Posts tagged with Economy

Pay raises approved for some KU workers; housing vote to come

Members of the Kansas Board of Regents approved pay raises for two groups of Kansas University employees on Wednesday, and one member praised universities for keeping their room-and-board rates below the national average.

Regent Dan Lykins said he appreciated that none of the universities new rate proposals were above $8,000, given the national average of $8,200.

“Keep up your good work in being below average in that area,” he said.

KU’s room-and-board proposal would increase the yearly rate for a typical double occupancy room by $178, from $7,080 to $7,258, which equals 2.5 percent.

Some regents questioned the reasoning behind the two highest percentage increase requests: Pittsburg State’s 4 percent increase and Kansas State’s 3.5 percent increase.

Diane Duffy, the regents’ vice president for finance and administration, said the larger increase requests were related to debt payments that needed to be made to fund older improvements. At Pittsburg State, for example, she said, half of the increase was scheduled to pay off debt, while the remaining 2 percent was necessary to cover operations.

Regents are scheduled to vote on whether to accept the university rate proposals at their next monthly meeting in December.

Regents also approved pay raises for two groups of KU employees. Regents approved a KU proposal for an annual raise of $525 for safety and security officers and $815 for police officers and detectives. To be eligible, employees must have satisfactory job evaluations from 2008 to 2010.

They approved another proposal for KU maintenance and service employees, represented by Local 1290 PE, who would receive a $500 annual raise. Also, covered employees who have satisfactory job evaluations and no suspensions from 2008 through 2010 will get an additional $140 increase. The proposed raises would take effect Dec. 11.

The raises were passed with no discussion as part of the regents’ consent agenda.

Regents also announced the formation of the search committee that will look for the next president of Wichita State University, after President Don Beggs announced he would step down after 12 years of service on June 30, 2012.

Steve Clark, a Wichita resident, a former regent and president and CEO of Clark Investment Group, will serve as the committee’s chairman. The committee will work with the R. William Funk and Associates executive search firm. That firm also assisted with the search that ended with the hiring of Bernadette Gray-Little as KU’s chancellor in 2009.

By Andy Hyland

Reply

Analysis: Kansas will take 3 years to recover jobs

It will take Kansas three more years to fully recover the jobs lost in the Great Recession that started in 2008, according to a recent national economic analysis.

“It’s a very slow-moving economy right now,” said Bob Tomarelli, an economist at Massachusetts-based IHS Global Insight, which conducted the state-by-state study.

He said the projected recovery in Kansas matches the median time frame among all states — the fourth quarter of 2014 — mostly because the state didn’t experience as drastic of unemployment drops as states crippled by manufacturing job losses, such as Michigan and Ohio, or by the real estate bubble, such as California, Nevada and Florida.

But it also is not projected to recover as quickly as the Dakotas, Nebraska and Texas. North Dakota is gaining energy jobs from an oil boom, for example, and Texas is projected to return to its “pre-recession employment peak” in 2012.

The Kansas Department of Labor’s September estimate put the state’s unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, down from 6.9 percent in August. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, unchanged from August and down from 7 percent one year ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s unemployment rate reached a high of 7.6 percent in August 2009.

State labor officials last month warned job growth was still both tentative and anemic. The September jobless rate was 6.3 percent in Lawrence and 5.9 percent overall in Douglas County. The state is scheduled to release its October report next week.

Donna Ginther, a Kansas University economics professor, said compared with the Dakotas and Nebraska, Kansas is more dependent upon manufacturing, especially aviation production in the Wichita area.

“General aviation is a luxury good for businesses and people,” said Ginther, who is also director of KU’s Center for Science, Technology and Economic Policy. “As long as the stock market is gyrating and there’s a lot of uncertainty about future economic growth, it’s going to be slow to recover.”

Some areas in western Kansas have a much lower unemployment rate than the state average, likely because of their dependence on agricultural and energy sector jobs. Ellis, Finney, Ford and Seward counties all had September jobless rates below 5 percent, for example. But Ginther said agriculture and energy sectors typically don’t employ the same volume of workers the manufacturing and construction sectors do, making it more likely statewide the recovery will still take years.

Because the recession and financial crisis hit the state and nation so hard, it has likely increased public frustration for a quicker recovery, she said. Plus, there’s uncertainty surrounding the debt crisis in Europe along with an ongoing fiscal debate in Washington, D.C.

“Low growth is not much better than a recession,” Ginther said, “and that’s just where we are.”

By George Diepenbrock

Reply

KBA: Investments helped create jobs, funding

The Kansas Bioscience Authority on Wednesday announced that its $87.5 million in investments since 2004 has led to $816.5 million in jobs created, external research funding, capital expenses and equity investments.

