Wichita — The longest serving member of the Kansas Legislature has filed for bankruptcy, citing leftover debt from a failed business venture and an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Paul Feleciano, D-Wichita, filed for federal debt protection Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, listing liabilities of $234,199 and assets of $98,932.
Feleciano, 59, said he believed he had to file for bankruptcy to arrange for his family's financial future as he approaches retirement age.
"This was not a decision I made lightly," Feleciano told The Wichita Eagle.
The full-time lawmaker's financial troubles began in the late 1980s after the failure of a Park City truck stop development in which he was a partner, court records and his attorney indicated.
Feleciano's wages have been garnisheed since 1994 by South Central Kansas Economic Development District, a creditor in that deal, records show.
Adding to his woes, Feleciano still owes more than $27,000 for his 1998 long-shot bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, the records said.
"It's an unfortunate situation - I just wish him well," said Edward Nazar, the lawyer representing Feleciano.
As a senator, Feleciano makes about $1,971 per month, but after the garnishment and retirement payment, he brings home about $1,500, the records show. He listed his monthly expenses in the filing as $2,425.
Feleciano's wife is a nurse. Her salary was not included in the filing.
Feleciano first served in the Kansas House from 1973 to 1977 before winning election to the Senate. He is up for re-election in 2004.
Feleciano is the ranking Democrat on two of the Senate's money-handling panels, the Ways and Means Committee and the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.
Those committee assignments could make Feleciano vulnerable if he seeks re-election after filing for bankruptcy, political science professors said.
"I have reservations about politicians who can't manage their own finances, whether they have the ability to handle yours and mine," said C.G. Chacko of Friends University in Wichita.
Feleciano, who got 52 percent of the vote in defeating challenger Bill Gale last year, said he hasn't decided whether he will run again.