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Archive for Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Bond bill could bolster development

April 15, 2003

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— The state could issue bonds to help revitalize downtown Wichita and other sites throughout Kansas under a bill on its way to the governor.

Sales tax and revenue bonds -- or STAR bonds -- would apply to projects worth at least $50 million each in investments and projected sales revenues. Only projects of "regional or statewide importance" are eligible. The bonds would not apply to casinos.

Money from the bonds would help build infrastructure such as roads and highways, not buildings or storefronts. The bonds would be repaid with sales tax revenues within 20 years.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has until Monday to sign the bill, Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran-Basso said.

Having STAR bonds several years ago helped developers decide to build the Kansas Speedway and nearby shopping center in Wyandotte County instead of Missouri, said Senate Commerce Committee chairwoman Karin Brownlee.

The city of Olathe, in neighboring Johnson County, hopes likewise to use STAR bonds to build a hotel, conference center and arena, said Tim McKee, vice president of economic development with the city's chamber of commerce. The Olathe Chamber of Commerce has been working on the project for several years and having STAR bonds would solidify plans, McKee said.

STAR bonds could potentially create statewide economic growth and bring in tourists from other states, he said.

"The economy that we're in now, anything we can do to help bring in projects to the state of Kansas would be a bonus," McKee said.

Any city or county could establish the bond projects and submit them to the secretary of commerce for approval. Local governments also would have to study the potential effect on other businesses in the area. If other businesses could be hurt by the project, the secretary could not approve it.

Now that the bill is heading to Sebelius, the city of Wichita is completing plans for an anchor retail store along WaterWalk, a 30-acre site with offices, housing and stores along the city's canals, said Ed Wolverton, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

The bill requires Kansas Inc., the state's economic development think-tank, to study the cost-effectiveness of STAR bonds in tax revenues and earnings for businesses.

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