“We don’t take full credit for any of these outcomes,” said Sherlyn Manson, the KBA’s director of marketing and communications, as the KBA investments are often matched and supplemented by other donations.

Still, KBA leaders touted the results as a demonstration that its grants and investments were helping to build the bioscience sector in the state.

Some figures released Wednesday include:

• Since 2004, the authority said, 1,347 new full-time bioscience jobs have been created by 41 Kansas companies and universities, related to KBA investments, with an average annual wage of $68,716.

• In the 2011 fiscal year that ended June 30, investments that the KBA made helped attract $18.2 million in new external research funding, and since 2004 the authority reported $104.9 million in external research funding sparked by KBA investments, including $44.6 million in research funding for the Kansas University Cancer Center.

• The authority reported $65.9 million in capital investments, including new facilities, equipment and land, related to KBA investments in the 2011 fiscal year and $278.5 million since 2004.

• In fiscal year 2011, the authority reported it had helped Kansas companies attract $30.6 million in new equity investments made by venture capital firms, angel investors and other private investors and helped attract $78.9 million since its founding in 2004.

The authority is still awaiting the final outcomes of a forensic audit of its finances by the firm BKD ordered by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

By Andy Hyland

Reply

With new deals website, dollars stay local

Johnson County Deals logo

Johnson County Deals logo

In time for the holiday season, Johnson County shoppers will have a new daily deals website at their fingertips.

Johnson County Deals will be launched by The World Company, parent company of The Explorer, on Nov. 30.

Daily specials for entertainment, dining, services and shopping will be offered as shoppers will be able to find deals for businesses in Shawnee, De Soto, Lenexa, Merriam, Overland Park, Prairie Village, Olathe, Leawood and Gardner.

Constance Wolfe, Deals program manager at The World Company, said Johnson County Deals represents an effort to provide discount offers to Johnson County residents while keeping more revenue earned from the deals within the area.

“Groupon came into the community, but the money went right back out of the community,” Wolfe said. “You might spend money at a local merchant, but the revenue goes out of the community and to Groupon’s headquarters in Chicago.”

For businesses, Wolfe said, the program will serve as another method of getting them out in front of potential shoppers.

“It offers heavy discounts but gives the merchants heavy advertising,” she said. “They get out in front of the audience.”

Wolfe said to expect family-oriented fare early on. Monkey Bizness and Little Monkey Bizness — indoor children’s amusement centers in Olathe and Shawnee, respectively — will be the first deal, she said. Families can also find offers for Shawnee’s Kid Stop early on. Future dining deals will include The Pick Smoke ‘n Grill in Shawnee.

Community members will be able to register for notifications of deals by logging on to JohnsonCountyDeals.com, which presently directs users to an email registration form on Johnson County Deals’ Facebook page. Johnson County Deals also is on Twitter at twitter.com/JocoDeals.

By Stephen Montemayor

Reply

Debate on tax cuts, spending intensifying

The debate over state spending and taxes intensified Friday as financial experts released new revenue forecasts for Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to use in forming a budget for the next fiscal year.

State revenue estimators signalled cautious optimism for the economic road ahead, revising upward by $200 million the expected revenue in the current fiscal year from about $6 billion to $6.2 billion. Slow growth is expected to continue in the next fiscal year, bringing the state $6.3 billion in receipts.

“Overall, the economic outlook assumes continued growth in the Kansas economy,” said Alan Conroy, director of the Kansas Legislative Research Department.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Steve Anderson, sounded a more cautious tone, saying that nearly half of economists are warning of a possible “double-dip” recession.

“The real issue is we still have so much uncertainty,” Anderson said.

But in recent months, state coffers have received healthy hikes in revenue based on increased receipts of personal income tax and sales tax, officials said.

At the current pace, the state will have an ending balance on June 30, 2012, of nearly $320 million — a far cry from the nearly zero ending balance of a year ago.

Brownback issued a statement on the new revenue figures, saying, “The latest revenue projections show the power of economic growth and controlling spending. It proves the long-term solution for our state involves more jobs and limited government.”

Whether the increased revenue is used to fill in Great Recession budget cuts in education, social services and public safety, or used to provide tax cuts, will be the main fight of the legislative session that starts in January.

Brownback and the state income tax

On the tax front, Brownback supporters hit the highway on a bus tour campaigning for abolishment of the state income tax.

“The only way to spur economic growth is to eliminate the income tax,” said Ashley McMillan, president of Kansans for No Income Tax.

