Despite the well-intended efforts of many state and local elected officials, Kansas is in its fourth consecutive decade of economic stagnation.

There is a steady population loss from more people leaving and fewer people coming to live here. The gap between Kansas and the national average on job creation and economic growth that began in the early 1980s is getting worse as government spending dramatically outstrips inflation, creating more state deficits, which, in turn, makes it more difficult to live here.

These negative trends can be stopped without increasing the tax burden on individuals or employers. We should explore options to improve the quality services from state and local government by looking at common sense solutions. We believe a large part of the answer lies in helping government become more efficient and effective by taking an entrepreneurial approach.

That’s not an anti-government sentiment as recently alleged in a Topeka Capital-Journal commentary on the formation of Kansas Policy Institute’s new Center for Entrepreneurial Government.

The center will help citizens, and elected officials explore possible solutions to the many economic challenges facing Kansas with a variety of services. We’ll highlight successful efforts to provide quality services at lower costs by state and local elected officials across the country. Working with business leaders and government, we’ll help identify barriers to success, such as regulatory issues and electric rates, and explore possible solutions.

The budgeting process is not designed to easily identify efficiency opportunities, so we’ll make national experts available for free consulting services.

Kansas won’t improve by continuing to fund new initiatives that only increase state and local tax burdens. Encouraging more people to come or stay in Kansas requires a different approach.

Citizens and government alike must approach these challenges with an entrepreneurial mindset, trying to understand what it takes to attract more "customers" without making life more difficult for existing residents.

Michael Austin is the director for Sandlian Center for Entrepreneurial Government at Kansas Policy Institute.