Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Kansas Legislators: Build the Wall to keep out Kelly's new taxes

That vision which is stuck in the heads of many Kansas taxpayers – the one of Governor-elect Laura Kelly and her liberal Democrat henchmen storming into our state like marauding Mongols, ready to abscond with our daughters, thieve our livestock and pillory us with higher taxes for their new kingdom of governmental bloat – may be a little over-played. 

But then again, maybe only a little. 

As Kelly and her crew finish racking up their pre-inauguration Christmas list – bolstered by some $80 million to $138 million in extra Kansas tax dollars produced by the federal tax change windfall from last year – Kansas’ conservative lawmakers still in the majority in Topeka need to be thinking about how they plan to defend us and let us keep our own money. The term “Build A Wall” comes to mind. 

Make no mistake, Kelly intends to spend, and spend big. Rumors of another $90 million to go carte blanche to the ever-increasing tab for Kansas education; groundwork for expanding Medicaid in Kansas to a slew of new users at between 150 and 238 percent of the federal poverty level (in other words, those with incomes half again or more than twice what the feds actually consider “poor”). And while just 10 percent of all those extra Medicaid payments will get added to your state tax bill, the rest will billow into the ballooning federal deficit that will still be your responsibility – or most likely your kids and grandkids – to one day pay through their own taxes. 

Kelly’s plan compounds a situation of which most Kansans are unaware – that even though Kansas media relentlessly gnashed its teeth over “budget cuts” to education and poor people after Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cut was initiated, the reality is that state spending overall continued to climb. To some government agencies reductions in their planned spending increases for next year are referred to in their press releases as “budget cuts,” and regurgitated by reporters and special interests until the public believes it. 

So gravity determines the following: Kansans are and will continue seeing a tax increase through the federal/state income tax incongruence even if legislators do absolutely nothing, because the way you pay your federal and state income tax right now amounts to an additional Kansas tax all on its own. 

Bear in mind this additional state/federal extraction of your dollars is above and beyond the $600 million state tax increase lumped onto your back last year by legislators, who eventually had to cover for Gov. Sam Brownback’s inability to make his 2012 tax cuts contingent on state budget cuts. Turning up the tap on your taxes has spewed forth even more money than planners forecast, with monthly revenue collections exceeding estimates for several months this year. 

Add it all up and what do you have? An incoming liberal governor with big spending plans and a nice pot of extra money that used to be yours just sitting there unguarded. Of course it won’t be enough to rescue the state from the legacy of Darth Brownback the way Kelly wants – not quite – it’ll require a little more. 

So our legislators – the ones who weren’t derailed in the election by the mob of Johnson County liberals with “I Hate Kobach” bumper stickers on their Land Rovers, are going to have to build a wall – a legislative wall that protects us Kansas outlanders from more and heavier taxes. They can do that by giving us back that federal windfall – like members of the Senate tried to do last year before their bill failed – and by barricading off the governor-elect’s options to raise additional taxes to make Kansas government even bigger and more expensive. Kelly’s plan kicks off when she takes over the governor’s office in January. Legislators – start mixing your mortar.

– Dane Hicks is president of Garnett Publishing, Inc., and editor of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The real test for adding 2 new city commissioners

