Posts tagged with Economy

Kansans For No Income Tax revs up membership drive

So how much is it worth to recruit members to support Gov. Sam Brownback's effort to cut the state's personal income tax?

Apparently, $4 per person.

Last month, Kansans For No Income Tax sought "short term field directors to build up membership over the holidays," according to an email that has been forwarded to the Lawrence Journal-World.

"This is a temporary position that pays $4 for every member signed up," the email from Craig Allen Harms says. "We are looking to bring on one to two temporary team members through Dec. 31st. Let me know if anyone comes to mind that might need some quick cash and has some time," the email states.

Kansans For No Income Tax is run by Kansas Republican Party operatives.

Brownback, a Republican, will announce his tax plan on Wednesday during his State of the State speech. Brownback has said he wants to cut the state income tax, saying that will spur economic growth.

But Democrats and some Republicans contend the proposal will shift the tax burden to low- and middle-income families or result in a cut in services or both.

By Scott Rothschild

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Big battle expected in Legislature over Brownback’s tax plan

Douglas County legislators on Monday provided a preview of what may be one of most contentious debates in the 2012 legislative session — a proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback to decrease the state personal income tax.

Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, the leading Democrat in the Senate on tax issues, said elimination of the personal income tax, which provides nearly one-half of state budget revenue, will result in increases in local sales and property taxes, shifting the tax burden from the wealthiest Kansans to the middle class.

But Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said states that have reduced their state income tax have seen economic growth. She said Boeing Co., which announced its Wichita defense plant closing last week, left Kansas for two states that do not have a state income tax.

Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, however, said Boeing’s decision was unrelated to taxes. Boeing executives said they were closing the plant because of defense budget reductions and a need to reduce costs.

The legislators’ comments came during a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce meeting just hours before the start of the 2012 legislative session. Those legislators attending the chamber event were senators Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Holland, and representatives Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and Gregory and Mah.

Brownback, a Republican, has said he wants to reduce the state personal income tax, but has not provided details. His office has said he will unveil the tax plan during his State of the State speech on Wednesday.

Brownback and his supporters have argued that Kansas hasn’t kept pace with the economic growth of fast-growing states like Texas and Florida, which have no state income tax.

But Holland argued Texas has oil revenue and Florida, tourism to offset the absence of a state income tax. And, he said, in terms of public school systems and social services, those states “don’t measure up to Kansas. We have a lot of good things in Kansas.”

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, told the audience that he considered himself a moderate Republican but that the so-called conservative wing of the party controlled the House and lined up behind Brownback.

He said it will be up to a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to provide adequate funding for education and social services.

Brownback’s school finance proposal also would eliminate “weightings,” which provide extra funding to cover the cost of educating students who have additional needs, such as learning how to speak English or those at risk of failing. Brownback said the elimination of the weightings will give districts more flexibility in how they allocate resources.

By Scott Rothschild

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Hollywood Casino set to open Feb. 3

Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway announced Monday that it would open to the public on Friday, Feb. 3, pending final regulatory approvals by the state of Kansas and the Kansas Lottery Commission.

Grand opening festivities will begin about 11 a.m., the casino announced.

Bob Sheldon, general manager for the casino, said the contractor, Turner Construction, has worked diligently to get the casino open as early as possible in February, and the weather the past year has cooperated with the construction.

Construction will continue until the opening, however, as contractors complete the final touches. For example, he said, while one of the casino’s restaurants is complete with carpet, tables, booths and lighting, the other still has concrete floors — though Sheldon said that restaurant should be finished within a week.

“It all kind of comes together at the end; it’s not like we’re building walls anymore,” Sheldon said.

Hollywood Casino will offer 2,000 slot machines and 52 table games with more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space on a single casino floor. The casino will feature five restaurants, including Final Cut Steakhouse, a fine dining restaurant; Epic Buffet; and Turn 2 Lounge, a sports bar overlooking Kansas Speedway.

Another current project for the casino is the installation of hundreds of televisions and other projection screens and video technology, including a serpentine wall in the foyer that will play movie trailers. Sheldon said the casino was in the middle of the process of installing the slot machines, which must be individually tested by the state.

As for the 2,000 full-time positions at the casino, Sheldon estimated that about 95 percent of the employees had been hired.

