Below is a briefing of the economic issues facing the citizens in Boys State of Kansas. Government entities may use this information as needed to define and understand challenges or to prioritize initiatives for the progress of the city. Each issue does not be addressed, and entities may decide that a challenge included in the briefing is either not a problem or not one that needs to be prioritized.

Budget Management As with any body of government, city councils have to manage their income and expenditures while also maintaining basic public health, safety, and education. Over the last several years, Boys State counties have come to face some of the following problems: State budget cuts in a variety of areas have made it increasingly difficult for counties to police their jurisdictions. Although Boys State does also operate with its own Highway Patrol, issues of local public safety have still been historically enforced by local police forces, a task that has become more difficult to do. Over time, counties have had to decide how many officers to employ for effective enforcement while also meeting budget demands, how much funding to provide local law enforcement, as well as how to regulate and fund local fire departments and first responders. However, while almost everyone agrees that public safety is essential, the citizens of Boys State also always concerned about the amount of tax money they will have to pay, as well as their support and/or fear of law enforcement based on personal experiences. County commissions and city councils have to consider how to balance desires for public safety with the other desires and concerns expressed by Boys State citizens. Tax concerns are always present, as was just mentioned. Citizens from Boys State already pay money to the federal, state, and county governments, and they have a wide range of opinions on how much else they should have to pay, leaving city councils with the additional challenge of funding their cities while also listening to the concerns of their citizens, especially after a recent tax increase raised the sales tax in some counties as high as 9.05 percent. This became even more concerning to some citizens after products they consume, such as tobacco, received a state tax increase a well (in the case of tobacco, the tax increased 50 cents per pack of cigarettes). Although the county cannot control taxes levied by the state, it does still have to work with citizens who have questions about how much more they will have to pay.

Employment, Job Growth, and Business Attraction Job growth has slowed in the last decade in each county, although the reasons for such a decline remain contentious. Last year, the state government expressed confidence in the change in figures, a job growth rate that levelled out from negative figures to a flat rate of 0.0 percent, an improvement that still places the state at seventh-worst job growth in the country. Although each county remains at the mercy of decisions made by the state, some argue that counties should take the lead in promoting job growth. Some even believe that the responsibility should be devolved to the cities. How to accomplish this, though, remains open to question. Which policies best attract business remains among the most contentious topics in politics. Many argue for the need to reduce taxes to reduce the financial burdens faced by new businesses, but some fear that a reduction in taxes will lead to a decrease in the social services provided by the state (higher funding for schools, social welfare programs such as SNAP and WIC, etc) due to the cuts in spending some believe should follow a tax cut. Conversely, some argue that businesses can be best bolstered by an increase in government investment (via increased spending) to ensure that businesses have the financial resources needed to compete. Such an increase in spending could be funded by a tax increase, deficit spending, or both. Economic research provides data displaying benefits and downfalls to each set of policies.

The “Skills Gap” In the years following the Great Recession, the United States as well as Boys State has seen an increasingly common complaint from employers that the supply of skilled laborers is not sufficient to fill the job openings that these employers are posting. This phenomenon has been popularly referred to as the “Skills Gap”, and many groups have stepped forward to voice their opinion on why such a phenomenon exists and whether or not it is a problem for Boys State. Critics have also stepped forward to question whether or not this gap actually exists, and point to the fact that it may just be a symptom of employers becoming overly picky in their selection of new hires. Since the rules of economics still very much apply to labor, which is in concept a service that is being supplied by the labor force to employers, similar positions to those seen from different groups on the supply of goods and services have been presented for the supply and demand of skilled labor. The role of the Boys State government has been called into question by different groups  in relation to this perceived issue. Some groups and employers have called for Boys State to incentivize workers to increase their skills by offering grants to workers pursuing vocational degrees, while critics of this viewpoint assert that this would be a wasteful use of taxpayer money. Other groups voice their concern that the “skills gap” is an issue that is purely created by employers themselves, and wish for employers to decrease their skill requirements for potential employees. This move would require Boys State to decrease regulatory requirements for employees in certain sectors. The Boys State Department of the Humanities has already made moves similar to this in the past few years, moving to decrease and make less specific the requirements of those seeking teaching certificates in order to remedy a shortage in available teachers. Additional viewpoints would like the Boys State administration to do nothing at all even if such a “gap” does exist, citing the opinion that government intervention within the “free market” of labor could cause the supply of skilled labor to be in surplus, and thus decreasing wages in the future and causing increased unemployment in this job sector.

Minimum Wage Boys State’s minimum wage has remained the same for close to 8 years. Currently, the minimum wage is based off of the federal minimum wage, which is in turn based off of a Consumer Price Index of common goods that are required for everyday life such as food and clothes. The arguments for and against the status quo of minimum wage are numerous. Those desiring an increase in the minimum wage point out that in a two person family unit with one income-earner, minimum wage would just barely put said family unit above the poverty line. Those opposing, however, point out that minimum wage exists for those workers with “minimum skills,” and that if one is unhappy with being paid minimum wage, they should work to increase their human capital. Over the past few years, some of Boys State’s more populist factions have proposed an increase in the minimum wage for Boys State’s workers. The argument for such a move is that it would help low-income families pay for needed expenses, such as health care, food, clothing, and transportation. It is also argued that it would allow low-income students to help to pay for their education-related expenses, if they are working to put themselves through vocational, technical, or long-term schooling. The argument is also presented that an increase in available funds for the lower and middle classes, who spend more of their income, would cause a short term boost to the economy due to increased consumer spending. The opposition to this movement claims that an increase in minimum wage would adversely affect small businesses in Boys State, as labor tends to be the most expensive cost for smaller businesses. This opposition also argues that increases in minimum wage disincentivizes higher education. It is also pointed out that drastic increases in minimum wage will cause increased inflation in the long term. The Boys State government, if it wishes, can change the minimum wage at state, county, and municipal levels. The benefits and shortfalls of action at different levels vary. Change at the county and city levels can be more customizable to the needs of their constituents and the cost of living in their area, but it has been argued that this could be taken advantage of, as workers could commute from lower-minimum-wage areas. Change at the state level would allow for an even wage across the state, and would ensure that cities and counties didn’t try to adjust their minimum wage to attract potential businesses to their areas. The government also, as always, has the ability to do nothing, and allow the minimum wage to continue to be based off of the federal minimum wage.

Task: Determine those issues that appear significant to your city or county and develop actionable experiments to address those challenges. Monitor the progress of these experiments to decide if further action needs to be taken. Experiments may take the form of city ordinances, collaboration between cities or counties on joint measures, or any other measure deemed necessary.