Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Now Seeking Sam Brownback's Marbles

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Now Seeking Sam Brownback's Marbles

Gov. Brownback has got to be leaving a trail in his wake, because clearly he’s losing his marbles.

On Thursday, Brownback told reporters he will consider vetoing a provision in the budget that disallows the use of STAR bonds for Wyandotte County projects until the STAR bond program is reformed.

The gem to deny WyCo STAR bonds in the short term was dropped into the budget to protect Kansans from subsidizing an expensive horse arena project known as the American Royal. The more I learn about this project, the angrier I become. (Hard pause. Also annoying -- the Border War: Using my tax dollars to subsidize big business for net gain of zero dollars.)

This looming project was discovered when legislators -- specifically Jim Denning and the Senate Ways and Means Committee -- were attempting to find the funding to keep Kansas afloat. Maybe you’ve heard, the state has a bit of a money crunch. So, one bright spot is that in 2017, the Kansas budget was to see an influx of $42 million extra dollars each year, thanks to the final payment, due on Dec. 31, 2016, of the bonds for the behemoth at WyCo -- the Legends. For 15 years, the state of Kansas hasn’t seen a penny of the sales tax generated from the project. Not one red cent.

When you buy a sofa at Nebraska Furniture Mart -- instead of buying from the shop downtown -- the sales tax, all 9.5 percent of it, has been used to pay off the infrastructure debt related to the project. (It’s been going back to big business developers. Super.)

Legislators noticed that $42 million was somehow missing from future budget projections and wondered where it went! And Denning discovered a Kansas Department of Commerce project to build the American Royal, a hockey arena, some car lots, and a convention center using STAR bonds.

There’s a lot, A LOT, to hate about this proposed project:

  • It was done under the cover of darkness. Legislators only discovered it due to a desperate search for the funding to make ends meet.
  • Local municipalities are supposed to take the lead on STAR bond projects. As envisioned, projects using this funding mechanism would start at the ground level and work their way up to the state. That didn’t happen in this case. Instead, developers (ahem. Polsinelli. Ahem. Cerner) are working directly with the Department of Commerce. (See George Hansen). This is the wrong kind of teamwork. It’s not how STAR bonds were designed to work.
  • About that darkness-- the project was so far along that there are actual PLANS for it. The part that makes me extra stabby? The plans include a convention center next to Cerner, but no parking lot for said center. Why would someone build a convention center without a parking lot? Answer: The center isn’t intended for public use. As part of this diabolical plan, Cerner gets a convention center solely for the use of its employees and I don’t know -- big executives when they fly in? Someone please explain why all Kansans should subsidize that? Seriously, Governor, I’m awaiting an explanation.
  • A hockey arena, a horse barn, and a convention center can’t pay for themselves using sales tax revenues. Exactly how much can those projects generate in sales taxes? Probably not enough -- hence the scheme to roll those projects into the district in which the Legends sits. That way, sales tax revenues from all of those stores and Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Schlitterbahn, and car lots next to Schlitterbahn will pay off the debt to build a private convention center for Cerner, a horse arena and a hockey rink. (Small aside: Did you know that car sales generate 17 percent of all Kansas sales tax?)
  • This diversion of sales tax would continue for another 20 years, if approved. 20 YEARS!! That’s almost two full generations of Kansas school children. Let that sink in -- for 20 years, the Governor of Kansas wants to divert money away from the state, which funds (always whining) public schools and public safety, and gift wrap that cash to help private businesses make a profit. For those keeping count, that amounts to $840 million dollars, assuming sales taxes don’t increase (Ha!) over the life of the project. That’s $840 million that can’t be used for schools or public safety or mental health or (insert critical state project here).

This nefarious project was so far along when legislators discovered it that a press conference to announce the American Royal move from Kansas City, Mo., to Kansas City, Kan., was scheduled for Feb. 8. A PRESS CONFERENCE WAS SCHEDULED and legislators, who were trying to draft next year’s budget, didn’t even know about it. (You know who Brownback hates? Legislators in his own party.)

The budget amendment to remove WyCo's access to STAR bonds passed the Senate unanimously. That's 40-0.

Those are the facts, and they are undisputed.

Stay tuned. I’m mad as hell, and you should be, too. I’m not done writing about this.

Oh, and if you find any of Brownback’s marbles, please return them. Obviously, he needs them.


  1. So let me see - so when I go to NFM and purchase an item I'm actually paying more?

  2. Karin Brownlee, Calvin Hayden, Ronnie Metsker, all of them Gidget thinks are good Republicans, and all are big time supporters of TIFs. Half of Dave Trabert's bosses are big time TIF supporters. Let's attack Brownback, ignore other Republicans and pretend this will stop TIFs. Republicans deserve the name of stupid party.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      It is possible to say something nice about someone without agreeing with every position they've ever taken on something. Believe me, I know there are a LOT of Republicans who are giant fans of using taxpayer funding for "economic development" and when they have something before us upon which they are about to vote, I will have no problem beating them over the head with it. But for now, none of your aforementioned people are about to vote/veto/take action on an item to subsidize a business or reward a donor. Brownback, on the other hand, is attempting to rally the troops and stab the taxpayers in the back. That's why he's getting a sharp kick from me right at this moment.

    2. Nope, a LOT of Republicans don't support it. That's not true. Most don't. Most Democrats don't, either. It just seems like there are a lot of them, because they all end up working for government or else elected. We're the stupid party because we keep electing people who disagree with Republicans. We're the stupid party because we elect people who even disagree with DEMOCRATS. BTW, most of these people like Calvin Hayden and Ronnie Metsker would be happy to be Democrats if they lived in Jackson County.

    3. Anonymous - I'm not sure what you mean by half of my bosses (the 8 KPI board members)being TIF supporters but I'm not aware that any of them think TIF is good public policy. We hold no ill will toward anyone whose company receives taxpayer subsidies as a case can be made that not accepting available incentives could be a violation of fiduciary responsibility...but that is a different matter from promoting TIF as good public policy.