“Not all of the folks that we’ve hired have started work yet, but they will over the course of January,” Sheldon said, explaining that employee orientation training began for some employees this week.

Sheldon said the casino planned to have a ribbon cutting on its opening day, but details of the festivities still were being worked out. He said the casino would begin updating its website, Twitter and Facebook pages as information becomes available.

Hollywood Casino is expected to attract four million guests a year from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and beyond. It will have an estimated economic impact of $220 million annually.

By Caroline Boyer

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Kansas officials outraged, saddened by announced Boeing departure

Kansas political leaders Wednesday expressed outrage and disappointment over Boeing Co.’s announcement that it was closing its Wichita defense plant, sending more than 2,160 jobs to three other states.

“No one has worked harder for the success of Boeing than Team Kansas,” Gov. Sam Brownback said.

Boeing plans to shut down the Wichita plant by the end of 2013 to cut costs. “In this time of defense budget reductions, as well as shifting customer priorities, Boeing has decided to close its operations in Wichita to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and drive competitiveness,” said Mark Bass, vice president and general manager for the Boeing Defense, Space & Security facility in Wichita.

But less than a year ago, Kansas officials were applauding after helping Boeing secure a $35 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force to replace its refueling tankers. The contract had originally been awarded to Boeing arch rival EADS but Boeing protested the decision and under pressure from Kansas officials the Pentagon reopened the bidding process. Boeing had promised Kansas 7,500 jobs with an overall economic impact of $390 million.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., remembered that fight.

“Boeing’s chairman sat in my office 22 months ago during that battle and promised me, then-Senator Brownback and Congressman (Todd) Tiahrt that if we won the fight to get the tanker contract back, Boeing would stay in Wichita,” Roberts said.

“The chairman again promised the entire delegation the work would remain in Wichita just last February, when the tanker contract was settled in Boeing’s favor,” he said.

In addition to fighting for Boeing in the halls of Washington, D.C., Kansas political leaders have helped the company in Topeka and Wichita, providing Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers with numerous incentives in the form of tax breaks, research dollars, workforce training and lobbying might.

Boeing’s departure should teach state officials a lesson, said Kansas Democratic Chairwoman Joan Wagnon.

“We should all learn that throwing money at wealthy corporations to attract or retain jobs doesn’t guarantee loyalty or longevity,” Wagnon said.

“We need a new approach to economic development that invests first in our schools, our people, our roads and communities,” she said.

State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, described Boeing as the “poster child of corporate tax incentives” getting tax breaks at every level of government.

“It is outrageous we will not be getting the 7,500 jobs promised by Boeing when they got the Tanker contract,” he said. He said Kansas will be less trusting of corporate promises in the future.

Boeing said it was moving future aircraft maintenance, modification and support to its plant in San Antonio, Texas, and engineering work to Oklahoma City. Work on the Air Force refueling tanker will be performed in Puget Sound, Wash. The company said the 24 Kansas suppliers on that program will continue to provide parts as originally planned.

But Charles Krider, business professor at Kansas University, said it will be difficult for suppliers and related companies to stay in Kansas, far away from the tanker work.

Krider called the loss of Boeing a “big blow, particularly since the state worked so hard to work with Boeing to get the tanker contract.”

He said that the federal defense budget is under a great deal of pressure, and that defense-related plant closures will probably happen in other parts of the country too.

He disagreed with the notion of ending economic incentives for businesses to come to Kansas. “It’s hard to have one state or one city disarm in that battle as long as surrounding states are doing it,” he said.

Kansas has long been fighting other states to maintain its aircraft manufacturing sector.

Last year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Brownback supports for president, signed into law a bill that gave Boeing a big tax break on aircraft temporarily located in Texas for manufacturing or assembly.

At that time, Perry said, “HB 3727 makes it easier for companies like Boeing to have cost certainty when it comes to their tax bill, helping them commit to doing more business in this community and our state.”

Boeing Defense, Space and Security President and Chief Executive Officer Dennis Mullenberg said, “Our partnership with the state of Texas enables us to offer enhanced capabilities to our military and commercial customers, and supports Boeing’s goals to grow and become more competitive.”

Brownback and other Kansas officials on Wednesday said they would continue to work to expand aircraft manufacturing in the state, focusing on commercial aircraft production. Kansas Department of Commerce Secretary Pat George said Kansas was well-positioned to grow in this area.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the decision by Boeing was “beyond disappointing.”