EDITORIAL – Garnett City Commissioners should approach the recent voter-advised initiative of adding two new members to the governing body with a single litmus test – how does it help expand the city’s property tax base?
The present three members of the commission should feel under no rush to make any decision on the 537-483 advisory vote outcome until they’ve carefully weighed its pros and cons – and there are few pros and many cons.
If adding two commission seats doesn’t approach what  should be the city’s primary goal – expanding the city tax base by recruiting companies, adding jobs, developing housing and other assets to the local economy and lowering the property tax burden for all of us – then the obvious question is ‘why do it at all?’
As commissioners discussed at their Nov. 13 meeting, this is not a decision nor an action which should be entered into lightly, because it could very well radically affect the direction and the pace of city business from here on out. It’s worth adding that once you add two commissioners there’s no going back – no expansion of government ever decides later to trim its own size.
The added cost to pay two more commissioners – estimated at some $10,000 annually – is no small measure. The city presently sits in a position where it’s been cannibalizing its surplus utility funds for years in order to minimize increases in city property taxes. Ten thousand dollars, in city budget terms, is not a large sum – but it is still $100,000 in a decade. After listening to the recent budget hearings and to city manager Chris Weiner’s ideas for stabilizing city utility revenues, it’s clear cost increases matter and the running challenge of increasing the city’s tax base is paramount.
Another point worth considering: Where’s the beef? 
What issue has left vast segments of the citizenry unfairly unrepresented? What simmering controversy leaves city residents yearning for more and better airing of their views? The city’s police force isn’t running amok; there’s no rank and inappropriate nepotism; no sweetheart contracts awarded nefariously. City meetings aren’t filled with hoards of folks joined in some major controversy. Nothing seems to be on the public radar that hints at unfair conduct on the part of commissioners – nothing that two more paid office holders might solve. So the question begs an answer: What is to be gained?
         Meanwhile the possible negatives are a worry. More voices on the commission might provide more representation and more ideas; they might also provide a soapbox for those with limited agendas and for “bomb throwers” anxious only to disrupt and foster animosity. Others might simply be of no real value to city business, lending neither education nor expertise nor other talents, simply sitting in a chair at meetings and drawing a paycheck.
         The final analysis is that lacking some shining and defined benefit, city voters made a poor decision in voting for this change. If not in pursuit of the Holy Grail of development and tax base expansion, there’s simply no good reason to undertake it.
         City commissioners should take no action on this change for now, and instead conduct a series of public meetings with a single agenda item: to allow city residents who favor the change to explain why they feel it’s a good idea.
         Otherwise a 54 margin vote – a little more than half the state fire marshal’s defined occupancy of The Trade Winds restaurant in Garnett – is no reason to make such a pitfall-ridden change.

–Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

#Metoo and the Paul "Strip Bar" Davis dodge

LAWRENCE, KS – While crazy protesters won’t even let Republicans finish their salads in Washington, D.C., - area restaurants without bull-horning them out of their booths and out the front door, none of the ranks of the Lawrence, Ks., Social Justice Warrior nobility seem concerned about a Kansas congressional candidate who used to work for a guy that owned a strip bar.

The irony that Paul Davis, candidate in next week’s race for 2nd District U.S. Congress, has completely escaped the #Metoo Movement’s bitter comeuppance seems uncanny considering the nuclear eruptions that have felled so many others in the entertainment and political arenas. It makes one wonder if liberal protesters in Lawrence, who flare up over everything from gun laws to American flags to gender labeling, actually know what happens in a strip bar.

In the interests of debate and for those in the Lawrence SJW crowd who’ve been too busy getting their noses pierced or gazing catatonic at their cell phones to follow the Davis campaign, here’s the deal: at a strip bar, boys pay girls money to dance and climb brass poles – and to sit on their laps – pretty much naked.

Well, they’re probably not real brass poles – probably some kind of Rustoleum or something – but I digress…

It’s a universal tenet held by the feminist movement that while strippers themselves are hapless victims in the sex worker world, the real bad guys are the men who are their customers and the men who own the strip bars. In the world of pink hat wearing Women’s Marchers it’s okay to make money as a stripper, but if you’re a customer or if you make money as a strip bar owner, profiting from the exploitation of women, you should be heeled and hided to a barn door for abusing and objectifying them.

Davis was working for an area law firm in 1998 that represented the owner of a Kansas strip bar. Hard telling what kind of legal help a strip bar owner might need, but anyway, when local law enforcement started thinking someone was dealing meth out of the place, Davis got caught by law officers with a stripper on his lap in what’s called the VIP room.

Now, paying a stripper for a lap dance isn’t illegal and representing her boss in court isn’t either, and Davis was never connected to any drug activity. In his words, he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Yep – especially if you want to run for public office one day.

