The Kansas City Star, Oct. 6
Brownback's tax cuts cause another revenue hit:
As Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback remains locked in a tight re-election race with challenger Paul Davis, cheerleaders for Brownback's costly income tax cut experiment have taken on full-time pom-pom duty.
Consider Revenue Department Secretary Nick Jordan.
Just days ago, Jordan celebrated the fact that the state's corporate income tax collections had soared $21.5 million higher than expected in September. "We've worked hard to create a good business climate in Kansas," he said.
But then came this oh-by-the-way addition in the press release: "As anticipated, individual income tax receipts fell short of expectations primarily because of people calculating their estimated payments, the third of which are due in September."
So how far "short of expectations" were those income tax revenues? Try $42.5 million — or a whopping 17 percent lower than state budget experts had predicted.
As a result, Kansas in September actually took in $21 million less in total revenues than expected. Yet that grim news wasn't in the press release. So much for fully informing the public.
The statement also was misleading in contending that officials had "anticipated" that individual income tax revenue would be down for the month. Fact is, the state had published an official projection of $250 million, yet collected only $207.5 million for September.
As for that mumbo-jumbo about people "calculating their estimated payments" in September and thus throwing the state numbers off, The Star reviewed individual income tax receipts to see what had happened during Brownback's first three years in office.
In reality, the state collected $15 million more than expected in September 2011, $14 million more in that month in 2012 and $2.2 million less in September 2013.
The plunge in individual income tax revenues this September was way outside the norm.
Brownback, Jordan and other tax-cut boosters are on edge these days, especially as Davis pounds away at the folly of the governor's plan to keep reducing income taxes in the future. Davis correctly wants to postpone that move.
Brownback is trying to spin every bit of good news into a huge success story — ignoring the reality that the lower income tax rates that took effect in January 2013 haven't brought a dramatic surge in revenue from the bonanza of new jobs Kansas was supposed to enjoy.
This matters a great deal to Kansans. The state can't run a deficit. So if receipts keep coming in under projections, public services will have to be cut.
With three months now gone in the current fiscal year — July, August and September — the negative effects of the tax cuts on state revenues are coming into clearer focus.
According to state figures, Kansas collected $1.436 billion in 2011 for that three-month period and $1.507 billion in 2012 for the same time span.
But after the tax cuts took effect, overall revenues slid to $1.369 billion in 2013 for those three months and to $1.351 billion this year.
True, some of this slump was predicted, but it's been worse than projected. When the most recent fiscal year ended last June, state revenues were a stunning $334 million short of projections. Now, Kansas is already $22.4 million underwater for the first three months of the new fiscal year.
Blame the tax cuts for most of these problems in 2014. For example, the state's own numbers show individual income tax receipts from July through September this year were down a whopping $186 million year from their high point of the same period in 2012.
No amount of cheerleading can drown out that sobering fact for Kansans.
The Wichita Eagle, Oct. 3
Senate race finally set:
So the legal battle over the U.S. Senate race in Kansas ended where it started a month ago — with Democrat Chad Taylor out of the race, his state party looking pathetic, and Secretary of State Kris Kobach seeming more partisan agent than impartial election overseer. At least the absentee ballots can go out now.
Kobach's court losses mounted during the fight. They included the Kansas Supreme Court's unanimous Sept. 18 ruling overturning his decision to keep Taylor on the ballot and the Shawnee County District Court's Oct. 1 decision that Democrats need not replace him. Nor would the district judges allow Kobach to intervene in the latest case, which seemed to fizzle out when its plaintiff, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, failed to show up for the Sept. 29 hearing. In the end, the judges decided the voter lacked legal standing and even ordered him to pay the costs of the proceeding.
Both the petitioner and Kobach had focused on the word "shall" in statutory language saying that "when a vacancy occurs after a primary election in a party candidacy, such vacancy shall be filled by the party committee. ..." But the court pointed to "full five distinct meanings" of the word in Black's Law Dictionary and concluded "that the legislative and case history falls in favor of a limitation on the use of the word 'shall' ... to who has the authority to fill a vacancy and/or otherwise how such a vacancy is to be filled. The statutory framework mandates the who and the how, not the whether."
In the process of losing again in court, Kobach lost some credibility among Kansans as well. By working so hard to keep a Democrat on the ballot, Kobach appeared to many to be trying to help Sen. Pat Roberts, on whose honorary campaign committee Kobach serves, by splitting the votes against the three-term Republican. Not coincidentally, recent polls indicate that Kobach now has his own tight race against Democratic challenger Jean Schodorf.
