Legislators who attended the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast today were hit with tough questions from constituents from the local business community.
Rep. Jessie Branson, D-Lawrence, told the audience of chamber members that it was nothing new for local lawmakers, who have been dealing with tough questions from the moment the 1990 session started in January.
"I don't know of a session with more challenging problems to face," she said.
Early in the meeting, Mrs. Branson and the other representatives who attended were asked whether they were going to support a Senate-passed resolution that would send changes in the property classification system to the voters.
Although the resolution is the first dealing with sticky property tax problems brought about by the reassessment and classification amendments to gain the necessary votes in either chamber, lawmakers indicated today that it has a ways to go before it gets through the House.
REP. BETTY Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence, said she had problems with the amount of property tax relief the Senate plan would give homeowners as well as the increase she said would be passed on in apartment rents.
Rep. Joann Flower, R-Oskaloosa, worried that an increased assessment rate on utilities would be passed on to consumers. Mrs. Branson said she was concerned about the amount of help the resolution gives homeowners and its effect on business machinery and equipment. And Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, also listed the effect on homeowners and renters as his concerns.
Legislators also spent part of the breakfast program talking about the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services budget. It was this appropriations bill that kept the Legislature in session until the early hours last Sunday morning. The bill also triggered Gov. Mike Hayden's claim that lawmakers are overspending and has raised the possibility of a veto and the need for a special session.
SEN. WINT Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, spoke in defense of the SRS budget. Winter was a member of the Senate committee that put together an appropriations bill that exceeded an SRS budget passed by the House by $21.8 million and Hayden's budget by $56 million.
"The SRS bill is a reflection of what's happening to society as a whole," Winter said, citing increased caseloads for foster care, babies addicted to crack cocaine and even advances in medical treatments that raise health care costs.
He also said most of the increases in the governor's budget were required to meet federal mandates.
"What do we do, ignore these costs?" he asked. "We have an extremely difficult situation facing us."
Also during the meeting, Winter and Mrs. Branson issued a warning about lottery funds earmarked for economic development, which supports such things as the Centers for Excellence at Kansas University. Both lawmakers said this funding could be in jeopardy when the veto session opens April 25.
"Everything is on the table," Winter said.