In 1998 nobody had heard of the #metoo movement, and the abuse and exploitation of women wasn’t nearly the cause celebre that it is today. But everyone had heard of the kind of trouble young girls can run into working at strip bars – drugs, stalkers, prostitution, rough customers who expect more than just a peep show. The men who support the industry and the club owners who make money through exploiting sex workers have always been in feminists’ crosshairs.

With that being the case, why no flaming opposition to Paul Davis’ campaign for U.S. Congress by those valiant and boisterous supporters of the women’s movement?

The answer obviously lies in Davis’ political party, not the facts of his personal history. As a Democrat, and someone who stumped tirelessly for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, none of those liberal Lawrence loud mouths dare call him out. He is, strip bar and all, one of their own.

That fact might lead one to believe that it’s politics, not these noble issues themselves, that really motivate Democrats and other liberals in their selective targeting. It’s a truth that takes more than a G-string to hide.

– Dane Hicks is editor/publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Ks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Wind farm threat will make you love county zoning

ERIE, Kan. – Neosho County residents are finding out the hard way that having county zoning laws, even as encumbering as some people think they are, is the best way to save property values from the onslaught of federally-subsidized wind farms in many of Kansas’ rural areas.

It’s a sobering thought, and one that should make every rural land owner in Kansas run – not walk – to their county courthouse and ask for a copy of their local zoning regulations.

It’s that complete lack of local regulatory authority that no doubt made Neosho a prime target for Apex Clean Energy and its wind farm project. It’s a decision made years ago by county commissioners there and by residents in the county of 16,000 souls that lays neighbors wide open for whatever property disaster someone with money might want to foist upon them – from confined hog facilities to feed lots to chicken plants – you name it.

Those smaller threats that affect a limited number of adjacent landowners, some people may argue, are worth the risk of avoiding the rest of the restrictions of a county zoning plan. But a wind farm and its impact on broad stretches of acreage for miles and miles provides a Godzilla Moment for those who think local zoning is more trouble than it’s worth.

Even for counties that have local zoning, wind farm companies have become adept at weaving their way through those written rules to entrench themselves into countrysides where landowners either aren’t educated enough or are too apathetic or too hoodwinked by slick leasing agents to protect themselves. But a written framework of regulations is at least a point to build on – otherwise it’s like swimming in a lake and trying to get in a ski boat with no ladder.

A Neosho County landowner, semi-retired and in his 70s, recently told me he’d committed a fair portion of his assets to build his dream home a few years back in one of the county’s rural areas – a $500,000 investment – prior to Apex’s interest in building its wind farm there. His son spent a little more than $300,000 on his residence a mile or so away. Some nights they lose sleep over what happens if the wind farm is built, and offers bring only half of what they have put down on those homes someday when they’re ready to sell.

And all to encourage an industry renown for its inability to stand on its own two financial feet; one which relies completely on jury-rigged state and federal legislation; on power companies with a pistol put to their heads forced to purchase wind energy in order to support the industry’s builders – and all for electricity that can’t be adequately stored, that still has to be backed up by coal or nuclear-fired generation for times when the wind doesn’t blow, and whose turbines can’t even operate unless they’re connected to regular, non-wind grid power anyway.

But the illogic of wind power won’t stop those profiting from it’s subsidy-driven shell game from descending on places where the wind blows and promising the earth, wind and stars to property owners anxious to make money leasing their ground for those gigantic turbine sites. In Anderson County, where homeowners repelled a wind farm assault a few years ago, an uncanny number of lessors never even read the lease. If they had, they’d have run like a scalded cat.

In the absence of rural zoning, the only law that applies to lease signors in wind farm projects is the language of the lease designed for the profit of the company. When dissected line by line with the legal eye of a contract attorney, the one-sided nature of those leases becomes staggeringly apparent.
What an unconscionable position for past decades of county leaders to have left their rural residents.

