Voice For Liberty
Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas.
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The President hears a hundred voices telling him that he is the greatest man in the world. He must listen carefully indeed to hear the one voice that tells him he is not.
-- Harry S Truman

The realistic way to reduce the amount of money in politics is to reduce the amount of politics in money -- the importance of government in allocating wealth and opportunity.
-- George F. Will

Politicians, activists and intellectuals have succumbed with numbing regularity, betraying every principle they once claimed to uphold. But there remains a vigorous remnant of dissenters. I hear from them.
-- Mona Charen

The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you’re still a rat.
-- Lily Tomlin
National employment, May 2020
There is good news in the jobs report for May, if unexpected.
Wichita jobs and employment, April 2020
For the Wichita metropolitan area in April 2020, the number of unemployed persons is up, the unemployment rate is up, and the number of people working is down, all by large amounts, when compared to the same month one year ago. Seasonal data shows the same trend.
Candidate lists for August 2020 primary election
Here are easy-to-use spreadsheets holding candidates for the August 2020 primary election.
Wichita city population rises
Wichita city population rose in 2019, but is still below its recent peak.
Wichita metro population for 2019
For 2019, the estimated population for the Wichita metropolitan area is up -- and also down.
Kansas tax revenue, May 2020
For May 2020, total Kansas tax revenue fell by 20 percent from last May.
Kansas jobs, April 2020
Employment fell sharply in Kansas in April 2020 as the response to the pandemic unfolded.
Real personal income in states and metros
When adjusted for regional differences, personal income in Wichita and Kansas is higher than otherwise, but growth is slow.
Wichita presents industrial revenue bonds
A presentation by the City of Wichita regarding IRBs is good as far as it goes, which is not far enough.
State government tax collections for 2019
Kansas state government tax collections rose to $3,443 per person in 2019, an increase of 5.0 percent from 2018.
Memories of William T. “Bill” Davitt
Following are remarks prepared and presented by John Todd on the passing of Bill Davitt.
Support the Voice for Liberty
You can support the Voice for Liberty in several ways.
Wichita needs transparency from its agencies
When the Wichita city council delegates spending to outside agencies such as Visit Wichita, it should insist on the same transparency requirements the city itself faces.
Wichita city council to address misunderstanding
The Wichita city council will address a misunderstanding regarding imprecise language in an economic development incentive agreement.
Kansas tax revenue experiences effects of pandemic response
For April, Kansas retail sales tax collections fell by 8.2 percent from last April, and much income tax revenue is deferred to July.
Before pandemic, Trump economy created jobs
There is no doubt that the United States economy has created many jobs since Donald J. Trump became president. How does the record compare with the previous administration?
Regulation reform could jump-start Kansas economy after COVID
The COVID-19 outbreak has not only posed a severe public health risk, but actions to combat it now risk a global economic collapse, writes Michael Austin.
CBO updates projections
Based on post-pandemic conditions, the projections from the Congressional Budget Office for the immediate future are grim, but look better for the future.
Should Wichita have a deputy to the mayor?
A proposal to hire a deputy or chief of staff to the Wichita mayor is a good idea which will increase transparency and accountability of elected officials.
Naftzger Park on the web: Do we care?
A badly outdated portion of Wichita's website makes me wonder: Does anyone care?
Post-COVID Recovery Plan
As the “peak” of the COVID-19 crisis nears, and passes, it will be increasingly important to look to what comes next. To look at how and when Kansans get back to work, how students are educated, and how state and local governments should respond. The plan outlined below represents a series of ideas – some big, some small, some codifying actions already taken – for a post-COVID recovery plan. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Moody’s: Kansas, Missouri ill-prepared for COVID revenue declines
The state budgets of Kansas and Missouri are among the worst-prepared states in the nation, according to an April 9 report from Moody’s Analytics.  The main reason is that both states are below the national average in rainy-day balances as a percentage of fiscal 2019 general fund revenues. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Wichita water plant financing on agenda
The Wichita city council will consider borrowing $280 million from the federal government, and also consider issuing bonds of up to $331 million to repay the loan.

