The Kansas City Star, on promoting economic development:
As a small state with a declining population and a worsening financial picture, Kansas needs to be smart about promoting economic development.
The state has at least five major initiatives and a host of smaller ones aimed at recruiting employers and growing the jobs base. But the efforts don’t always fit together neatly, the result being an incomplete puzzle with some pieces missing and others out of place.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to rearrange the picture by eliminating one of the largest pieces.
She has vetoed the Legislature’s recommendation that the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. receive $12.1 million in state funding next year, and proposed that some of its functions be transferred into the state Department of Commerce.
Supporters of the agency, known as KTEC, are fighting to keep it intact. They say the loss of KTEC’s network and expertise will slow economic development in Kansas.
The agency is well-connected within and outside of Kansas, and has unquestionably helped to recruit businesses, encourage entrepreneurs and assist universities with technology-related programs. Some studies have given Kansas a high rating for its entrepreneurial climate, and credited KTEC’s work.
But a recent review of the agency by an Indianapolis-based research firm, Thomas P. Miller and Associates, raised questions about whether KTEC is accomplishing its mission. The state continues to rank in the bottom quartile of many technology-based rankings, it noted. ...
States are smart to spend money to recruit high-tech companies that will create good-paying jobs and provide opportunities for talented workers.
But those efforts must be done strategically and with clear goals in mind. Success must be defined not by activities — of which KTEC can list many — but by measurable results. Evaluators over the years have had difficulty assessing KTEC’s outcomes.
Kansas’ budget struggles and the new opportunities emerging in the biotech and energy industries suggest that a revamp of economic development efforts is in order.
Sebelius’s veto of KTEC’s funding is intended to get that job started. Lawmakers should seize the opportunity.
The Hutchinson News, on consolidation of local government:
With the uproar over taxes and government spending and the state in a budget crunch like few others, it is even more strange that Kansas legislators won’t get out of the way so local governments can consolidate if they so wish.
With the Legislature in recess before its wrap-up session, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said the prospects were not good that a city-county consolidation bill would reach a final vote before his chamber yet this session.
That is unfortunate and, again, strange.
Such legislation would not mandate consolidation. It just would remove the requirement that such consolidations would have to come before the Legislature before proceeding. It would, in other words, remove some red tape.
This bill has been tough to pass for repeated legislative sessions now. This would seem to be a good time for legislators to shed whatever their hang-up is about it. ...
State. Sen. Chris Steineger, D-Kansas City, has proposed compressing Kansas’ 105 counties into 13. He points to a study by a University of Kansas professor that estimates $700 million to $800 million could be saved through county consolidation. Professor Art Hall says 21 of Kansas’ counties rank in the top 100 of U.S. counties for the number of employees per capita.
Steineger isn’t gaining much traction in Topeka with his idea, but the point remains. If you want to see evidence of government growth, size and waste, it can be found just as much at the local level as the federal. And Kansas ranks in the top three states for number of units of government per capita.
Based on the compelling merits of fiscal government efficiency, O’Neal should try to fashion a way to get a vote on this bill.
After all, do we want less government or don’t we?