Archive for Saturday, April 28, 2007

Senate’s repair plan rejected by House

Representatives to work today on deferred maintenance compromise

April 28, 2007


How they voted

The proposed $630 million, five-year plan to address deferred maintenance at institutions of higher education.

The measure was approved in the Senate, 36-4.

Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, Roger Pine, R-Lawrence, voted for it.

A motion to accept the plan in the House failed 51-71.

Reps. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, voted to accept the Senate plan.

Reps. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, and Kenny Wilk, R-Lansing, voted against the Senate plan.

— Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, the Kansas Board of Regents and the state Senate on Friday pushed for passage of a $630 million, five-year plan to repair buildings and infrastructure at state universities.

But the proposal got demolished in the House after conservatives started referring to it as the "$1 billion plan."

State Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, added up the new funds and universities' current spending on maintenance for five years to come up with the billion-dollar figure.

"Think through this and what kind of commitment you are making," Schwartz said.

But state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said it was misleading to call it a $1 billion expenditure because the proposal included $200 million in loans that the universities had to pay back and hundreds of millions of dollars in other costs that would not affect the state's tax-supported general fund.

Nevertheless, Davis' motion to accept the Senate proposal failed 51-71.

House members planned to try again today to fashion a compromise on deferred maintenance and the final budget of the session. Meanwhile, the Senate ran out of bills to work on and adjourned until Monday, which means the wrap-up session that started Wednesday will spill into another week.

House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said state Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, and state Rep. Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett, were working on a new maintenance plan.

Asked if that would win approval, Neufeld said, "This time of year, you don't want to project too far ahead."

Earlier, momentum seemed to be building after the Senate voted 36-4 for the $630 million plan.

The deferred maintenance issue has been the top priority of universities, including Kansas University, all year. The schools have claimed a backlog of $663 million worth of repairs on their campuses.

Sebelius praised the Senate plan, saying the longer the Legislature waited, the more expensive the problem would get.

"I think it's the old adage that if you're in a hole, stop digging," she said. "What we need are world-class universities if we're going to keep good jobs in Kansas ... so allowing these buildings to deteriorate is just not a very sensible approach."

But when the proposal crossed the Capitol rotunda into the House, it ran into trouble.

Conservatives said the price tag was too high.

State Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy, said it was unfair to give the regents an increase in funding after the universities had implemented steep tuition increases over the past five years.

Schwartz urged her colleagues to hold off voting for the Senate plan to allow consideration of a smaller plan that was approved earlier Friday in the Appropriations Committee.

But Davis said there was no way for the Legislature to get around paying the bill.

"We have to pay for this either now or later," Davis said. "If we put this off farther, it's just going to cost us more money."

Universities have said inadequate funding over the years had led to hundreds of needed repairs, some critical to ensure the safety of students.

So far this year, numerous ideas have been floated to pay for the repairs, including increases in taxes, tuition and turnpike tolls. But none of those took hold.

When the Legislature, however, adopted a plan earlier this session to expand casino gambling, higher education officials quickly staked their hopes to capturing some of those gambling dollars.


topeka411 10 years, 11 months ago

Paul Davis continues to be a shining light in an otherwise dim crew in the Kansas House. How long are we going to have to wait for the rest of the representatives to understand that these university buildings belong to the state and they need to finance their maintenance? The current House leadership seems intent on keeping any real new money away from deferred maintenance. Shame on them.

roger_o_thornhill 10 years, 11 months ago

Short sighted sons of...well, at least the statehouse will look good. Maybe, just maybe if the overpaid bums on the hill (Oread) as well as in T-town were given the heave-ho there'd be more money for what is actually important. Maybe student rec. facilities are not a priority either. How many millions have gone there? How many more are going there in the near future? But so what if Wescoe is falling apart (literally) and the roof of Watson leaks onto the books and pipes are bursting in Mallott leaking sewage onto people just so long as the kiddos have a rec. center to use as a pick-up joint. And pro sports right on campus. PRIORITIES!!!!!!!! Now, I don't want to hear about $$ allocations from alumni assoc. or endowment because if either organization really cared, they would have no problem investing in academic activities--you know, the whole point of the damn University. Oh I forget, it is like everything else in this country--another way to make money. Profits first-product second? BS!

oldgoof 10 years, 11 months ago

my my Roger. Time for some Malox? .. look for even the neanderthal conservatives in the House to adopt some plan...... highly reduced from request, with smoke-and-mirrors that make it sound big (like 'loans' from the state) but is not..... some minimal plan.

..but in a few years, when the issue needs to be addressed again because of this, the people here shouldn't be bit* that they have never heard of this issue before.

yourworstnightmare 10 years, 11 months ago

"State Rep. Bill Otto, R-LeRoy, said it was unfair to give the regents an increase in funding after the universities had implemented steep tuition increases over the past five years."

This person is making critical decisions about important matters? Jeez. This is not a zero-sum game. I wonder what gthe response would be if other government institutions, such as the militatry and pentagon, were required to operate under a zero-increase budget.

Folks, running a research university is expensive. Either pay for it, or don't, and let KU slide further and further behind until it is no more than a teaching college.

sinedie 10 years, 11 months ago

The Senate had a decent plan, but it lacked the necessary oversight provisions. If more money is to be given to the regents we ought to at least follow up and make sure that it's spent responsibly. Part of the reason we are where we are is that this was not done to begin with. Of course the other part is the legislature ;)

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