Of note, while the summary documents provided by the city cite a loan amount of $280,860,714, it is important to realize that this is “capitalized interest excluded.” In an ordinance the council will consider Tuesday, there is this language: “… the City proposes to issue and deliver to the WIFIA Credit Provider a revenue bond in the principal amount not to exceed $331,000,000 (the ‘WIFIA Bond’).” The difference between the two amounts, about $50 million, is capitalized interest.
Kansas GDP
In 2019, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 0.9 percent, down from 2.1 percent the previous year, and ranked forty-fifth among the states.
Metropolitan employment and labor force
A visualization of employment, labor force, and unemployment rate for metropolitan areas, now with data through February 2020.
Freestanding emergency room in Wichita closes
The conversion of a medical facility should receive city scrutiny due to tax breaks granted based on its original use.
Wichita city council to consider COVID-19 response measures
The City of Wichita may spend to create a COVID-19 expense tracking project and to bypass normal purchasing processes.
Kansas tax revenues not yet affected
Through the end of March 2020, Kansas state tax revenues have not seen the effect of the economic slowdown due to COVID-19. Interactive visualization included.
Small area income and poverty estimates
An interactive visualization of household income and poverty data for states and counties.
Kansas personal income
For 2019, the rate of personal income growth in Kansas was near the middle of the states.
Kansas jobs, January 2020
Employment and the labor force rose in Kansas in January 2020 compared to the prior month. Kansas outperformed the nation in job growth the past two months.
Gov. Kelly’s decision to waive regulations amid COVID-19 will help
Today, Kansas Policy Institute, a non-profit research and educational organization commends Kansas Governor Laura Kelly for her role in waiving regulations during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Local government entities continue fighting Truth in Taxation property tax law
In testimony Monday on Truth in Taxation before the House Taxation Committee, Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell urged legislators to “Pass the Bill! Pass the Bill!” But most local government entities remain opposed to Senate Bill 294, which would require city and county officials to vote on the entire tax increase they impose. From The Sentinel.
State budget boosts SGF spending $1 billion over 2 years
The Kansas legislature approved revisions to the state budget for this year and next year last night and then quickly adjourned for an early, extended spring break due to the coronavirus outbreak. From The Sentinel.
At Naftzger Park: ‘Sunflower Exclusive’
"Sunflower Exclusive," a poem by Chinyere G. Okafor, is featured at Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita.
Intrust Bank Arena economic impact holds mistake
A report on the economic impact of the first ten years of operation of the Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita incorrectly reported tax revenue.
On the mend
Your correspondent is at home resting after surgery for Dupuytren's disease. This was more involved than my past cases, operating on two fingers which required nerve and skin grafts. After these surgeries I usually have use of the thumb and one or two fingers on the operative hand, but for this case only my thumb is out of the splint. Thanks and appreciation to John Todd for helping in recovery at the surgery center and helping me settle at home.
SCOTUS overturns Kansas Supremes again, legislators call for changes to appointment process
The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has again overturned the Kansas Supreme Court, after vacating a decision that would have made prosecuting illegal aliens for identity theft much more difficult. From The Sentinel.
Kansas media spins job growth
Kansas is on track to gain fewer than 4,000 private sector jobs this year. For context, that is the 2nd slowest yearly growth since The Great Recession ended in 2009. What’s worse, is that most Kansans media outlets willfully ignore this fact. Instead, since Governor Kelly has been in office, the media reports rosy and inaccurate estimates of Kansas job growth. Kansans aren’t even aware Kansas has the 43rd fastest-growing job market since 2016. Kansans deserve access to information, and that means we must have better economic journalism in Kansas. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Naftzger Park
If you want to keep up with news regarding Naftzger Park, join this Facebook group:

Kansas school employment
Kansas school employment rose for the current school year. An interactive visualization.
The Reality of Economic Development Incentives
Patrick Tuohey spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club February 21, 2020, on “The Reality of Economic Development Incentives: Lessons from Kansas City and Elsewhere.”
Performance levels in Wichita schools
There is some good news in the performance level reports for Wichita public schools.
Kansas school salaries
This is an interactive visualization of Kansas school salaries for superintendents, principals, and teachers, for each school district.
Missing from Wichita city documents: Sales tax
It would be simple for the City of Wichita to include additional relevant information regarding economic development incentive decisions.
KPI releases A-F Grading for Kansas schools
Kansas Policy Institute releases A-F Grading of Kansas schools for school year 2018-2019. A-F Grading places a letter grade on the existing Kansas State Department of Education definitions stemming from state assessment exams.

