Yael T. Abouhalkah

June 11, 2014

‘Mom and apple pie’ issues are getting tougher to find in the Kansas City area

From holding the GOP convention in Kansas City to tax cuts in Kansas, elected officials are constantly on the lookout for motherhood and apple pie issues that almost everyone will embrace. But in these contentious times it seems to be tougher to find that kind of near-universal agreement.

Elected officials are constantly on the lookout for motherhood and apple pie issues that almost everyone will embrace.

In these contentious times, though, it seems to be tougher to find that kind of near-universal agreement.

Mayor Sly James welcomed the Republican National Convention Site Selection Committee to Kansas City last week, even dancing with one of its members at Charles B. Wheeler Airport. The mayor appropriately says getting the GOP 2016 confab would fill hotels, attract wall-to-wall national media coverage and give Kansas City invaluable exposure as a great place to live and visit.

But.... Not everyone is holding out welcoming arms for the Republicans. The concerns are understandable.

GOP lawmakers at the federal and state levels have spent years waging war on sensible gun regulations, legal abortions, reasonable air pollution rules, decent living wages and a host of other issues that many Americans care deeply about. Republicans too often are defenders of the wealthy and not often enough promoters of helping people who truly deserve it.

Bottom line: The city ought to go for the money and media attention. If the convention comes here, and people show up to protest GOP policies, that’s all part of holding a national political gathering.

An apartment developer this week announced plans to build the first privately financed project on Kansas City’s long-neglected downtown riverfront. Port Authority officials and other riverfront supporters applauded what they called more evidence that the future is bright for the crucial River Market area in downtown.

But.... The construction of nearly 400 luxury apartments would not go far in fulfilling many ambitious proposals for riverfront development that have fizzled out over the last 25 years. Some involved getting a Fortune 500-like company headquarters to dominate the area next to Richard L. Berkley Riverfront Park. Others called for a large office park, residential units and accompanying retail.

Bottom line: Getting something built there is a good thing, and it might jump-start the “urban village” concept now in vogue for so many mixed-use developments. However, it’s also a step in the direction of making the riverfront a home for only those who can afford being there.

Gov. Sam Brownback drew applause from many Kansans for his pledge in 2012 to cut income taxes and attract jobs and people to a struggling state. “Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” he said. Indeed, the state has added about 30,000 jobs since the cuts were approved that year — and 50,000 jobs since Brownback took office in 2010.

But.... Most other nearby states — Colorado, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri — have gained jobs at a faster clip than Kansas has since 2010. The much more worrisome fact about the tax cuts is that individual income tax revenues in the fiscal year that ends June 30 are $282 million short of projected revenues.

Another problem is that the self-proclaimed conservative Kansas Legislature has approved spending that’s actually $300 million higher than expected revenues in the 2015 fiscal year budget. The state’s reserves could disappear.

Bottom line: The siren song of low taxes in Kansas is not working out as planned, yet. Pressure will build on Brownback to cut state services either this year or in 2015 to balance the budget.

Actually, Brownback might not be around to make that decision, if voters turn him out of office in the 2014 elections.

The governor seems determined to ride the tax-cuts-are-good mantra in his campaign. To Brownback, tax cuts remain a motherhood and apple pie issue. Kansas voters soon will tell him whether they agree.

To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter: @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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