The Kansas group, partially funded by a Missouri billionaire and using a bus with an Alabama license tag, started its tour outside the Statehouse and planned stops in Leavenworth, Pittsburg and Wichita.

Brownback, a Republican, did not appear at the Topeka event, but his chief of staff, David Kensinger, did. Kensinger said he showed up because he was promised hot chocolate.

Brownback has said he wants to reduce the state income tax and his administration is working behind closed doors to propose a major tax overhaul for the 2012 legislative session.

Brownback, and Kansans for No Income Tax, say getting rid of the levy will spur economic growth, similar to Texas, which doesn’t have a state income tax.

Cuts to schools felt as enrollment increases

But Democrats and some Republicans say eliminating the state income tax will force increases in other taxes, cuts in services, or both. They also say Kansas shouldn’t follow Texas’ tax policy since Texas lags behind Kansas in many quality of life areas, such as education, roads and social services.

The issue is likely to be one of the most contentious of the upcoming session. Eliminating the state income tax would take a huge chunk out of state revenue.

In the last fiscal year, Kansas brought in about $5.9 billion in tax revenue. Of that amount, about $3 billion came from state income taxes — about $2.7 billion from individual income taxes and the rest from corporate income taxes.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Department of Education released a report showing that state budget cuts to public schools have resulted in fewer teachers and more-crowded classrooms.

The total number of teacher positions statewide in the current school year is 34,075.

That is a drop of 256 from last year and 1,363 since the 2008-09 school year total of 35,438.

Meanwhile, student enrollment has increased from 473,097 in 2008-09 to 482,798 in the current school year. That is an increase of 9,701 students. During that time, the Lawrence school district grew from 11,007 students to 11,613 students, an increase of 606 students.

The elimination of teacher positions coincides with cuts to school funding.

In the 2008-09 school year, base state aid to public schools was $4,400 per pupil. That figure is now $3,780 per pupil following several rounds of cuts, including the latest one of $232 per pupil approved by Brownback.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, said he hoped the increased revenue figures would persuade Brownback to help schools.

“It is encouraging to see that the Kansas economy is on the uptick. Earlier this year Gov. Brownback made the largest cut to Kansas schools in state history. I hope he will see this as an opportunity to renew our commitment to public education so that our children will have a competitive advantage in the 21st century economy,” Davis said.

Tax-cutting group has out-of-state ties

But Kansans for No Income Tax focused on cutting the budget.

Outside the Statehouse visit, about 35 people gathered, mostly Republicans and Republican staff members.

Reps. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, who is chairman of the House Tax Committee, and Joe Patton, R-Topeka, spoke, as did Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Public Policy Institute, and representatives from FairTaxKC.

It was reported in recent days that Missouri anti-tax billionaire Rex Sinquefield has contributed to Kansans for No Income Tax. Sinquefield and McMillan have refused to say how much he contributed.

“We enjoy support from folks in Kansas and like-minded folks throughout the United States, and we are very pleased with that,” McMillan said.

When asked why the Kansans for Income Tax bus has an Alabama tag, McMillan said, “That’s the bus that was available to us.”

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Brownback was criticized by some for leasing a campaign bus from an Alabama company for use on his campaign.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

Anti-tax Missouri billionaire contributing to effort to repeal Kansas state income tax

A Missouri billionaire and Ronald Reagan economist are driving the anti- income tax bus in Kansas.

And Gov. Sam Brownback is ready to turn the ignition key.

Brownback says in a video on his Facebook page that he wants a tax system that is “flatter, simpler, fairer.”

“That is going to be a centerpiece issue in the legislative session,” which starts in January, he said.

Coinciding with Brownback’s previous statements to reduce state income taxes is a new group called Kansans for No Income Tax, which will be taking a bus tour Friday and Saturday to spread its message.

The group, led by Republican operatives, is being funded in part by St. Louis anti-tax billionaire Rex Sinquefield, according to the Kansas City Star.

Sinquefield is also working to abolish the state income tax in Missouri and replace it with a higher state sales tax on a wider variety of goods and services.

His spokesman declined to say how much Sinquefield has contributed to the anti- income tax group in Kansas. Since Kansans for No Income Tax is registered as a nonprofit, its donors and how much they gave can be kept secret. In Missouri, Sinquefield contributed $1.3 million to a group seeking to do away with the income tax there. Last year, he contributed $11 million to other initiatives to repeal taxes in Missouri.

Kansas Democrats criticized the involvement of a Missourian in the Kansas tax debate. “KNIT (Kansans for No Income Tax) claims it’s working for the best interest of Kansans. If that were the case, they’d give Rex Sinquefield his donation back,” the party said.