–Dane Hicks is the president of Garnett Publishing, Inc., and publisher of The Anderson County Review weekly newspaper.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Watkins beats crazy for Kansas 2nd District

by Dane Hicks -   
There’s just too much crazy in the Democrat Party right now to consider anything but a Republican in the race for Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District.
    That might sound like a less-than-wholehearted endorsement of Steve Watkins, but Watkins’ strength as a candidate is a complete and separate issue to the sheer chaos we see being indulged and advocated on the part of Democrats who’ve allowed the radical left to take over their party.
    As a result, Democrats from 10 years ago don’t recognize the party as it's being led today, both in Kansas and nationally, and for good reason. Indeed, until some calm is re-established in the party’s leadership by those who either have clout or the ability to unseat its lunatic leadership, Democrat party members can’t be seriously considered for election – unless you’re a socialist.
    For starters, Democrats nationwide and in Kansas have to decide if their party intends to fully and uniformly embrace and pursue socialism as a central plank in their party’s platform. Not only did a significant percentage of Democrat Party members nationwide choose the avowed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders to lead them in the presidential primary of 2016, but Kansas Democrats themselves picked Sanders in the March 2016 caucus with nearly 68 percent of their ballots.
    The idea that Sanders, the “free stuff” candidate bent on a “free” college tuition plan along with “free” health care and “free” housing, etc., could command the majority of Kansas Democrat votes in a presidential caucus, is astounding. If Kansas Democrats would elect a political extremist as president, that alone signals Republicans, Libertarians and Independents in the state that the competence of the Democrat Party, as it now stands, is compromised.
    It’s a legitimate  worry – that a Democrat holding this congressional seat would behave in tandem with Maxine Waters’ and her calls for public harassment of Republicans; with Diane Feinstein and her shady withholding of testimony in the Kavanaugh hearing; with hysterical protestors clawing at the doors of the U.S. Supreme Court; with Portland, Ore., Mayor Ted Wheeler, who lets Antifa thugs run roughshod over the residents of his own city. The Kansas Second District deserves a congressman more fitted to our Kansas sensibilities.
    Watkins isn’t a lawyer or an experienced politician – he’s a legitimate political newcomer who’s stood up to the scrutiny of his own party and been embraced by its members who stand steadfastly against the creeping plague of socialism. He’s a soldier – a West Point graduate who’s been shot at for his country in the deserts of Afghanistan. His background in private business led to his understanding of the choking nature of needless federal regulation and its effect on jobs and the economy. Watkins will be a congressional vote to keep America on the right track.
    One of Watkins’ most admirable marks is that he has all the right enemies – liberals previously masquerading as Republicans and years ago exiled from party ranks, like John Vratil of Leawood, Wint Winter of Lawrence, Sandy Praeger of Topeka and others who’ve come out to join Kansas Democrats embracing socialism. When spend-a-holic “moderates” or liberals of any suit line up against a Kansas Republican, that’s a convincing enough endorsement.
    Steve Watkins will help hold crazy at bay until level-headed Democrats take their party back and offer the 2nd District a sane debate on issues.
– Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Iola Farm City Days: Anti-gun, anti-Kobach, or both?