Davis added, “This is why I call upon Governor Brownback and legislators from both political parties to commit to make the creation of jobs our first priority this legislative session, invest heavily in job training so Boeing workers can receive the training they need to find new jobs and to promise these workers and the other Kansans without jobs that we will not reduce unemployment benefits by one penny.”

By Scott Rothschild

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Brownback pushes agenda on taxes, schools, health care and state retirement for 2012

One year ago, when then-Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, was asked if he had apprehensions about turning over the office to Republican Sam Brownback, Parkinson said no.

Despite having witnessed the election of the most conservative governor in modern Kansas history and a tidal wave of conservatives in the House, Parkinson said he thought the Kansas public would somehow moderate their government.

“I think that in the area of social policy, the most prominent topic, of course, is abortion … in the area of social policy, I think it will be fairly easy for him (Brownback) to make changes and get legislation through that he would like and satisfy some of those constituencies,” Parkinson said.

But, he added, “When it comes to the area of budget and revenue, budget and taxes, it will be a lot harder. Those are issues that create all sorts of divides that are not necessarily Republican and Democrat. They can be more urban and rural. They can have a lot to do with your particular school district.

“So, if his constituency will be satisfied with a social agenda, I think he can make them happy. If his constituency is requiring an overhaul of the budget, a complete revamping of the tax system, a rewriting of the school finance formula, he’s going to have a lot of headaches. That’s a lot harder to do.”

Parkinson correctly predicted the outcome of the 2011 legislative session. Brownback, indeed, signed into law several bills restricting abortion, all of which were approved in the Republican-dominated Legislature and are in various stages of legal challenges. He signed into law voter-photo ID that has been pushed by Republicans across the nation. In a philosophical battle, that has continued to confound many, Brownback also made Kansas the first and only state to stop funding the arts.

For the 2012 legislative session, Brownback is wading into what Parkinson called the “lot harder to do” issues.

‘Significant’ session predicted

Brownback has said the session, which starts Jan. 9, will be one of “the most significant” in decades.

He plans to try to revamp the tax code, which will include lowering the state personal income tax.

He has released an overhaul of the school finance system that removes state limits on local school districts to raise property taxes for schools as high as they want.

He plans to turn over management of the entire Medicaid system to private managed care companies.

And he has pushed for and supports a study commission’s recommendation to replace the traditional defined benefit public employee pension with a 401(k)-style savings plan.

He also plans to stir the complex world of water law.

And there’s more.

Brownback will push his agenda during the politically-charged process of redrawing political boundaries during redistricting.

Once the session ends, all legislative positions will be before the voters, which, at least according to one recent survey, have expressed mixed feelings about what they want from the state.

The Kansas Speaks statewide survey done by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University showed 65 percent of Kansans want to increase school funding, and 59 percent want to increase funding for social services. But 52 percent want to cut overall state spending.

Lowering tax rates

Brownback argues that Kansas is falling behind the region and nation in economic growth. He says lower taxes will lure more business to the state, and he has used the growth of Texas, which doesn’t have a state income tax, as an example to follow.

Brownback’s administration has refused to reveal information on who it is talking to as it forms a plan to reduce personal income taxes.

The administration has hired Arthur Laffer, one of the architects of President Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, for $75,000 to provide consulting on the initiative. A recent Washington Post story on what Brownback was doing in Kansas, quoted Laffer as saying, “It’s a revolution in a cornfield. Brownback and his whole group there, it’s an amazing thing they’re doing. Truly revolutionary.”

But Brownback’s plan to overhaul the state tax system has appeared to have gotten some push back. Lowering the personal income tax would remove dollars to a state budget that was whacked repeatedly during the Great Recession. As the state’s economy improves, some have argued the top priority should be restoring budget cuts, not cutting taxes.

Brownback’s tax plan was expected to be released in November, but has been put off until his State of the State speech on Jan. 11.

And Republican leaders in the Senate have taken a different approach to the issue.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, has formed a bipartisan tax study group, which includes legislators and private citizens who will consider a number of proposals, including Brownback’s.

“It will be very helpful to receive comment and consideration from a group of private citizens who come from different and diverse parts of the state,” Morris said.