Ashley McMillan, president of Kansans for No Income Tax, said she wouldn’t comment on the Democrats’ suggestion to return the donation.

McMillan said her group enjoys broad support from Kansans as well as like-minded people across the nation. She declined to say how much the group has received in donations and from whom.

Sinquefield is also president of the Show-Me Institute, which describes itself as a think tank that advocates free-market principles.

At the institute’s 2010 open house, economist Arthur Laffer gave the keynote speech. Laffer, who has been hired as a consultant by the Brownback administraiton, gained prominence during the Reagan administration when he served as an economic adviser. He and Brownback espouse tax cuts as a way to generate economic growth.

Laffer helped write the most recent edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Rich States, Poor States.” The foreword was written by Brownback.

The Brownback administration is paying Laffer $75,000 to help with plans to reform the Kansas tax code.

That plan is being designed behind closed doors but is expected to be rolled out soon after Friday’s new state revenue estimate.

Kansas Democrats and some Republicans have voiced concerns about doing away with the state personal and corporate income tax, saying that would result in cuts to needed services and increase local property and sales taxes.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

Anti-tax Missouri billionaire contributing to effort to repeal Kansas state income tax

A Missouri billionaire and Ronald Reagan economist are driving the anti- income tax bus in Kansas.

And Gov. Sam Brownback is ready to turn the ignition key.

Brownback says in a video on his Facebook page that he wants a tax system that is “flatter, simpler, fairer.”

“That is going to be a centerpiece issue in the legislative session,” which starts in January, he said.

Coinciding with Brownback’s previous statements to reduce state income taxes is a new group called Kansans for No Income Tax, which will be taking a bus tour Friday and Saturday to spread its message.

The group, led by Republican operatives, is being funded in part by St. Louis anti-tax billionaire Rex Sinquefield, according to the Kansas City Star.

Sinquefield is also working to abolish the state income tax in Missouri and replace it with a higher state sales tax on a wider variety of goods and services.

His spokesman declined to say how much Sinquefield has contributed to the anti- income tax group in Kansas. Since Kansans for No Income Tax is registered as a nonprofit, its donors and how much they gave can be kept secret. In Missouri, Sinquefield contributed $1.3 million to a group seeking to do away with the income tax there. Last year, he contributed $11 million to other initiatives to repeal taxes in Missouri.

Kansas Democrats criticized the involvement of a Missourian in the Kansas tax debate. “KNIT (Kansans for No Income Tax) claims it’s working for the best interest of Kansans. If that were the case, they’d give Rex Sinquefield his donation back,” the party said.

Ashley McMillan, president of Kansans for No Income Tax, said she wouldn’t comment on the Democrats’ suggestion to return the donation.

McMillan said her group enjoys broad support from Kansans as well as like-minded people across the nation. She declined to say how much the group has received in donations and from whom.

Sinquefield is also president of the Show-Me Institute, which describes itself as a think tank that advocates free-market principles.

At the institute’s 2010 open house, economist Arthur Laffer gave the keynote speech. Laffer, who has been hired as a consultant by the Brownback administraiton, gained prominence during the Reagan administration when he served as an economic adviser. He and Brownback espouse tax cuts as a way to generate economic growth.

Laffer helped write the most recent edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Rich States, Poor States.” The foreword was written by Brownback.

The Brownback administration is paying Laffer $75,000 to help with plans to reform the Kansas tax code.

That plan is being designed behind closed doors but is expected to be rolled out soon after Friday’s new state revenue estimate.

Kansas Democrats and some Republicans have voiced concerns about doing away with the state personal and corporate income tax, saying that would result in cuts to needed services and increase local property and sales taxes.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

State tax receipts for Oct. below estimates

State general fund receipts for October fell slightly below projections for the first time in seven months, officials reported Monday.

The state collected $457.5 million in October, which was $4.2 million, or 0.9 percent, less than previously estimated.

The state would have exceeded the estimate but for the payout of a large one-time refund from prior years, officials said.

“We need to continue to focus on fiscally responsible spending so the state is in a position to accommodate unanticipated revenue events,” said Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan. The agency did not identify the recipient of the refund.

Even with the slight drop below projections, Kansas is $62 million ahead of estimates for the fiscal year that started July 1. In addition, October tax receipts were $123.2 million more than what was collected in October 2010. Year-to-date, state receipts are running 7 percent more than last year.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

Revenue secretary headed to western Kansas to hear views on overhauling state tax code

Gov. Sam Brownback’s point man on overhauling the Kansas tax code is headed out to western Kansas on a listening tour about tax policy, officials announced Monday.