The A-F Grading for Kansas Schools uses state assessment data generated by the Kansas Assessment Program (KAP) under the operation of the KSDE and assigns an overall school letter grade much like a student report card.
Kansas tax receipts
Kansas tax receipts by category, presented in an interactive visualization. Now with data through December 2019.
Private investment declines
While government spending rises, private domestic investment declines.
Litigating for Liberty in Kansas
Samuel G. MacRoberts, Litigation Director and General Counsel for the Kansas Justice Institute, spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on February 7, 2020 about his work “Litigating for Liberty in Kansas.”
The Future of Liberty in Hollywood, Samuel Staley
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D., a Senior Research Fellow at the Reason Foundation and Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University, spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club January 10, 2020, on the topic, “The Future of Liberty in Hollywood.” Dr. Staley’s presentation is based on his book, "Economics and Contemporary Film" and his work as a movie critic for the Independent Institute.
Dept. of Revenue shrouds Derby STAR bond project in secrecy
The Sentinel has been requesting sales tax data from the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) to determine the effectiveness of the Derby STAR bond project for several months. Some information has been provided but KDOR refuses to directly answer questions about the net sales tax remaining for city and state operations after siphoning off sales tax for STAR bond debt service. From The Sentinel.
Wichita to Ghana, again
News of a Sedgwick County Commissioner's trip to Africa has raised some controversy, and something like this has been tried before.
Wichita should post fulfilled records requests
When the City of Wichita fulfills records requests, it should make those records available to everyone.
Wichita property tax rate: Up
The City of Wichita property tax mill levy rose for 2019.
Updated: Wichita, Kansas, and National Employment
A visualization of national, Kansas, and Wichita nonfarm employment series. Updated with data through December 2019.
Many city and county officials don’t trust taxpayers
Last week’s hearing on SB 294, a property tax transparency bill, exposed an ugly truth that’s simmered beneath the surface for a long time – many city and county officials don’t trust taxpayers. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Naftzger Park event management agreement ambiguous
The profit-sharing agreement for Naftzger Park event management contains ambiguity that could lead to disputes.
Wichita public schools, by the charts
Data from the annual report for the 2018-2019 school year for USD 259, the Wichita, Kansas public school district.
Century II resource center
Updated and refreshed: A resource of information about the Century II Performing arts and Convention Center in Wichita.
Trump economy continues to grow
There is no doubt that the United States economy has grown since Donald J. Trump became president. How does the growth compare with the previous administration?
All Kansas Republicans should have a voice
A presidential nominating caucus or primary would allow Trump skeptics in Kansas to have their say. It could provide a safety valve, a way to release the pressure that builds up from being told they are traitors to not only their party but to the country as well.
Commerce Committees hear about barriers in Kansas economy
The Kansas Senate and House Commerce Committee held hearings in Topeka this week on barriers to economic growth in the state, hoping to separate underlying causes from symptoms. Workforce development was mentioned multiple times as a barrier to growth, but it was also shown to be symptomatic of a deeper problem with low student achievement. From The Sentinel.
Wichita legal notices an easy start on the path to transparency
Kansas law requires publication of certain notices in newspapers, but cities like Wichita could also make them available in other ways that are easier to use.
City code on ethical conduct in Wichita
Wichita has a city code governing ethical conduct by council members, but it seems to have no teeth.
Financial state of the cities
Wichitans carry a "Taxpayer Burden" of $1,200 per taxpayer, which is not as bad as many cities.
Electoral College math
In the Electoral College, residents of different states have widely varying influence.
Wichita aerospace manufacturing concentration
Wichita leaders want to diversify the area economy. Has there been progress?
Renderings, at least believable
How believable are architectural renderings of a Ferris wheel and swimming pool in Wichita?
Wichita to consider tax forgiveness outside policy parameters
The Wichita city council will consider a tax giveaway for an economic development project that does not meet its stated policy.
Can Wichita learn from a setback?
What can Wichita learn from the news of layoffs at Spirit and Textron?
Views of individual Kansans clear in new poll
