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Spending issues, economic struggles continue in Kansas, says economist

An economist with the Sandlian Center for Entrepreneurial Government at the Kansas Policy Institute still sees ways that the state could slow its spending growth while following current statute.

“There’s already something on the books that the legislature could use, called performance-based budgeting,” said Michael Austin. “It simply asks, within all the spending functions of the legislature, whether there really is a public benefit to this spending. If a particular agency can’t outline if a particular program actually has an effect out there in the real world, this law that is in our books says, hey, you know what, maybe we shouldn’t spend so much money on it.”

By at least one economic measure, Kansas economy has been slowing.

“The latest signs continue to say Kansas is moving in the wrong direction,” said Austin. “Look at our economic growth as an example. Last quarter of 2018, Kansas personal income was ranked the 16th fastest growth in the country. During the legislative session, that ranking dropped to the 36th fastest and now, in the most recent quarter available personal income is the 43rd fastest.”

Austin, true to his free-market leanings, believes that we have to reduce the tax environment to get people to stay.

“Kansas doesn’t have a lot to offer, so we should really strategize and be competitive in what we’re really good at,” said Austin. “That is, of course, an easy way of living, a low cost of living, a slower pace of life. Hopefully, that can also translate into efficient government and low taxes.”

Austin sees both the veto of the decoupling bills passed through the legislature and the policy position on internet sales tax as effective tax increases on Kansans that came as a result of Laura Kelly’s
governorship.

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