Kansas State Overview
Kansas saw remarkable deterioration in regulatory and especially personal freedom during the 2009—10 legislative session, even as its fiscal policy ranking remained below average. As a result, the state’s ranking is now decidedly mediocre on economic and personal freedom.
Fiscal policy is the dimension in which Kansas does worst. Its public payroll is extremely large, at 15.8 percent of the private workforce. Taxes are about average, but the debt burden is very high: 26.2 percent of income. The areas of spending that could most stand to be cut are education, hospitals, and highways, while the taxes that should have priority for cutting are individual and business income, sales, and property taxes. In fact, since the closing date for this study, Kansas has cut income taxes and the overall tax burden significantly.
An agricultural exemption was added to the workers’ compensation mandate, but more health insurance benefit mandates and an elimination rider ban were enacted. However, the state continues to score well in many areas. Local zoning is the least officious in the nation, labor laws are light (there is a right-to-work law, no minimum wage, and reasonable workers’ compensation laws), cable franchising is in place, occupational licensing is low (but nurse practitioners are not allowed to practice independently), there is no certificate-of-need (CON) law, property/casualty insurance regulations are moderate, and the court system is much better than average. The state is only about average on health insurance freedom, with “prior approval” price controls in nongroup and small group markets and hefty benefit mandates to go along with an absence of community rating and guaranteed issue in the nongroup market.
While an explicit, individual right to keep and bear arms was added to the state constitution in 2010, the legislature passed a comprehensive smoking ban in restaurants, bars, and private workplaces, with no exceptions, and a primary-enforcement seat belt law, and incarceration and victimless crimes arrest rates increased (although remaining below average). Gun control is slight, marijuana sentencing laws are relatively humane (for a very conservative state), and homeschooling is virtually unregulated. Alcohol freedom is a shade better than average, with no state role in distribution and moderate taxes, but Kansas does ban “happy hours,” restrict some Sunday sales, and require keg registration. Gaming freedom is a bit worse than average.
- Trim government spending, employment, debt, and taxes in the areas noted above.
- Repeal harmful and unnecessary occupational licenses, such as those for pharmacy technicians, psychiatric technicians, occupational therapy assistants, lead paint removers, dietitians, title examiners, court reporters, geoscientists, mortgage lenders, funeral directors, and property managers.
- Enact a generous tax credit for private school tuition or home school expenses, in order to promote school choice and beneficial competition.