by Dane Hicks – 
It isn’t just anti-Second Amendment sentiment that’s run amok in Iola with the denial by the Farm City Days committee to allow Kris Kobach’s jeep and machine gun parade entry in the FCD Parade – it’s nothing short of flat out political prejudice.
         What a shame it is that this political animosity has crept into an organization as institutional as the Iola event. Farm City Days was started four decades ago as an opportunity to bring area farmers and the ag industry together with townies to celebrate the works of the farm and the market to which those farm goods are eventually sold. Democrats, Republicans, Independents – no matter – the idea was to focus on the partnership and the beneficial synergy of farm and town. It is attended annually by thousands from around the region.
         That sentiment was the heartbeat of the organization since its inception in 1971, but now, like so much else in our country, Farm City Days has made itself about politics and the narrow, intolerant views of a handful of its organizers – all because a majority of its board has opted to foist its political beliefs upon the parade audience and restrict its parade entries according to that majority’s political leanings.
         Kobach supporter and Iolan Don Erbert’s red, white and blue jeep with its replica machine gun mount is by far the most recognizable parade entry of the summer parade season in Kansas. Breathless, hand-wringing publicity from press outlets generated Kobach tons of free media during parades prior to the primary and made the rig the most memorable of the 2018 Kansas political season, perhaps even nationally.
         The FCD committee told Erbert he could enter the parade with Kobach, but they’d have to remove the gun mount. Both men are vehement supporters of the Second Amendment, and the obvious message was that if you want to be in our parade, you’re going to need to give up on your convictions. Justifiably, they declined.
         But the question can’t be denied: did the FCD parade organizers discover they’d struck on a veiled but effective way to keep Kobach out of the parade by attacking the illustration of his Constitutional right?
         The move overall is an interesting one, considering Allen County Republicans, who cast some 90 percent of the votes in the primary, picked Kobach handily over seven contenders in the GOP field.
         Firearms are part of the American heritage, and as such part of the tradition of parades. Military color guards frequently march in parades nationwide with rifles as part of their units. Colleges and high school drill teams lead bands and carry replica rifles to conduct drill exhibitions with them. Western re-enactors carry firearms as part of their frontier regalia. Military rifle teams honor the loved ones of fallen soldiers with 21 gun salutes. Firearms are ingrained in the American sense of celebration and discipline. There is certainly no basis in history or American culture to prohibit a replica firearm from a parade float or entry.
         Unless of course you’re in Iola, and it’s Kris Kobach.
         That vote of the Farm City Days committee, which was not unanimous, resulted in the resignation in protest by its chairman. Now, word is that some sponsors – those who perhaps have a better sense of American culture and both the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution, are pulling their support.
         What a terrible thing for a handful of politically intolerant people to do to a venerable community event, all in the name of squelching a candidate and his very American beliefs.
–Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Kansas: Cut taxes, cut expenses, vote Kobach

-The Anderson County Review/Dane Hicks....
For many Kansas voters put off by the ever-growing cost and size of government and the post-2016 antics of the country’s political left, the fact that Kris Kobach raises the hackles of liberals, socialists and their media hit men to such a degree is alone reason enough to justify voting for him in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
But if you peer through the dust and haze fomented by all the Kobach haters over the past several years, you see plenty more to like about Kris Kobach, his philosophy and his vision for Kansas.
Kobach’s media-smeared reputation revolves primarily around his work as Secretary of State and his attempts to ensure proper voter identification – in the face of critics who apparently believe every Tom, Dick or Harry should be able to vote in Kansas elections. Kobach’s private consulting work as an attorney to build legal barriers to illegal immigration has also galded the open borders crowd. The frequent and faulty assumption, dispensed by his liberal critics and embraced by a predominantly prejudicial press, however, often leaves off the “illegal” portion of the term and tries to pin Kobach as anti-immigrant instead of anti-criminal.
         But little has been noted in public circles of Kobach’s plan to reduce the size of government and thus reduce government spending – a precursor to reducing taxes and putting Kansans dollars into the economy instead of into the state’s purse.
         Kobach’s plan revolves around the simple aging of the population and the fact that retiring baby boomers make up not only a record number of private industry jobs, but also a significant portion of government jobs. Their retirement, then, is an opportunity to reduce the size and cost of government through attrition and without mass layoffs.
         Anyone in business knows labor is one of the most expensive line items in a budget, and it’s a major portion of the massive expansion of government over past decades. While the growth of the federal workforce has slowed since 1960 to around 2.5- 3 million workers, state and local governments have ballooned, tripling to over 18 million employees. Kobach successfully cut staff through attrition in the Secretary of State’s office, and saved taxpayers dollars in the process while getting the same work done.
         Every private business in the world now performs the same or more duties with less staff than it did 10 or 20 years ago. New efficiencies and technologies avail themselves, and smart operators take advantage of them.
         This is a conservative philosophy toward fiscal responsibility, and Kobach is the only candidate in the race to have properly detailed one. The idea of commensurate spending reductions to match tax cuts – an area the Kansas Legislature failed to address in the Brownback Administration’s economic plan –  being the key to any tax cut plan.
The Democrat’s nominee, Laura Kelly, embodies old school, tax-and-spend Democrat approaches – promising yet more tax money instead of more accountability for Kansas public education; seeking a financially disastrous expansion of Medicaid benefits in Kansas and pledging “support” for workers and training programs and rural enterprises. Outside of higher taxes and bigger government, there is woefully little meat on the bones of Kelly’s economic proposals.
Kelly also lacks the personal presence to effectively lead the Legislature. Her subdued personal style belies an individual more prone to following than motivating and inspiring. Indeed, many watching her acceptance speech the night she won her party’s nomination wondered, at the end, if she had actually won it at all. She makes her icy, stern-faced friend and political consort Kathleen Sebelius look like Lady Gaga.
With the nation now reaping the benefits of a conservative approach to economic growth, this is no time for Kansas to step back toward the high costs and inefficiencies of big government bloat. Kris Kobach should be Kansas’ next governor.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