Meanwhile, Kansas Democrats satisfied with the Shawnee County court decision should be ashamed instead. The 65,000 Democrats who voted in the primary for U.S. Senate just saw their voices muted and their state party subjugated — apparently by national-level Democratic operatives who are gambling that when independent candidate Greg Orman says "I won't answer to either party," as he does in a new ad blaming Democrats and Republicans equally for the mess in Washington, D.C., he's actually pledging allegiance to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Only the courts are due praise, for how they sorted through some legitimate legal questions in unusually rapid fashion while under fierce political fire.
With Kobach's legal ploy having played out, voters can now focus on the candidates and their stands, and decide which would best serve Kansas and the country as a U.S. senator.
Lawrence Journal-World, Oct. 5
Drone technology is cool, but it's also pretty creepy.
The first introduction most Americans got to remotely operated drones was when they began being used to strike military targets in the Middle East. Now, smaller versions of those drones are popping up all over — including at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium, before the Texas-KU football game on Sept. 27.
The KU Public Safety Office is justifiably concerned about the unauthorized drone that flew over the stadium for about 15 minutes. Officials focused their concern on the fact that the drone could have interfered with an authorized flight by a group of planes that entertained the pregame crowd with a display of multicolored smoke. However, that is only one of many concerns the public might have about drones flying over the stadium — and who knows where else.
The drone at KU appeared to be carrying a camera, which could have been keeping an eye on anyone who was in the stadium that day. People in a football stadium may not feel like a drone is invading their privacy, but what if a drone was flying over your back yard?
KU officials were worried that the drone might be a hazard for authorized pilots flying over the stadium, but that certainly isn't the only potential threat it posed to the safety of people in the stands. Amazon is experimenting with the idea of using drones to deliver packages to its customers' doorsteps. If they can do that, they certainly could deliver some dangerous cargo — explosives or dangerous pathogens, for instance — to Memorial Stadium or about anywhere else.
Federal regulations prohibit the use of drones for non-military purposes, but that obviously isn't stopping people from using drones in unauthorized ways. The recent incident at KU and the drones reported at other football stadiums probably are completely harmless, but they point out the potential these devices have to threaten the safety and privacy of both individuals and large crowds anywhere in the country. It's something that federal regulators need to get a handle on sooner rather than later.
The Manhattan Mercury, Oct. 5
KSU is helping to feed the world:
It is fitting that the largest single grant Kansas State University has ever received will support research into ways to meet the world's increasing demands for food.
The grant, announced in late September, is for $50 million over five years. It comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and will help the university establish Feed the Future Innovation Labs for Sustainable Intensification. Feed the Future is a U.S. government initiative to address global hunger and food security.
This grant is a big deal not because it vaults Kansas State University further into the forefront of international agricultural research — though it certainly does that. More important is the opportunity it creates to boost agricultural production in parts of Asia and Africa that are both heavily populated and poor.
Sustainable intensification involves increasing the amount of food that can be produced on existing agricultural land while taking into account the environment as well as the economic and nutritional needs of the people working the land.
As news stories on the grant explained, the "labs" won't look like labs. Rather, they will involve farms in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Ghana. More specifically, researchers will seek ways to help small-holder farmers in those areas improve the management of their land, water, soil, crops and livestock while improving harvests and sustaining natural resources.
That this grant is the fourth Feed the Future grant K-State has received from USAID speaks to the university's reputation and the expertise of its agricultural researchers. The focus of other grants is on sorghum and millet research, applied wheat genomics and reducing losses after harvest.
As John Floros, dean of the KSU College of Agriculture, said, "USAID is making a nearly $100 million investment in Kansas State University's ability to provide leadership to the global food systems research, teaching and extension efforts."
At present there are some two dozen innovation labs led by 15 U.S. universities and involving dozens of American colleges and universities nationwide.
Their collective endeavor isn't just to help people in other countries tap the potential of their respective lands, it's also to help scientists, graduate students and farms gain a better appreciation of ways to make agricultural land in this country and elsewhere more productive while respecting the environment.
It's working. According to USAID, Feed the Future has reached more than 7 million farmers and other food producers with new management practices and technologies on almost 10 million acres. What's more, the program's high-impact nutrition efforts to improve human health and development have reached more than 12 million children.
We're confident that with the expertise at K-State and other U.S. participants, Feed the Future labs will help entire populations benefit from growing nutritious crops on increasingly productive lands in sustainable ways.