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TOPEKA, Kan. – Americans for Prosperity Foundation-Kansas (AFPF) filed a Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) complaint today against the Department of Commerce (“Commerce”) after the agency failed to provide documents requested by AFPF over a year ago regarding a Commerce-run corporate welfare scheme called the Sales Tax and Revenue (“STAR”) Bond program.
The 2021 KORA request sought access to all internal or external studies or reports, project feasibility studies, and e-mail communications about the STAR Bond program. While Commerce did provide small batches of the requested documents several months after AFPF filed its request, the agency has yet to provide the final batch of records and instead has extended its response deadline eleven times. The final set of records should include e-mails sent to or from the accounts of Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland and his chief of staff about STAR bonds. Commerce has not offered any detailed explanation for its interminable delay.
Along with demanding Commerce provide those e-mails, AFPF also requests the Attorney General’s Office to open an investigation into how Commerce responds to KORA requests—including AFPF’s request. This is not the first-time complaints have been made about how Commerce handles KORA requests related to its economic-development programs.
AFPF-KS State Director Elizabeth Patton issued the following statement:
“It shouldn’t take more than a year to access public records from a state agency running a corporate welfare program with over $1 billion worth of bonds. If Commerce is slow-walking KORA request responses because of perceived political sensitivities, it should be held accountable.”
STAR Bonds are a corporate welfare program that allows private development projects to be financed by government bonds backed by taxpayers. Sales taxes related to the development are used to repay the bonds. There is little evidence that STAR Bonds are effective at accomplishing their stated objectives, such as increasing tourism to the state.
An audit by the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit raised serious concerns about the projects funded by STAR Bonds and potential harm to taxpayers. The audit found that only three of the sixteen STAR bond projects it reviewed met the tourism metrics for the program. Previous studies have also questioned the claims of job creation from the STAR Bonds program.
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