Anti-tax group looks to grow area chapter
A meeting for area residents interested in organizing to prevent future tax increases served as a forum to vent about the current state budget imbroglio.
By its end, the inaugural meeting for the local chapter of Americans For Prosperity had turned into a forum on issues as broad as the rationale for the existence of public schools and the proper scope of judicial authority.
Six people attended the June 22 meeting at the Lansing Community Center, but the state director for AFP, Alan Cobb, said he was happy with the turnout. The Topeka-based Kansas branch of the group advocates a taxpayers' bill of rights for the state similar to the 1992 Colorado TABOR law that limits tax increases to those approved by voters.
"It always starts out that way: a core group of folks interested in what we stand for, and they'll bring in others to the next meeting," Cobb said.
AFP recently has launched chapters in Wichita, Topeka, Johnson County, Salina, Dodge City, Garden City and other towns. To the criticism that AFP marks an intrusion by out-of-state interest groups in Kansas politics, Cobb, who grew up in Wichita, said "I'm a Kansan."
AFP's national director is David Koch, who, with his brother, Charles, founded the group in 2003. The Kochs own Wichita-based Koch Industries, and shared the No. 43 spot on Forbes magazine's ranking of the richest men in the country.
In arguing for a Kansas taxpayer bill of rights, Cobb said the state's economic growth did not keep up with tax increases and the growth of state and local governments. He said that if Kansas had passed a law in 1992 similar to Colorado's, at least $1.1 billion would have been returned to taxpayers in rebates or tax cuts, and the current state budget crisis could have been avoided. Cobb also said the state could have also invested another $181 million in an emergency fund.
In contrast to Cobb's depiction of the state's economy, Forbes rated Kansas in May 2004 tops in its U.S. Economic Freedom Index. The business journal looked at 143 variables to compile its rankings, according to its Web site. These variables included "tax rates, state spending, occupational licensing, environmental regulations, income redistribution, right-to-work and prevailing-wage laws, tort laws and the number of government agencies." Colorado was ranked second.
Cobb said the Forbes index was flawed because it did not measure productivity, population decline or job growth.
The current state budget debate over school financing colored the discussion that followed Cobb's pitch for the organization.
Donna McDaniel said she had learned of the meeting through a newspaper announcement, and that she came because "I'm not interested in higher taxes. I think we're being taxed to death." McDaniel, a retired assistant principal from Leavenworth, said the state Supreme Court ruling on the Legislature's school finance bill as inadequate was an opportunity for a public dialog about taxes and judicial authority.
J.C. Tellefson, a consultant for direct-mail firms, said that although he "wasn't particularly attracted" by what he knew of AFP's ideas before the meeting, he came "because TV was crappy" that night.
John Bradford is the head of the Lansing-Leavenworth chapter of AFP, and a retired Army officer who lives in Lansing. Bradford said that although he would have loved to have attracted 100 people to the chapter's first meeting, "four or five is OK."
The group's next meeting will be in late fall. Persons interested in attending can call Bradford at (913) 351-3688.