Kansas University may not have as much support among legislators for the immediate rebuilding of Hoch Auditorium as previously thought, a local senator said.
"I've talked to some people (legislators) over here," said Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence. "They say, `Build a new building at KU? Are you kidding? We've got homeless people, a property tax revolt."
Winter and KU Chancellor Gene Budig expressed optimism before the 1992 Legislature covened this month that the Legislature might commit $1 million this year to plan Hoch's rebuilding and $17 million in subsequent years to pay for construction.
Hoch was gutted by fire in June after it was hit by lightning. The campus landmark wasn't insured, but the state maintains a self-insurance program. Essentially, that means the state doesn't insure most campus buildings, but pledges to repair damage when disaster strikes.
ALTHOUGH Gov. Joan Finney didn't endorse an appropriation for Hoch, Budig said earlier this month that "funding for Hoch planning is a real possibility. There is growing legislative sentiment about its importance."
Winter said that as he approached this year's session, he, too, believed that it would be possible to make the case for Hoch.
"After all, that was a natural disaster. The building was used, in part, for classrooms. It's an easy sell, right? No," he said.
Winter said other legislators told him: "`If I had another extra $1 million, the last thing I'd do is go build a new building at KU.'"
Rep. George Teagarden, D-LaCygne, chair of the House budget committee and a member of the Legislature's joint building committee, said Hoch might not be funded this session.
"A LOT of people believe that since we supposedly self-insure that we ought to pay for it, but they also realize right now that we might not have the money to commit $18 million," he said.
Teagarden said his reading of legislators is that the state can't afford reconstruction of Hoch this year.
Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said if the joint building committee endorses funding for Hoch, the project stands a much better chance of gaining approval of the House and Senate.
"The Legislature needs to reaffirm a commitment to stand behind the self-insurance policy," Solbach said.
His sentiment is shared by the Lawrence legislative delegation and KU officials.
Solbach said one way to come up with $1 million this year for Hoch would be to cancel the state's upcoming presidential primary.
BUDIG said the university needs Hoch to fulfill undergraduate instructional obligations. It represented 7.3 percent of KU's classroom space, he said.
"It's played many important roles in its 64 years, but one of its most vital uses was as a large classroom and testing facility," Budig said.