me — who wanted the city to have a policy of stronger consumer protection, such as a sign at the entry to a merchant, but city council members recognized, as did developers, that this full disclosure would be bad for business. The website disclosure allows the city to say it’s doing its job warning consumers, but the website is such a weak form of disclosure that it is nearly meaningless. Still, it satisfies council members like Jeff Longwell, who expressed concern that Wichitans would be “confused” by signs at merchants. You see, some CIDs may charge different amounts of extra tax, and Longwell thought informing shoppers of these different rates would confuse them. It seems that Longwell doesn’t have a very high opinion of the cognitive processing abilities of the people of Wichita, and it’s not the first time he’s expressed this sentiment. A few years ago when citizens complained that documents were not made available until just hours before a city council meeting, Longwell said he doubted citizens would read them anyway. See Wichita Council Member Jeff Longwell: We Can, and Do, Read. … For more on the CID disclosure issue, see In Wichita, two large community improvement districts proposed.

Wichita City Council. This week the Wichita City Council considers these items: A facade improvement program loan is requested for a building at 1525 E. Douglas to house GLMV Architecture. This action will loan $500,000 for the purposes of sprucing up the outside of the building, with that amount, plus interest, to be paid back in the form of special assessments collected with the regular property tax. It’s similar to the special assessment financing used in new housing developments, but here applied to existing structures. Interestingly, the city documents proclaim a “gap,” meaning that “applicants show a financial need for public assistance in order to complete the project, based on the owner’s ability to finance the project and assuming a market-based return on investment.” In other words, private financing was not available, so the city steps in, and we have another example of the city investing in money-losing projects. Although it is likely the city will be paid back, the program also includes a $30,000 grant for this project. That, of course, is a gift from Wichita taxpayers made by the city council, and will not be paid back. … The council will be asked to decide whether to proceed with a new airport terminal costing $160 million and parking facilities costing $40 million. It’s said by city leaders that this will not cost Wichita taxpayers a thing. That is, unless you use the airport or paid any taxes to the federal government. Federal grants are a source of some funds for the airport, and are thought by city leaders to be free money, without cost. … On a consent agenda item, we learn that the bridge over the Big Ditch is going to cost more, as a supplemental agreement for $521,369 in additional funds for the planning of the bridge is requested. The reason, according to the city is “additional work is needed to comply with Federal requirements.” This is just the planning, not the actual construction of the bridge. So far the budget for planning and design is $5,219,145. … Also on the consent agenda is something that’s become not unusual: the need to repeal an ordinance and replace it with a corrected ordinance. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.

Rich States, Poor States event this week. Kansas Policy Institute and the Wichita Independent Business Association are hosting a breakfast event this Friday (June 24th) featuring Jonathan Williams, one of the authors of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index. There’s still time to RSVP. For more information, see Rich States, Poor States author to be in Wichita.

Wichita’s riverside parks to be topic. This Friday (June 24th), Jim Mason, Naturalist at the Great Plains Nature Center will have a presentation and book signing at the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Mason is author of Wichita’s Riverside Parks, published in April 2011. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. Upcoming speakers: On July 1 there will be no meeting due to the Independence Day holiday. On July 8, Dave Trabert, President, Kansas Policy Institute, on “Stabilizing the Kansas Budget.”

Pompeo noted for opposition to opposition to energy spending. Tax credits — mysterious to the general public, therefore increasingly used as a way to disguise government spending — come under attack from Chris Chocola in the Washington Examiner: “Last fall, voters sent a clear message to cut spending and get the country’s fiscal house in order. These same voters should take heed because some of the candidates they elected are suffering from temporary insanity when it comes to a classic Washington giveaway: the tax credit. Nearly 80 Republicans, many of whom ran on restoring fiscal sanity to Washington, have joined 100 liberal Democrats in sponsoring HR 1380, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act, known colloquially as the NAT GAS Act.” … The bill is a pet project of energy investor T. Boone Pickens in an effort to obtain billions in subsidy for his project to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. But, writes Chocola: “The goal should be creating a sustainable market, not a false one. It is not the role of Congress or the federal government to pick winners or losers in the broad field of energy alternatives. Backing any one industry over another distorts the market and destroys our system of free enterprise.” He criticizes those who campaigned on fiscal responsibility and support this bill. Chocola also calls out Wichita Republican U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo for his opposition to these energy tax and spending programs.

Even quicker. Open Letter to Paul Krugman: The New York Times columnist taken to task by Donald J. Boudreaux. … House GOP retreats from borrowing freeze, more Republicans drift from pledge to deny debt-limit increase without conditions. … Rasmussen poll: 70% say default is bad for economy, 56% say failure to cut spending is worse. … The Metaphysics of Contemporary Theft: “The remedy to address theft would be not more government help — public assistance, social welfare, counseling — but far less, given that human nature rises to the occasion when forced to work and sinks when leisured and exempt.” … Investor’s Business Daily: Times’ Bias Shows In Palin Email Affair. … Michael Barone: Government Looks to Past, Free Enterprise to Future: “Republicans want less government spending and more leeway for entrepreneurs to create new businesses and jobs. No one knows what innovative products and services will emerge. That’s the beauty of free enterprise, but it also makes it a hard sell politically.”

1 Comment

  • The financial analysis and projections for the $160 million airport terminal continues to be “pie in the sky” and are not achievable in so many areas. The $54 million in FAA grants that are budgeted are subject to the FAA Benefit-Cost Analysis for the AIP grant program and that program total AIP grants for FY2009 and released in Oct 2010 shows that ICT received only less than $10 million. Where is the rest of the money going to come from if ICT does not receive anymore than they have averaged in the past? Secondly, the FAA has a new directive (dated June 09,2011) concerning a financial analysis of the Passenger Facility Charge minus interest and it is due by July 1, 2011. ICT decreased its passenger boardings from 2008 to FY2009 by 8.5% down to 730,374, consequently, to be able to budget $16.8 million on the PFC revenue you would have to double the passenger boardings; double the interest rate and receive FAA approval. I am afraid that the budget on this new terminal project is highly inflated and the revenue projections can not be satisfied due to current economic and regulatory conditions.

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