The Kansas legislature will convene next week with as much an eye to their upcoming elections as to the policy work they’ll tackle. Certainly, some policy-making will be done, but the overriding concern will be the electoral calendar. The views of individual Kansans who are most-concerned about their family and local opportunities can be lost, paradoxically, in that shuffle. From Kansas Policy Institute.
Business improvement district on tap in Wichita
The Douglas Design District seeks to transform from a voluntary business organization to a tax-funded branch of government.
It may become more expensive in Wichita
The City of Wichita plans to create a large district where extra sales tax will be charged. The city proposes to pass the ordinance on emergency first reading.
Wichita economy grows, and a revision
The Wichita economy grew in 2018, and revised statistics show growth in 2017.
GDP by metropolitan area and component
An interactive visualization of gross domestic product by metropolitan area and industry.
Downtown Wichita population is up
New Census Bureau data shows the population growing in downtown Wichita.
Downtown Wichita jobs rise
The number of jobs in downtown Wichita rose sharply in 2017.
Wichita proposes a convention center despite ‘overbuilt buyers market’
Downtown boosters want a new and much larger convention center as the centerpiece of the Wichita Riverfront Legacy Masterplan, but at least one expert says space is already overbuilt across the country, and even prime destinations are effectively giving it away rent-free. From The Sentinel.
NAEP scores leave Kansas Association of School Boards making excuses
KASB trivialized NAEP to make the results seem both insignificant and suspect by stating that NAEP “tests a small sample of students,” implying that the scores don’t mean much and that the results can’t actually be extrapolated to the general population. Despite how KASB portrays NAEP, KSDE calls it the “gold standard” of assessments. From Kansas Policy Institute.
The Wichita baseball team's name
Is the name of the new Wichita baseball team important? Yes, as it provides insight.
Net neutrality, regulation, and the internet
Dr. Theodore Bolema spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topics of net neutrality and regulation of the internet. Vide
Wichita consent agenda reform proposed
The Wichita city council will consider reforms to the consent agenda. In the past, the city has placed major items on the consent agenda, such as authorizing a $2 million contract with the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau.
Wichita personal income grows
Statistics released this week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, an agency of the United States Department of Commerce, show personal income in the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area growing at an increasing rate.
Federal budget summary for 2019
Federal revenues for 2019 were up, but spending increased by a larger amount, resulting in a higher deficit.
Sedgwick County talent attraction
In an index ranking counties in talent attraction, Sedgwick County has not performed well.
City comeback bingo
Wichita has amenities that are promoted as creating an uncommonly superior quality of life here, but many are commonplace across the country.
Economic indicators in the states
For Kansas, the coincident index has been on a mostly upward trend over the past year, although it has leveled for the past few months. The leading index has been rising, although it fell sharply in September.
Kansas GDP
In the second quarter of 2019, the Kansas economy grew at the annual rate of 2.2 percent, up from a revised -1.1 percent the previous quarter.
Quarterly Real GDP in Kansas
The interactive visualization Quarterly Real Gross Domestic Product by state and industry holds real (inflation-adjusted) GDP data for states and industries. In the visualization, one presentation shows the contribution to a state’s GDP by each industry.
Kansas sees large drop in test scores
Using demographically-adjusted scores, Kansas falls in state rankings of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Looking at change across all four tests, Kansas had the largest drop in state rankings except for New Hampshire.
State and local government employees and payroll
Looking at the number of government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many compared to other states, and especially so in education.
Wichita, not that different
We have a lot of neat stuff in Wichita. Other cities do, too.
United States manufacturing jobs
During the first two years of the Trump administration, United States manufacturing jobs grew at a monthly rate of 15,833 in 2017 and 22,000 in 2018. For 2019, through September, the monthly rate is 4,556.
In NAEP mapping study, Kansas shines
In a new edition of a study that assesses the stringency of state school assessments, Kansas performs well. Click for more.
Downtown Wichita jobs decline
Despite heavy promotion and investment in downtown Wichita, the number of jobs continues to decline. Click for more.
Wichita metro employment by industry
An interactive visualization of Wichita-area employment by industry. Click for more.
Wichita checkbook updated
Wichita spending data presented as a summary, and as a list.