What does EPA head Scott Pruitt want in Garnett, Ks.?

It’s hard to imagine, with his short tenure as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under fire for malfeasance by Republicans and Democrats alike, what Scott Pruitt wants in Garnett at a special meeting with East Kansas Agri Energy this coming Tuesday morning.
         We have to imagine it’s not about ethanol or schmoozing the farm vote at all – we think it's the lunch special at Trade Winds.
         Why else would the Administrator of the EPA – the Big Cheese, the Top Brass, The Big Kahuna – want to tour an ethanol plant in Eastern Kansas and meet with its principals and investors, when he’s spent a good portion of the last year acting against his boss (President Trump)’s directives and shooting holes in the law that supports the ethanol industry and the farmers who play such a core role in it?
         Pruitt’s been under fire almost since he first mashed his bare toes into the deep pile of the EPA’s head office carpet. The former Oklahoma Attorney General, jointed at the hip with his state’s oil industry, was one of a flurry of picks when President Trump’s surprise election pressed him into finding cabinet members ASAP. Pruitt, who Iowa Senator Joni Ernst once referred to as being “as swampy as you can get” washed in through the drainage ditches of political favor to the detriment of tax payers, Midwestern farmers and the Trump Administration itself.
         Allegations against Pruitt of largesse on the tax payer dime are Tudor–esque; that he had a $43,000 sound proof phone booth built for his office in order to have private phone calls; that he plugged some $105,000 into first-class airfares because some of the rabble in coach were once rude to him; that his 20-person security detail (c’mon, you’re the EPA guy, not one of the Getty children) burns millions; that a Washington lobbyist buddy got him a sweetheart deal on an expensive DC condo; that he’s cozied up to industry big-wigs he’s supposed to be regulating – and that he even hurried EPA office staff off to buy him a discounted mattress from the Trump International Hotel. That list, unfortunately, goes on.
         But his biggest sin – and the one that will probably be his undoing – is his back door attacks against farmers and the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS is the portion of the 2005 law that requires oil refineries to blend ethanol into their gasoline. Pruitt’s friends in the oil business aren’t fond of ethanol, so to a handful of them the EPA chief has been handing out “hardship waivers” exempting them from the blending requirements – which means they save money by not having to buy ethanol and mix it into their gasoline like other refiners do.
         If the cronyism and fiscal abuse in his office isn’t enough, it’s Pruitt’s stance against ethanol – contrary to the federal law he’s supposed to be administering as head of the EPA – that has him in the crosshairs of influential Republicans who want to keep the Midwest farm vote for the president in 2020. For that, Pruitt’s recent shenanigans in alienating the farm vote just won’t do.
         Our bet is Pruitt’s new affinity for agriculture states and ethanol plants has to do with trying to save his skin – or at least an attempt to assuage farmers’ fears and remind them that President Trump is, despite the actions of his EPA head, still behind them. Maybe, after torpedoing the ethanol industry, Pruitt’s Come-to-Jesus with ethanol at EKAE this Tuesday can make everything all right.
         Then again, maybe not.
         Either way, the flight from KCI to DC is a little more than two hours – long enough for a nap after Trade Winds chicken & noodles. Pruitt may need those extra carbs when he gets home – to pack up his office.
–Dane Hicks is president of Garnett Publishing, Inc., and publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.