Archive for Sunday, May 5, 2002

Members pass measure placing gambling machines at racetracks

May 5, 2002


— The Kansas House on Saturday rejected a variety of tax increases and approved casino-style gambling.

The House action keeps in play the possibility of expanded gambling in Kansas, while the refusal to increase taxes throws the deficit-ridden budget into limbo and increases the odds of a long overtime legislative session.

"At this point, it's clear we haven't reached any consensus in regard to the revenue," House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, said.

After a 90-day regular session, lawmakers returned to the overtime session Wednesday and by thin margins approved a $4.4 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

But that budget is about $300 million out of balance and also has been criticized for keeping flat state spending on public schools, higher education and social services.

On Saturday, House leaders attempted to bridge that gap, using tax proposals like bait and trying to lure a majority to bite. But repeatedly, House members spit out the hook.

Democrats reject proposals

Glasscock said the tax proposals offered by Republicans failed because Democrats wouldn't go along with the proposals. Republicans hold a 79-46 edge in the House, and 63 votes are needed to pass a measure.

Glasscock said he will meet with House Democratic Leader Jim Garner of Coffeyville on Monday to determine what kind of tax package would get Democratic votes.

Garner said Democrats disliked the tax proposals because they would have been a greater burden on those who could least afford it.

The House rejected increases in the state sales tax, cigarette tax and inheritance tax. It also rejected eliminating sales tax exemptions for customized computer software purchases, wholesale film leases, green fees at public golf courses, and purchases by Parent-Teacher groups.

Garner also said Democrats want more budget concessions because he said too much of the proposed budget is dependent on one-time moneys, such as raiding state fund reserves. "Are we putting duct tape on the budget and not solving anything?," he asked.

Gambling narrowly approved

But while House members opposed taxes, they approved, without a vote to spare, placing electronic gambling machines at pari-mutuel racetracks. The measure passed in a dramatic showdown, 63-60, which is the minimum number of votes needed to send the proposal to the Senate.

Voting on the proposal was allowed to continue for 40 minutes to allow some House members back into the chamber.

The margin went back and forth and the measure was stuck on 62 votes until Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, a chief supporter of getting a casino, returned. He said he had been away from his desk to telephone his niece on her Confirmation Day.

The gambling bill allows electronic gambling machines at pari-mutuel horse and tracks, and one additional area that hasn't been determined yet.

The casinos would essentially be under the authority of the Kansas Lottery, which would contract with companies to run the games. Two-thirds of the net income from the machines, minus winnings, would go to the game operators. The state general revenue fund would receive 25 percent, while the remaining moneys would be divided between the host city and county and various other funds.

Officials say the state will probably receive no additional funds for the next fiscal year, but once the casinos are operating, the state will receive about $80 million per year.

In other developments:

 The Senate voted 31-6 to increase base state aid for public schools from $3,870 to $3,890 per student. Funding for the $12 million increase has not been provided yet. The Senate also rejected an amendment that would have taken $10 million in federal funds that are being used to construct tunnels around the Capitol and directed those instead to local projects.

 A House-Senate conference committee on congressional redistricting postponed meeting until Monday. The Senate has approved a plan that will place Lawrence in the 2nd congressional district, while a House plan would split the city between the 2nd and 3rd districts.

 A conference committee proposal to build research facilities at Kansas University, Kansas State University and Wichita State University is expected to win final legislative passage Monday in the House. The facilities would be built with $120 million in state-authorized bonds. The measure also includes $13 million for an aircraft research lab in Wichita. House approval will put the measure before Gov. Bill Graves for his consideration.

 Legislation that would allow Douglas County to hold a vote on whether to increase the sales tax by one-quarter of a cent is being considered by a House-Senate conference committee. Under the bill, revenue from the levy would go toward purchasing land for open-space preservation and economic development.

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