Of note, the city does not make this data available on its website. Click for more.
Wichita property tax rate: Unchanged
The City of Wichita property tax mill levy was unchanged for 2018. This follows two years of small decreases. Click for more.
In Wichita, revision of water history
In 2014 Wichita voters rejected a sales tax which would have provided $250 million to spend on a water project. What were the city’s concerns? Click for more information.
In Wichita, here’s what tax decrement means
Wichita has a financing mechanism known as the Gilbert-Mosley tax decrement fund. I knew about tax increment financing, but I never really understood how tax decrement financing worked. I had thought that in this context, “decrement” had a sophisticated meaning that I wasn’t able to understand because I wasn’t smart enough, or I hadn’t tried hard enough, or I didn’t have the correct documents to read.

Now, Chase M. Billingham and Sean Sandefur have published detailed research that explains how the Gilbert-Mosley financing works. Click for more.
Metropolitan employment and labor force
A visualization of employment, labor force, and unemployment rate for metropolitan areas, now with data through May 2019.

How does the Wichita metropolitan area compare with others regarding employment, labor force, and unemployment rate? A nearby example shows data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor. Considering growth of employment since the start of the decade, the answer is Wichita has not performed well. Click for more.
Wichita transit, by the numbers
Transit in Wichita isn’t working very well, and it is expensive. Click for more.
Wichita transit center application
Although plans have changed, an application by the City of Wichita holds interesting observations and claims. Click for more.
Kansas Freedom Index for 2019
The 2019 Freedom Index is intended to provide educational information to the public about broad economic and education issues that are important to the citizens of our State. It is the product of nonpartisan analysis, study, and research and is not intended to directly or indirectly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office. From Kansas Policy Institute. Click for more.
Updated: National transit database
An interactive visualization of data over time from the National Transit Database. Now with data through 2017. Click for more.
Airport traffic statistics, 2018
Airport traffic data presented in an interactive visualization, updated through 2018. Click for more
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Wichita and other airports
How does the Wichita airport compare to others? Click for more
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New metropolitan rankings regarding knowledge-based industries and entrepreneurship
New research provides insight into the Wichita metropolitan area economy and dynamism.

There have been some rankings showing Wichita doing well in jobs at young firms. That’s good, as young firms — which are different from small business — are vitally important to economic growth.

This study, however, shows Wichita lagging in young firm employment ratio. In these rankings, Wichita came in at position 247 of 379 metro areas. That is better than the overall ranking for Wichita, which is at number 319. Click for more.
Updated: Metropolitan populations
A visualization of the population of metropolitan statistical areas, now with annual data from 1969 through 2018. Click for more
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State government tax collections
Now data for fiscal year 2018 is available, and it shows Kansas collecting $1,172 per person in individual income taxes, an increase of $372 or 46.5 percent over 2017. Click for more.
Populations of the states
An interactive table and charts of populations in the states and regions, from 1929 through 2018. Click for more.
Wichita population, 2018
The City of Wichita lost 1,052 in population from 2017 to 2018, a decline of 0.27 percent.The estimate of population on July 1, 2017 was revised from 390,591 to 390,317, meaning that for 2017, Wichita population declined by 242 from the July 1, 2016 population of 390,509.