“These people know what works and what does not work in their individual businesses and communities, and they have first-hand knowledge of what helps or hinders economic growth in their areas,” he said.

School finance fight expected

Consuming about half of the state budget, school funding is one of the most hotly debated issues before Kansas policymakers.

Citing frequent litigation over school finance, Brownback has said he wants to overhaul the formula used to divide up nearly $3 billion and put the Legislature — not the judiciary — in charge of school funding.

His plan would eliminate state limits on local school districts raising property taxes for education. It would provide a small increase to some of the smallest school districts in Kansas, but nearly all mid-sized and large districts would see no increase.

Advocates of school funding say Brownback’s so-called “hold harmless” provision would lock in funding levels that have been cut to the bone. The current level of base state aid per pupil is at its lowest point in a decade.

“To the extent that the Brownback plan permanently enshrines the cuts to education funding of the last few years, it is a plan that is inadequate for a state that hopes to capitalize on a recovering economy and develop a workforce ready for the challenges of the 21st century,” the Kansas-NEA said.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said public school education has a special place in the hearts of Kansans. “It’s almost like a legacy. It’s what we think we should be all about,” she said.

Health care privatization

The Brownback administration is seeking contract bids to managed care companies

Like many states, Kansas is trying to reduce the growing costs in the program that is funded through federal and state dollars and provides health care coverage to 350,000 Kansas residents.

But unlike most states that have gone the managed care route, Kansas wants to include in its contracts care for those with developmental disabilities.

Advocates for Kansans with developmental disabilities say the required long-term care needs don’t fit well with managed care.

KPERS overhaul pushed

Brownback also is pushing for a change in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

A plan pushed by Brownback and other Republicans would eliminate the pension plan for future hires and some current employees and replace it with a 401(k)-style savings plan.

Democrats say the proposal does nothing to fix long-term funding issues within KPERS and will leave future retirees with little.

By Scott Rothschild

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Brownback administration seeks input on proposed tax changes

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is seeking input on its proposal to reform the state’s tax code.

Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan Thursday will host public meetings in Ottawa, Emporia and Independence to get people’s opinions on taxes.

“I’m looking forward to hearing people’s comments from the southeast part of our state,” Jordan said.

The meetings will be held at the Ottawa Country Club from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; the Emporia Area Chamber and Visitors Bureau, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; and Memorial Hall, Veteran’s Room in Independence from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Brownback said he wants to reduce the state income tax as a way to improve the Kansas economic climate.

Brownback’s office reports the governor will probably unveil his proposed tax plan during his State of the State address to the Legislature on Jan. 11.

By Scott Rothschild

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Legislators reaching crunch time for making decisions on future of KPERS

A special commission that has been studying the state’s public employee retirement system is nearing some crucial decisions that could affect the lives of thousands of Kansans.

The commission is scheduled to spend Wednesday and Thursday debating whether to recommend a new retirement plan design and modifications to the current one.

“We have a big task ahead of us,” said Rep. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, who co-chairs the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System Study Commission.

KPERS provides retirement benefits to state, local government and school employees and has nearly 280,000 members.

Pensions are financed through contributions from employees and employers and investments made by the system.

Employees who have retired receive a “defined benefit” based on how long they worked and how much they made on average in the final years of employment. For example, a typical worker earning $40,000 a year, who worked for 20 years will receive an annual pension of $14,000.

A combination of inadequate funding and record-making investment losses in 2008 have hurt the long-term funding status of the system. Many states have faced the same problem as Kansas.

Some have argued that Kansas should convert to a 401 (k)-style “defined contribution” system, but others have said that would do nothing to solve the existing funding gap.

Holmes said another proposal that has caught some attention is what is called a “stacked hybrid system” in which salaries below a certain level would continue under the current pension plan, while earnings above that level would go into a 401 (k)-style plan. If Kansas were to adopt this plan, it would be the first state in the nation to do so.

But others argue that what the Legislature has already done is enough to solve the long-term funding problem.

During the last legislative session, legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback approved House Bill 2194, which would increase employer contribution rates and provide an option for some employees to contribute more in exchange for increased retirement benefits. However, those changes won’t take effect unless the Legislature acts on bills recommended by the KPERS Study Commission during the 2012 session that starts in January.

