Kansans voted for growth, not stag­na­tion

The Wichita Eagle - - Opinion - MICHAEL AUSTIN Michael Austin is the di­rec­tor of the San­dlian Cen­ter for En­tre­pre­neur­ial Govern­ment

With a new Kansas gov­er­nor-elect and state Leg­is­la­ture, Kansans voted to make a change. De­spite many elec­tions, how­ever, the Kansas econ­omy has been slow­ing for the past 40 years. While the new ad­min­is­tra­tion cites govern­ment as the so­lu­tion to this prob­lem, his­tory shows that govern­ment is pri­mar­ily the cause. Kansans need a new way of think­ing. They won’t get that from a Demo­crat or Repub­li­can as gov­er­nor.

Kansas has had a sto­ried life in cel­e­brat­ing free­dom and im­prov­ing its qual­ity of life. Through our abo­li­tion­ist begin­nings to cre­ative de­vel­op­ments in in­dus­try, Kansas led in eco­nomic free­dom with Wi­chita at its cen­ter. Leg­endary Wi­chi­tan entrepreneur Colby San­dlian got started in the 1950s, notic­ing per­mits for sin­gle-fam­ily homes av­er­ag­ing 150 a week. At the time, lo­cal govern­ment zon­ing staff had fewer than 10 em­ploy­ees. Today, Wi­chita av­er­ages around 45 per­mits a week with a lo­cal govern­ment zon­ing staff of near 50 in­di­vid­u­als. While other fac­tors have been at play in Wi­chita, eco­nomic vi­tal­ity and govern­ment bu­reau­cracy seem to have an op­pos­ing re­la­tion­ship.

Kansas fam­i­lies are nearly $12,000 poorer than the na­tional av­er­age with 172,000 fewer avail­able jobs. Like Wi­chita, with this slug­gish growth, Kansas has more govern­ment jobs than the na­tional av­er­age. Govern­ment is es­sen­tial to a civ­i­lized so­ci­ety, but it can only act through taxes taken from Kansans. The big­ger the govern­ment, the big­ger the bur­den on fam­i­lies and com­merce.

Kansans can’t keep up with in­fla­tion be­cause govern­ment growth lim­its em­ploy­ers’ abil­ity to at­tract qual­i­fied em­ploy­ees. Kansas govern­ment growth also cre­ates and sup­ports mo­nop­o­lies; forc­ing low-in­come con­sumers to pay higher prices for goods and ser­vices. Worst of all, Kansas govern­ment growth forces around 10,000 Kansans a year to aban­don the state. Other states and coun­tries that pro­vide sim­i­lar gov­ern­men­tal ser­vices with fewer taxes en­tice Kansans to leave. This is likely to get worse un­der an Oba­maCare ex­pan­sion and record govern­ment spend­ing growth, fi­nanced with high taxes.

We can give Kansans tools to de­mand their govern­ment re­turn more choices and change course. For this rea­son, the Kansas Pol­icy In­sti­tute cre­ated the San­dlian Cen­ter for En­tre­pre­neur­ial Govern­ment. It cap­tures the ob­ser­va­tion above and the en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit needed to make Kansas a bet­ter place to live and work.

Re­vers­ing eco­nomic stag­na­tion, we will show where Kansas is headed if govern­ment taxes and spends. We’ll ad­vise how govern­ment can bet­ter lis­ten to Kansans, help­ing them keep more of what they earn while en­act­ing the best pol­icy to grow pri­vate wages and jobs. We’ll pro­vide path­ways to sen­si­ble reg­u­la­tions, en­sur­ing pub­lic safety and en­cour­ag­ing new in­no­va­tive busi­nesses to keep prices low for Kansans. Most im­por­tantly, we’ll teach pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide bet­ter ser­vices at a bet­ter price to re­verse the trend of out-mi­gra­tion seen in Kansas and Wi­chita.

For Kansans to live closer to the Amer­i­can dream, they need a re­spon­sive govern­ment that al­lows more op­por­tu­ni­ties and en­sures their tax dol­lars are spent wisely. Politi­cians come and go, but the prin­ci­ples that can make this a re­al­ity never change.

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