Sam Brownback: If Wyandotte County doesn’t get STAR bonds, then NOBODY gets STAR bonds!

Sam Brownback wants the American Royal to relocate to Wyandotte County so much that one almost gets the sense that he owes someone a favor.

We’re not saying that he wants to deliver the goods for a livestock organization that has several board members who donated to his re-election campaign, we’re just saying that Brownback wants the American Royal in Wyandotte County really, really badly.

So much so that he says he’s willing to kill off STAR bonds for the rest of the state if the Kansas Legislature overrides a line item veto on the corporate welfare tool that’s being contemplated for an American Royal-anchored development planned for western Wyandotte County.

In a statement out Tuesday, Brownback warned lawmakers not to press forward with a veto override on STAR bonds for the American Royal project. Or else…

“As I said in my veto message, no county should be singled out in the manner contained in the budget proviso. I am hereby informing the Legislature that the Department of Commerce will not approve any new STAR Bond projects in any other county. This policy would apply to any project not yet approved by the Department of Commerce, and is within my authority under Article 1, Section 3 of the state Constitution.

“I note that the vetoed provision would effectively be repealed by the enactment of other legislation containing certain STAR Bond reforms. My administration has been working with the Legislature on those reforms and will continue to do so. I look forward to receiving acceptable legislation before the end of the session. In my view, this approach to reform is much preferred over that taken in the budget.”

STAR bonds are a powerful incentive that allows developments to keep the local and state sales taxes that it generates to pay off certain project costs. For example, if you, Mr. Developer, have a $100 million project that gets $50 million in STAR bonds, that’s $50 million that would otherwise go to government services that you don’t have to spend or borrow. It’s the only kind of welfare that Brownback likes.

Western Wyandotte County is full of STAR bond projects (Children’s Mercy Park, The Legends, Kansas Speedway) but apparently needs another to get the American Royal, an organization that even incentive-loving Kansas City, Missouri took a pass at throwing more taxpayer money at the organization.

But Kansas lawmakers are finally growing so tired of spending all their time flipping over couch cushions to keep state government running that they’re not keen on giving up a potential source of revenue for another development project. 

It’s funny to think of Brownback, a guy who doesn’t believe gay people should get married or that poor people should be able receive welfare, suddenly has misgivings about singling things out.

Update 4:16 p.m.: The threat didn’t work.

Sorry, Sam.

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