There isn’t much momentum yet

Neighboring states faring better than Kansas

By The Mercury

The news from the recent report comparing our state’s rebound from the economic recession from that of five states in the region wasn’t all bad.

For example, Kansas last year outperformed those other states — Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas — in building permit growth. In fact Kansas roughly doubled their growth — 22.5 percent expansion to the region’s 11.5 percent rate — and topped the national growth rate of 15.9 percent as well.

But that was the highlight for Kansas in a report released last week by the Kansas Economic Progress Council, a nonpartisan organization of business owners and groups in Wichita. Using information on Kansas from the Council of Economic Advisers, established by Gov. Sam Brownback, it compared the six states in 12 categories.

Not only did Kansas lag the regional average in areas that Gov. Brownback said were essential in gauging the success of his economic and tax policies, it was below average in every category except building permits. For example:

• In the establishment of private businesses, Kansas rose by 0.7 percent; the six-state regional average was 2.6 percent and the national average was 2.2 percent.

• In private sector employment, Kansas rose by 0.9 percent, below both the regional average of 1.5 percent and the national average of 2.1 percent.

• Kansas population rose by 0.3 percent, about half the 0.7 percent rate of both the region and the nation.

• In gross domestic product (GDP), Kansas rose 3.1 percent. The regional rate was 3.6 percent and the national rate was 4.1 percent.

• Per capita income in Kansas grew by 2.2 percent, compared to 3.6 percent in the region and 3.4 percent nationwide.

These results — a snapshot — don’t mean the governor’s policies, highlighted by historic business and personal tax cuts in 2012 and 2013, can’t or won’t work. But the results certainly don’t show that the state has turned the corner yet. Neither is there much indication that Kansas is “closing the gap with states in our surrounding region,” as Brownback spokeswoman Sara Belfry said.

Perhaps, as she added, “Kansas continues building momentum in 2014 as income taxes again decreased,” but that’s not borne out in this report, which was taken from the most current data from the governor’s economic advisers.

Speaking of the Kansas Economic Progress Council report, the group’s executive director, Bernie Koch, made a point of noting that the report only presents facts and does not draw conclusions. He also said, “This is a responsible report that confirms what’s really going on with the Kansas economy.”

If so, Kansans ought to hope that the momentum the administration speaks of picks up soon.

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