January 16, 2013 - Wichita - Kansas Policy Institute president Dave Trabert offered the following statement today regarding the release of Gov. Brownback's FY 2014 budget proposal.
On taxes: "HB 2117 was a great step in the right direction on taxes and we should absolutely continue to lower taxes on all Kansans. We applaud Governor Brownback's efforts to eliminate income taxes in Kansas, but increasing sales taxes in July is not the way to do it. Completely eliminating the income tax may require higher sales tax, but the rate cannot be determined until government stops giving away taxpayer money in the name of economic development and gets other spending under control."
On spending: "We can't know how much government should spend until we actually look for ways to be more efficient. Spending less is not about cutting service, it's about providing the same or better service at a better price. The Governor's budget does so in some places but it should go further. 31 states are estimated to have spent less per-resident than Kansas in 2012 so we can certainly find ways to be more efficient - especially given that general fund spending has increased 32% since 2005.
"We often hear laughter when we ask people around the state if government operates efficiently and a recent public opinion poll we conducted with SurveyUSA backs this up. In fact, 83 percent of Kansans believe the state government could operate five to 10 percent more efficiently."
On K-12 Finance and Gannon implications: "The $654 increase in Base State Aid Per-Pupil called for in the Gannon ruling, would bring total taxpayer aid to schools to $14,045 per-pupil this year. It costs a lot of money to operate our schools, but its how the money is spent that matters, not how much. No study has ever been conducted in Kansas to determine what it costs for students to achieve required outcomes and have schools organized and operating in a cost-effective manner. Legislators have an obligation to fund schools, but they also have an obligation to do so in a way that makes effective use of taxpayer money.
"The education focus should be on outcomes. Billions in increased aid to schools over the years have not improved student achievement on independent national exams. Even state assessments show that only 56% of 11th grade students read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension. More money isn't the answer to raising student achievement. It's time to start looking for real solutions."
On KPERS: "Gov. Brownback clearly recognizes that last year's KPERS reform didn't go as far as it needs to. So even though it isn't formally in the budget, a move to a 401(k) style plan for new hires and non-vested current employees stops the likely $15 billion KPERS hole from getting deeper and, if properly structured, starts filling it back in."