Archive for Friday, March 2, 2001

Senate rejects compromise on lottery

March 2, 2001

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— The Senate rejected a compromise bill extending the Kansas Lottery's life Thursday as Republican leaders opposed a provision to use lottery revenues to lower fares at Kansas airports.

The vote was 28-11 against the compromise, drafted by three senators and three House members charged with reconciling differences between the two chambers' versions of the measure.

The compromise bill would have kept the Kansas Lottery in operation until July 1, 2008, six years past the July 1, 2002, abolition date now set by Kansas law. The House approved a six-year extension; senators amended the bill to make it only two years, but their negotiators conceded.

The most contentious issue in negotiations was whether to include a House proposal to spend $4 million in lottery revenues to lower airfares. The Senate didn't debate the concept when it approved its version of the lottery bill.

Senators had agreed to include the airfare proposal in the compromise measure and force a vote. Many of them wanted to send a strong message to House members that they didn't want the airfare proposal included.

"It does not belong in this bill," said Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson.

While senators debated what message they were sending, the House's lead negotiator, Rep. Doug Mays, received the one Kerr and other Republican leaders intended to transmit.

"I think we've gone as far as we can with that provision as part of the lottery bill," said Mays, R-Topeka.

He said he hopes the conference committee can draft a new compromise the same proposal minus the airfare provision and have the Senate consider it Monday. If that happens, the House could approve the bill Tuesday and send it to Gov. Bill Graves.

"I just want to get rid of it," Mays said.

However, not all senators conceded that their vote sent a clear message.

Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, called it "a charade." He said the Senate has yet to debate how lottery revenues are spent, which he said was what Kansans want discussed.

The lottery is expected to raise about $60 million for the state during the fiscal year that begins July 1. Much of the revenue will go to economic development programs, with some set aside for education programs and prison maintenance.

Supporters of the airfare proposal said it would increase travel from Kansas airports and stimulate the economy. They said high fares are galling, especially because of the presence of major aircraft manufacturers' plants in Wichita.

"The air capital of the world is the most expensive place to fly out of," said Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita. "Is there something wrong there? I think so."

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