Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

House announces plan to fund repairs

Higher education officials say proposal falls short

April 19, 2007


— House Republican leaders Wednesday delayed committee discussion of repairs to universities, but then issued a news release saying they have a plan to fix the problem.

But higher education officials said that plan falls short of addressing the $663 million worth of repairs and maintenance at the six state universities, including Kansas University.

And the proposal carries most of the measures of an older bill that includes a possible sales tax increase in Douglas County and other regents counties.

Democrats, in the minority in the Legislature, said Wednesday that time was running out.

"My concern is that this is something we've been talking about and debating since the session started," said state Rep. Bill Feuerborn, of Garnett, and the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Lawmakers failed to resolve the issue of crumbling college classrooms during the session that started in January and adjourned earlier this month.

Budget writers have returned to the Capitol this week to work on a final budget before the full Legislature returns Wednesday for its wrap-up session.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, has asked lawmakers to approve $62.7 million for the universities to handle immediate repair problems and increase maintenance funds in the future. Included in that $62.7 million would be $8.8 million for utility tunnel work at KU and $7.9 million for replacing equipment at the Applegate Energy Center at KU Medical Center.

But the House Budget Committee took no action.

Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, announced that the committee wouldn't take up the issue of funding university repairs until next week.

"Hopefully, we could come up with recommendations at that time," she said.

But then, just hours after Schwartz's statement, the office of House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, issued a news release announcing "the House plan to resolve the deferred maintenance issue at Kansas universities and community colleges."

The release included quotes from Schwartz, in which she said that the Kansas Board of Regents "appreciates our determination to put together a fair plan that seeks to keep our students safe as they study and develop a framework for long-term budget planning."

But the regents weren't signing on.

"While this proposal certainly represents an impressive and positive step forward, it does not provide an ultimate solution," Regents Chairman Nelson Galle said.

"In the following days, the board will continue to work with House and Senate leadership, and members on both sides of the aisle, until a comprehensive funding solution can be identified," Galle said.

The bill touted by Neufeld, Schwartz and Appropriations vice chairman Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, would:

¢ Repay debt on previous crumbling classroom bonds to free up $15 million per year.

¢ Allow counties with regents institutions to increase their sales tax by 0.1 of 1 percent.

¢ Prepay research bonds to shift $10 million for maintenance.

¢ Provide $300 million in low-interest loans to universities and community colleges.

¢ Provide some state matching funds to schools if universities use privately raised funds for technology projects.

"While the state does provide for a majority of the funding, our plan also partners with regents schools and regents communities for some of the responsibilities," Tafanelli said.


KS 11 years ago

"Provide $300 million in low-interest loans to universities and community colleges."

Of all the nerve! Make a University be responsible for thier money and pay it back? Maybe there would not be any pork in their improvements, etc. Sounds like a good idea to me. Increasing the sales tax in Douglas County will sort of defuse a library, ice rink, etc. in Lawrence too. Let's live within our means. Think maybe someone in Topeka can see thru the smoke and mirrors?

Jamesaust 11 years ago

I remind readers that one does not need to reside within any legislator's district in order to contribute money for campaign expenses to their OPPONENT if that legislator seems unwilling or unable to fulfill their responsibility to carry out the State's obligations to its citizens.

Perhaps if locals spent less time squawking and more time writing checks this sort of situation would not occur again and again.

caveatguy 11 years ago

It is interesting that many here are concerned about the local sales tax proposal to support buildings at KU. Do you realize that KU is the main proponent of the very same thing in Johnson County... i.e. raising the sales tax for the purposes of higher education building and programs. This is being called the "Johnson County Research Triangle." -- So are you surprised that legislators think what is good for the goose is good for the gander? -- This is the Chancellor's agenda.

Jamesaust 11 years ago

caveat - they're not quite the same thing. The JoCo matter involves research that the State has no obligation to fund or provide - locals want the secondary economic benefits of the research dollars.

The six Universities do considerably more then research (educate, for example) and the State IS the body with a duty to provide. If the State doesn't want to fund KU anymore then they should cut them lose and let KU develop as a private university.

The State doesn't want to pay the piper but it still insists on calling the tune.

caveatguy 11 years ago

James, I believe you are mistaken. They are the same thing.
- - The main purpose of KU's proposal, is for significant new instruction space (not research) at the JoCo campus which is not related to research .

Commenting has been disabled for this item.