- Regentsrepairs will require a lot of dough (04-18-07)
- Regentslobby for $47.7 million down payment on campus repairs (04-17-07)
- Sixuniversities in search of a state (04-15-07)
- Lawmakerblasts repair funding proposal (04-13-07)
- Regentsuse survey to appeal for repair funding (04-12-07)
- Neufeld:City benefits from KU and should pay for repairs (04-05-07)
- Actionon deferred maintenance likely to be postponed (04-03-07)
- House,governor split over repair costs (04-01-07)
- HouseBill 2593 (.pdf)
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Topeka 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.