TOPEKA — Regulatory burdens piled on small businesses by state and federal government frustrate Gov. Jeff Colyer as much as it does Kansans who can do little more than complain.
Colyer, a surgeon who previously owned a 25-employee medical practice in Johnson County, told members Tuesday of the National Federation of Independent Businesses that he would use the office of governor to do something about the state’s contributions to tangled web of government intrusion.
“Here’s what drives me crazy,” he said. “In my practice, two-thirds of my staff would work on the administrative side and one-third was dealing with the clinical side. The exact opposite of where it should be by any stretch of the imagination.”
He pledged to operate the executive branch more like a business and strive toward budget efficiencies and delivery of better customer services.
NFIB members meeting with Colyer at the Capitol liked the governor’s idea of posting to a website measures of each state agency’s work. They urged him to include statistics on how active the Kansas Department of Commerce was in recruiting businesses.
Another suggestion was to document the per-mile cost of fixing state highways and separate out administrative expenses. Colyer was told the state’s online system for registering businesses was clunky. Another person said she would appreciate reviewing details of the state’s effort to improve foster-care programs.
“There’s things we can do a whole lot better,” Colyer said. “We, as a state, can be much more efficient.”
Colyer, who took over in January after resignation of Gov. Sam Brownback, said the state’s economic advantage compared to rival states were its central location in the United States for transporting goods, presence of a quality workforce and the solid K-12 and university education system.
He said the state had 48,000 job vacancies and a modest unemployment rate of 3.4 percent. Closing that gap involves investment in job training initiatives and developing a better response to substance abuse that undercuts the ability of Kansans to obtain and retain a job, he said.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, also spoke with members of the business organization.
Wagle said the most significant issue for the 2018 Legislature was responding to the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision that state aid to public education was unconstitutional.
She said previous and future investments in K-12 school districts made it difficult to invest in other state government priorities such as highways, disability services, early childhood education, foster care and dozens of other areas.
She said state government employee wages, with few exceptions, had been allowed to fall far below market rate.
“Right now, we put more money into education than any other state in the Midwest,” Wagle said. “We put hundreds of millions of extra dollars into K-12 education while everything else has suffered.”
She said the time had come for the Legislature to “pay more attention to make sure agencies are functioning.”