Kansas Department of Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan will hold meetings in Great Bend, Garden City and Colby Tuesday, and Hays and Salina on Wednesday.

The meetings have been arranged with the help of the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance, the Revenue Department reported.

“This is part of our ongoing effort as part of the Brownback Road Map for Kansas to gather input on tax policy and economic growth from a wide array of Kansans,” Jordan said.

Brownback, a Republican, has said he wants to cut the state income tax as a way to spur economic growth. Brownback’s administration has been working behind closed doors on a plan that will be unveiled sometime in November and forwarded to the Legislature for consideration.

Asked why Jordan was not traveling to other areas on the listening tour, his spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda said Jordan has been in other areas of the state and received input on tax issues. He has yet to travel to western Kansas as revenue secretary, she said.

Meanwhile, a group headed by former Kansas Republican Party officials who helped elect Brownback, are embarking on a short bus tour to advocate for eliminating the state income tax.

The Kansans for No Income Tax bus tour will start on Friday in Topeka and travel to Leavenworth and then Lenexa. On Saturday, the bus will hit Pittsburg and Wichita.

“The elimination of the state’s income tax gives wage earners an immediate pay raise and encourages economic growth in our state,” said Ashley McMillan, president of Kansans for No Income Tax and former executive director of the Kansas GOP.

But Kansas Democrats say cutting income taxes will result in either cuts in services or forcing local governments to increase sales and property taxes to pay for services.

By Scott Rothschild

Reply

KU athletics department says $58.8 million debt ‘manageable’

According to documents from Kansas Athletics Inc. and an interview with its chief financial officer, the athletics department owes about $58.8 million in debt as of the end of the 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Susan Wachter, Kansas Athletics’ chief financial officer, said the debt was “all very manageable.”

“The debt’s there, but it’s not something we can’t manage,” she said.

Jim Marchiony, associate athletic director, said the debt shouldn’t affect the other athletics operations.

“As long as it stays manageable, it will not and should not hamper us in any way,” he said.

During the last fiscal year, Kansas Athletics spent about $2.5 million on payments toward its debt, according to its financial statements. In addition to these payments, Kansas Athletics is also putting some money aside for a contractual obligation for men’s basketball coach Bill Self, who will be due a $2.1 million retention bonus from his contract in 2013. That payment — similar to retention bonuses for former athletic director Lew Perkins — will be tax-free for Self, so Kansas Athletics will likely pay Self an amount similar to the $3.59 million in gross bonus pay it paid to Perkins in 2009. Wachter said Kansas Athletics is aware of the coming payments and has been setting money aside to cover it.

Here’s a breakdown of where the department still owes money and when it should fall off the books:

Facilities Revenue Bonds: $44,255,000

This category encompasses most of KU’s current debt load. Wachter said the bonds are paying off two major projects:

Renovation to the football stadium undertaken while Bob Frederick was the athletic director. Major renovations done to Allen Fieldhouse, which were completed in 2009. Wachter said Kansas Athletics was able to refinance the football stadium debt at a lower interest rate in 2004.

Kansas Athletics paid about $1.2 million as a debt payment for the projects in the 2010 fiscal year. Wachter said the football stadium debt is set to be retired by the 2023 fiscal year, and the Allen Fieldhouse renovations should be paid off by the 2033 fiscal year.

Notes payable on Anderson Football Complex: $6 million

Wachter said Kansas Athletics will owe $6 million to help pay for the Anderson Football Complex, but, because of the way the debt is structured, the entire $6 million will be due in one lump-sum payment in 2017.

The Anderson Football Complex was completed in time for the 2008 football season. Most of the funding for the project came from private donations from Dana and Sue Anderson, former basketball team captain Tom Kivisto and his family, and other donations.

Contributions payable to the university: $4,727,489

Kansas Athletics has an agreement with KU to pay for some of the debt associated with the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center, Wachter said. The athletics department’s payments supported the building of new gyms in the building.

The athletics department paid $465,000 to the university last year, and its total obligation is scheduled to be paid by June 2020, Wachter said.

Long-term debt on Jayhawks Tennis Facility: $2,537,973

The athletics department spent $3.1 million in 2010 to purchase the First Serve Tennis Center at 5200 Clinton Parkway from Mike Elwell.

Kansas Athletics paid $61,040 on the debt associated with the purchase last year and is scheduled to have it paid off by June 2015.

Capital lease obligation for Allen Fieldhouse video board: $1,245,317

Kansas Athletics paid just more than $571,000 toward the debt on the video board last year, and the entire debt is scheduled to be paid by the 2013 fiscal year.

By Andy Hyland

Reply