Author: Rhonda Humble

Kansas cutbacks rattle state jobs programs

Gene Meyer KansasReporter TOPEKA, — As Kansans cope with a persistently higher than normal 6.6 percent unemployment rate, the state’s labor department said Tuesday it is abolishing two positions of people whose job it was to help the unemployed find work. However, the change shouldn’t hurt anyone’s job search, because the services those workers provided will still be available in the same Kansas state offices or online, said Matt Manda, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Labor. The cuts, which follow an announcement late last week that the department was preparing to lay off as many as 85 state workers mostly in Topeka who helped keep unemployment benefits moving to jobless Kansans, are part of an overall department cutback made necessary by reduced federal funding, Manda said. The latest cuts include the abolition of jobs previously held by state labor deparment workers in two Kansas Workforce centers run by the Kansas Department of Commerce to help retrain workers for new careers. The Labor Department staff members working in those Overland Park and Wichita centers previously were assigned there to help people file claims for any unemployment benefits for which they were eligible while training. The centers will remain open and little impact on their operations is expected, Manda said. Executives at the two centers, which are among about two dozen full and part time similar Commerce Department enterprises...

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School choice answer to American competitiveness woes

Rebekah Rast, Guest Columnist Siemens, the German engineering group, is having difficulty filling job openings in the U.S. With an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, how is that possible? Eric Spiegel, chief executive in the U.S. for Siemens, said in an interview with Financial Times that, “There’s a mismatch between the jobs that are available, at least in our portfolio, and the people that we see out there.  There is a shortage (of workers with the right skills.)” For contrast, the article goes on to say that a Volkswagen plant had 85,000 applicants for 2,000 jobs at its new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. America spends far more on education than most other nations, so why is its workforce lagging behind? There are jobs to be had, but the industries hiring say the knowledge, education and performance levels needed for these jobs aren’t being found in the U.S. While the Obama Administration and Department of Labor tout that more job training and government intervention would solve this problem, why not fix the problem at its roots—America’s current education system. One simple and cost effective way to do so is to allow students and parents to choose what school they attend and what kind of education they want to receive.  And that is exactly what many states are doing during this time of budget cuts and fiscal restraint.  In fact, over...

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Group compares Kansas, Oklahoma taxes

Individual income tax reduction leads to more economic activity TOPEKA, – CPA Steve Anderson, of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, recently completed a study comparing tax rates and structures for Oklahoma and Kansas over the last ten years. “A Tale of Two States: The Real Effect of Individual Income Tax Cuts” points out how the two states had similar tax rates ten years ago but how things have changed dramatically since. “Mr. Anderson has found evidence of what Americans for Prosperity has been saying for years,” said AFP-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag. “We can see how the reduced individual income tax rates in Oklahoma led to increased state revenues through sales taxes, indicating Oklahomans were able to keep – and in return, spend – more of their dollars.” Kansas began the decade with a lower individual and corporate tax rate, but a higher sales tax rate. Kansas raised its sales and corporate tax rates, as Oklahoma began reducing the individual income tax rate while its sales and corporate tax rates remained constant. According to Anderson’s paper, one of the effects of Oklahoma’s reduction of the individual income tax rate was an increase in economic activity as measured by sales tax collections. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2005, when the Oklahoma’s individual tax rate started to fall, sales tax revenues began to increase in relation to Kansas.’ “We plan to...

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Obamacare could have U.S. headed for disaster

Pat Roberts, U.S. Senator R-Kansas Ah, the words that come back to bite you. Remember the famous statement prior to passage of what is now called Obamacare: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it”? Whoops! Give President Obama credit; he doubtlessly believed that promise when he said it.  However, I didn’t and said so. Why?  Employers and health care providers told me that when the majority of the provisions of “Obamacare” would take effect, it would be more affordable for an employer to simply stop offering their employees coverage and pay a penalty rather than face the predictable increase in premiums and continuing to offer coverage. Now, these predictions have turned into facts.  A study released by McKinsey & Co., a consulting company, predicts large numbers of workers will be shifted into the health exchanges in 2014.  That’s a shift folks should be worried about. Today literally thousands of regulations and waivers are pouring out of the Department of Health and Human Services. And, to make matters worse, there is the predictable worry that the “exchanges” would be better described as something similar to Medicaid HMO’s — threatening access and choice of doctors, not to mention the rationing regime that will be the marching order of the day. You might be waiting in line to see a nurse clinician. At the time the President made...

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U.S. offers Kansas small businesses a $13 million boost

Gene Meyer KansasReporter TOPEKA, — More than $13 million in federal seed money for small business loans is headed toward Kansas, state officials and the U.S. Treasury said Wednesday. The funds, which were awarded under state small business credit initiative created by the federal Small Business Jobs Act signed last September, are meant to be matched with funds that small business owners raise privately as earnest money to qualify for what would become more than $132 million in loans from participating banks. “The program gives Kansas another tool to help us grow the economy and create jobs,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement announcing the funding. However, officials at the Kansas Department of Commerce, which will run the program, were unable to say how the new plan might fare against two bigger problems that banks say hamper business lending. Demand for business loans remains anemic as potential borrowers wait for surer signs of economic recovery before taking on debt and, bankers say, bank regulators in the new world of post-Troubled Asset Relief Program are too quick to clamp down on business loans that previously would have seemed sound. The Independent Community Bankers of America, representing about 8,000 community banks throughout the U.S., told a U.S. Senate banking committee last year that more than 52 percent of the members they surveyed said they’d cut back on business lending...