KPERS officials have said those additional employer and employee contributions and plan design changes in HB 2194 “are a meaningful step towards improving the system’s long-term funding outlook and reaching actuarially required contribution levels.” But the system is still vulnerable to future economic downturns that cause investment returns to decline, KPERS officials said.

One commission member, Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said HB 2194 “is still alive and part of the process.” Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, D-Wichita, who serves on another pension committee, said HB 2194 “is a reasonable plan” that solves the funding problem.

By Scott Rothschild

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Kansas revenue department refuses Journal-World’s request for information about tax reform group

In response to a request for tax policy records, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration said even if it has the records, it doesn’t have to release them.

On Oct. 11, the Lawrence Journal-World made a request under the Kansas Open Records Act for access to or copies of minutes, agendas and policy papers of a group that has been working in private to prepare a tax policy recommendation for Brownback.

Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan is heading the effort to give recommendations to Brownback. When given the newspaper’s request, the Revenue Department said it would need some time to respond to the “extensive nature of your request,” but promised to respond by Nov. 30.

A Nov. 29 letter from Jeannine Koranda, public information officer with the Revenue Department, said no records would be forthcoming.

“To the extent that we have any records called for by your request, they are exempt from disclosure pursuant to K.S.A. 45-221(a)(2), (20),” the letter stated.

That part of the Kansas Open Records law provides an exemption to the law that includes, “Notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, unfunded grant proposals, memoranda, recommendations or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed, except that this exemption shall not apply when such records are publicly cited or identified in an open meeting or in an agenda of an open meeting.”

Brownback’s stated intention to overhaul the state tax code has generated a lot of interest and speculation. In past statements, Brownback has said he wants to reduce or eliminate the state income tax as a way to grow the economy. This idea has prompted concerns from some about how the state would fund education, social services and public safety.

Jordan has talked about a task force working on the tax proposal, but has provided few details. Earlier this year, it appeared the plan would be unveiled before the end of the year.

But now the governor’s office has said Brownback’s proposal probably won’t be outlined until his State of the State address to the Legislature, which is scheduled for Jan. 11.

Koranda has said senior Revenue Department staff members Richard Cram, head of policy and research, and Steve Stotts, director of taxation, have been consulted on the proposal. She said Republican leaders of the House and Senate tax committees had been consulted.

But she has declined to name any businesspeople who are working with the task force.

The only person outside state government who has been named to the task force working on a recommendation for Brownback is Arthur Laffer, who had served as a key economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Laffer espouses cutting taxes for corporations and top-income earners as a way to grow the economy through increased jobs.

Laffer, who is being paid $75,000 as a consultant on the Kansas tax proposal, helped write the latest edition of “Rich States, Poor States” for the American Legislative Exchange Council. Brownback wrote the forward to the ALEC report.

By Scott Rothschild

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For Kansas Bioscience Authority leaders, selling public on progress not always easy

As the Kansas Bioscience Authority continues to work through issues that include an ongoing forensic audit and criminal investigation in Johnson County, its leadership is struggling to find new ways to explain how it’s contributing to the state’s economy.

While some of its programs are easier to understand, others are much more complicated. And the discussions about how to best report the state-subsidized authority’s dealings has been the subject of discussions among its staff and board of directors.

The authority recently filled two new posts dealing with communications to help with the effort. In addition to the July hiring of Sherlyn Manson, director of communications and marketing, the authority also hired Stephanie Meyer in October to serve in the new role of director of external affairs.

David Vranicar, interim president and CEO of the authority, said Meyer will be dealing directly with communicating with state government officials and other constituencies, including speaking to community organizations like Rotary clubs. Meyer’s post replaces a director of special projects position formerly held by Lindsay Thornton, the wife of former KBA CEO Tom Thornton.

Vranicar said he knows how difficult it can be to communicate information about the KBA. The authority has control over a sizeable amount of state funds. But even how it receives money from the state is determined by a complicated formula that governs how much it receives from taxes collected from the bioscience industry. Last year, the KBA received the maximum amount it was eligible for, or about $35 million, from the state.

Those funds are then invested in a variety of different bioscience projects.

Telling the story

Earlier this month, the authority distributed a press release detailing some of the results of its investments, the latest effort to explain an often complicated set of investments to the public.

The authority makes investments, grants and loans to companies and universities working in the bioscience sector. It announced earlier this week that its $87.5 million in investments since its founding in 2004 had led to $816.5 million in “direct outcomes,” including new jobs, external research funding awarded in Kansas and capital expenditures made as a result of the KBA’s funding.

