Topeka An anti-tax group has ranked Sen. Sandy Praeger last among Kansas lawmakers in protecting taxpayers during the past legislative session.
"From a taxpayer's perspective, Sen. Praeger has been fitting in with the tax-and-spend environment in Topeka," Karl Peterjohn, executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, said Friday.
Praeger, the Senate vice president and a candidate for state insurance commissioner, on Friday defended her votes for tax and fee increases during the 2002 session.
"There was just no way to get out of this budget crisis without raising more revenue," the Lawrence Republican said. And she criticized the network's ranking, saying the group was "not telling the whole side of the story."
Facing slumping tax revenues, the Legislature and Gov. Bill Graves increased state sales, motor fuels, cigarette and inheritance taxes by about $300 million.
The taxpayer group gave Praeger a rating of 8 percent based on a calculation of 19 Senate votes on taxes, spending increases and other budget matters. That placed her with four other senators with the lowest rating. No House member scored that low.
Praeger noted some of the votes cited by the group included support of increases for public school financing and increased taxes for highway building. "There is nothing more important than education, and highway construction creates jobs," she said.
But Peterjohn noted Praeger also supported construction of tunnels to connect office buildings to the Capitol, and $750,000 to strengthen the Capitol dome to put a statue on top of it. "The spending boondoggles in and around the Capitol continue," he said.
Praeger said the tunnels were needed to provide security for state employees in the Capitol complex, and the funds to shore up the Capitol dome will honor a commitment the state has made to put up the statue.
Peterjohn said Praeger's performance during the session was consistent with her lifetime record. The group started rating lawmakers in 1996. Praeger has a lifetime rating of 25 percent, according to Peterjohn's group.
Here's a look at its rating of other local legislators for 2002:
Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, 16.3 percent.
Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, 28 percent.
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, 24 percent.
Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, 66 percent.
Rep. Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin, 38.3 percent.
Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, 76 percent.
Sen. Bob Lyon, R-Winchester, 96 percent.
The Kansas Taxpayers Network Web site is home.southwind.net/~ktn, but the 2002 legislative vote rating is not posted yet.