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Cramer Products pruchases Hayes – based Stromgren Athletics

                    Amy Cunningham [email protected] Gardner based Cramer Products, Inc., announced last week that it has acquired Stromgren Athletics of Hays, Kan. “We are extremely pleased and honored to make this announcement,” said Thomas K. Rogge, president and chief executive officer of Cramer Products.  “We have always been impressed with Stromgren’s reputation and commitment to quality. Their products complement Cramer’s family of products and are sold into the same channels. We’re thrilled to have Stromgren under the Cramer umbrella.” Stromgren is developer and distributor of sports medicine, compression and protective performance apparel. The company will operate independently from Cramer, with no changes to its staff or operation in Hays. “We’ve been familiar withthem for a number of years,” explained Tom Rogge, president and chief executive officer of Cramer Products. “Their ownership was looking for a transition and we were looking to grow.” He said that Cramer Products has more retail penetration than Stromgren, the brand can currently be found mostly in team sporting goods dealers rather than in typical sporting goods stores. “We’re in large national chain (retailers) and we hope to provide some leverage from our position to help get them in some retail (markets),” Rogge continued. Stromgren, founded in 1979, manufacturers and distributes athletic compression and protective apparel products.  Through their worldwide customer network of sporting goods dealers and...

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Train enthusiast hosts stop on Garden Railroad Tour

Amy Cunningham [email protected] It’s not odd to find a train buzzing through Gardner, but it is unusual to find a locomotive steaming through a local backyard unless you live near Raymond Manley in the Pumpkin Ridge. Manley, whose permanent Class G garden railroad was installed in his back yard in 2006, was featured on the 2011 National Garden Railroad Convention tour on Wednesday. Tour busses and individuals attending the convention, held in Ov erland Park, dropped by Manley’s home to check out the train enthusiast’s set-up. A 14-year Sprint employee, Manley has long had a fascination with the railroad. He once chased the world’s largest steam engine from Coffeyville, Kan. to Kansas City, Mo. where it was put on display as part of a train show. “My interest in the hobby comes from a real love for steam locomotives,” Manley said. “I have an appreciation for trains. Anyone who’s ever seen (a steam engine) operate in real life – it’s nostalgic. I got into the hobby because I enjoy it.” After following the steamer from Coffeyville and attending his first convention in 2004, Manley was inspired to create his own backyard line. Starting out with just 120 feet of track and one engine, the set up now includes over 700 feet of track and 26 engines. “I sit out here every weekend,” said Manley, overlooking his backyard with trains...

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Schultz receives Lifetime Achievement Award for student transportation

Mark Taylor [email protected] Nancy Schulz, Gardner, has been in the student transportation business since 1967. She started her career as a school bus driver in the Gardner area when she was asked to fill in for another driver. Schulz said she got the job because she knew how to drive farm trucks and because she had experience as a youth coach. “I didn’t apply for a job,” she said. “They called me and asked me to help them out.  I had never been on a school bus before. The gentleman who was our supervisor, Mr. Westhoff, knew I could handle the bus because I drove a big grain truck loaded with grain. I also coached ball and had grade school and middle school kids.” Her career led her to training other drivers and specializing in safety. She now works as manager of the First Student Kansas City Metro Training Center. Schulz, who is retiring this fall, was honored by the Kansas State Pupil Transportation Association (KSPTA) for 44 years of dedicated service to student transportation and safety. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the KSPTA last week. “It was very humbling,” Schulz said. “I was very surprised by it because I went to the awards dinner that night not knowing that I was going to get an award.” From her beginnings as a school bus driver to serving...

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Council decorum questioned

City council meetings shouldn’t need a Parental Advisory warning, but such is the case with the Gardner City Council, whose last meeting ended when the Mayor shouted “That’s bull——” at another council member. But it wasn’t just the language that was an embarrassment. From start to finish the Gardner City Council meeting on June 20 was disgraceful. The disconcerting behavior started early. Several residents addressed the council with concerns about the city’s animal ordinance which allows pit bulls in town. Council members discussed changing the ordinance to ban the breed of dog, but they never voted on the issue. Council member Larry Fotovich’s request to have the item placed on an upcoming council meeting agenda was soundly rejected, although the Mayor did say he would put the item on a work session agenda. When Fotovich asked the city’s attorney whether he could make a motion to have it put on a future agenda, the city attorney advised that the mayor wouldn’t have to entertain the motion. We find the attorney’s advice outrageous. Although Mayor Dave Drovetta sets the city council agendas, it is inexcusable that should a majority of council members request an item be placed on an agenda, he could deny that. It’s not good government; it discourages public input and the ability of council members to represent voters. Elected officials should work at the will of the — taxpayers....

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Gardner Municipal Airport to host Vintage Aircraft Fly-in

                    Amy Cunningham [email protected] For the fifth year area residents and plane enthusiasts will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with vintage aircraft at the annual Vintage Aircraft Fly-in held at Gardner Municipal Airport this Saturday. The event, sponsored by Vintage Chapter 16 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, will feature between 70 and 80 airplanes flying in from around the United States.  Dale Rose, spokesperson for Vintage Chapter 16 said last year his group hosted pilots from as far away as Florida and California. The group also expects local pilots from around the Kansas City Metro area. With several certified judges among their ranks, Vintage Chapter 16 will hand out awards to show attendees. “This is something to do to further the sport of aviation, it’s kinda like a car show,” Rose said. “People like to show their cars and (other) people like to go and look at the cars.” Rose believes that the show will have something for everyone to enjoy from airplane enthusiasts and history buffs to people interested in automobiles. “Everybody has a different type of airplane, none are the same. We’ll have vintage airplanes that date back as far as 1932,” Rose said. “We’ll just show some real nice old airplanes – we have one guy with a vintage airplane, he also has...

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