With the revised 2017 figure, Wichita has had two years of declining population. Click for more.
Kansas personal income growing, but slowly
For 2017, just four states had less growth in personal income than Kansas. Click for more.
Wichita public schools, by the charts
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for USD 259, the Wichita public school district, provides a look at trends over the years. Here are some highlights from the CAFR for the year ending June 30, 2018, known as fiscal year 2018. Click for more.
The finances of Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita
A truthful accounting of the finances of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita shows a large loss. Despite hosting the NCAA basketball tournament, the arena’s “net income” fell. Click for more.
KPI releases 2019 Green Book
Each year in the Green Book, Kansas Policy Institute explores the relationship between economic growth and the size of government. From Kansas Policy Institute. Click for more.
Wichita ballpark STAR bonds, 2018 issue
A bond disclosure document anticipated a development agreement for land surrounding the new Wichita ballpark. Click for more.
Wichita population falls; outmigration continues
The population of the Wichita MSA fell from 2017 to 2018, and net domestic migration continues at a high level. Click for more.
Updated: Employment in the States
An interactive visualization of the civilian labor force, employment, and unemployment, for each state. Updated through March 2019.

As seen in the nearby example, Kansas continues its undistinguished record in job growth as compared to nearby states. In the visualization, you can easily choose states to compare, select a timeframe, and look at labor force, employment, and unemployment. Click for more.
2018 A-F Grading of Kansas Schools Released
One year ago, Kansas Policy Institute unveiled the initial groundbreaking A-F grading system for Kansas public schools and released the 2018 grade card last week. KPI undertook that effort to create a reporting system so that parents could more easily understand exactly how schools are performing. The Kansas Department of Education (KSDE), like all state education departments across the country, publishes a “Report Card” on its website, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to synthesize all that information to determine overall performance of individual schools. From Kansas Policy Institute. Click for more.
Wichita and national jobs
Overall, since 2011 — roughly the end of the Great Recession — Wichita has been gaining jobs, evidence being its trend line above zero in the nearby chart which shows the change in jobs over the same month one year ago. But the line has not always been above zero, indicating months where the Wichita metropolitan area had fewer jobs than the year before. Click for more.
In Wichita, respecting the people’s right to know
The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government. But the city’s record in providing information and records to citizens is poor, and there hasn’t been much improvement. Click for more.
Job growth in Wichita: Great news?
A tweet from a top Wichita city official promotes great news that really isn’t so great. There is good news — Wichita is not forecast to lose jobs, as it has in the recent past. But the rate of growth seen for Wichita is not robust, and that’s a serious problem, especially when our officials think it’s good. Click for more.
Sedgwick County tax exemptions
Unlike the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County has kept track of its tax exemptions. Click for more.
The use of sales tax proceeds in Wichita
Must the City of Wichita spend its share of Sedgwick County sales tax proceeds in a specific way? Click for more.
Sedgwick County income and poverty
Census data show Sedgwick County continuing to fall behind the nation in two key measures. Click for more.
Ranked-choice voting in Kansas
A look at ranked-choice voting and how it might have worked in the Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary election in August 2018. Click for more.
Wichita property tax still high on commercial property
An ongoing study reports that property taxes on commercial and industrial property in Wichita are high. In particular, taxes on commercial property in Wichita are among the highest in the nation. Click for more.
Wichita and Midwest income
How much do Wichitans earn at their jobs, compared to other cities? Click for more.
Kansas highway pavement conditions
Each year the Kansas Department of Transportation surveys the condition of highway pavement and issues a report called the Network Optimization System (NOS) Survey.

Of the condition of highways, the report notes: “Since the data was first collected in 1983, the percentage of pavement surface in good condition has appreciably increased while the percentage of poor pavement has significantly decreased.”. Click for more.
Kansas school spending, through 2018
Charts of Kansas school spending presented in different forms. One of the most important charts shows state spending per-pupil, adjusted for inflation. It shows the total of state and local spending, which is useful because in 2015 the state made a change in the way revenue is allocated between state and local sources. It also shows base state aid per pupil, which is an important number as it is the starting point for the school funding formula. Click for more.
Kansas state and local taxes
Among nearby states, Kansas collects a lot of taxes, on a per-resident basis.

From the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of 2018, Kansas and its local governmental units collected an average of $681 per quarter per resident in taxes. Of nearby states and a few others, Arkansas and Iowa had higher values, and Iowa is higher by only one percent. Click for more.