But KBA officials said it’s hard to know exactly how much of those results were directly tied to the KBA’s investment, as usually KBA funding is made in conjunction with other sources.

In some cases, it’s clearer than others. Take, for example, the KBA’s Eminent Scholar program, said Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney who is serving as the chairman of the KBA’s board of directors. The KBA has contributed funds to hire important faculty members in support of the Kansas University Cancer Center’s ongoing quest to achieve National Cancer Institute designation and has supported Manhattan’s effort to bring in the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

Roy Jensen, the cancer center’s director, has told the authority’s board that its funding has been critical in getting those faculty members — and the critical NCI funding they bring — to come to KU.

“We’re very proud to be a child in your organization,” Jensen told the board in July.

Watkins said that the KBA contributions for university faculty, which can be in excess of $1 million, are important, even though the universities typically fund half of the packages, too.

Getting more complicated

Other investments, though, aren’t always as simple as paying some money and then having a new faculty member show up in town with research funds in tow. Vranicar recently explained a venture capital program, one of the more complicated programs in the KBA. It has the aim of generating more money for startup firms to spend on their businesses.

The KBA approached eight venture capital firms from out of state (there are no significant venture capital firms in Kansas, Vranicar said). The KBA said it was willing to invest in them, provided the firms agreed to certain stipulations. They must establish a presence in Kansas, for example, and make a good faith effort to invest in Kansas companies.

They’re not required to invest in Kansas companies, though, Vranicar said.

So far, under the program, the KBA has announced intentions to invest $10 million in one firm and $5 million in two others. About half of that money has been invested so far, and Kansas has seen about $20 million in other new investments because of it.

Still, explaining the benefits of a program that invests Kansas state tax dollars in out-of-state companies without requirements that they spend money in Kansas can be a difficult task.

“There is a lot of information, and quite a lot of investments that have been made, so condensing that down and trying to provide meaningful information is always a challenge,” Watkins said.

Looking ahead

The authority is still awaiting the final results of a forensic audit of its funds by the firm BKD ordered by the governor.

“We’re looking forward to having the audit completed and moving past that,” Watkins said.

Kenny Wilk is a former Republican state legislator from Lansing who serves on the board as a nonvoting member representing the Kansas Board of Regents. He wrote the legislation that created the authority in 2004.

He said that he didn’t personally have the solution for the issue but that both the authority and the regents could do a better job of telling the authority’s story to the public.

“It’s not the public’s fault if they don’t understand,” Wilk said.

He said he thought Kansans, and Americans in general, understood the value of investing in innovative research. But it’s not always an easy concept to get across.

“It’s very difficult to explain all of that, but that’s our job to get it done,” he said.

By Andy Hyland

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Brownback vows to keep Boeing in Wichita

Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday vowed to hold Boeing to its commitment to building a portion of the U.S. Air Force's new refueling aircraft in Wichita.

On Monday, Boeing announced that it was conducting an internal study on the future of its defense plant in Wichita, including the possibility of closing it.

Brownback, a former U.S. senator, said and he and the Kansas congressional delegation fought long and hard to help Boeing secure the $35 billion contract to build 179 aerial refueling tankers. The contract award came earlier this year after years of contentious wrangling and high-dollar lobbying.

"In many respects you wouldn't have this contract if it wasn't for the effort of the Kansas delegation," Brownback said.

Brownback said he is pursuing a meeting with Boeing officials to find out what is going on.

He read from an April 30, 2010 news release from Boeing in which the company said Kansas would benefit from approximately 7,500 jobs with an estimated $388 million annual impact if Boeing was selected as the contractor for the refueling aircraft. "Boeing employees working at the Wichita, Kan. site will play an important role in modifying 767 airplanes into NewGen military tankers if the company is selected for the contract," the news release said.

Brownback said, "We are going to hold the Boeing company to these words."

He said there wasn't anything the state could do legally to force Boeing to stay in Kansas, but he noted that Kansas has two U.S. House members that serve on the House appropriations and budget committees. "Boeing is a major user of federal funds," Brownback said.

State Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, said Boeing's announcement was "unsettling news."

"Kansas has been really good not just for Boeing but aviation in general," he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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