Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and higher education officials are facing a backlash after telling legislators that state universities need hundreds of millions of dollars to tackle a backlog in building repairs.
Some lawmakers simply aren't buying it.
"Why weren't they maintaining their buildings for the last two decades?" said Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, said Monday. "What has happened to the moneys we've been giving them to take care of their buildings?"
Sebelius has proposed a package designed to generate $575 million for repairs on state university campuses in the next six years. More than half the money would come from issuing bonds, then using Kansas Turnpike tolls to pay them off.
But as generous as Sebelius' proposal seems, the Kansas Board of Regents contends the backlog of critical repair projects is even larger and will grow more serious if legislators don't act.
"Right now, we have 55 acres of roofs that need to be replaced, 12 miles of steam lines and 1.1 million square feet of sidewalks and curbs," said Jon Wefald, Kansas State University's president. "Our buildings are falling apart."
The regents have been distributing pictures of decay and disrepair, and they have been noting when delaying a project has caused problems, such as last week, when human waste dripped from a leaky sewer pipe through ceiling tiles in a classroom at Kansas University.
Last year, the regents said their campuses had a backlog of $727 million worth of projects. After legislators questioned individual items, the regents trimmed $64 million of less critical projects from its list, making it $663 million.
But for some legislators, the regents still have a lot of list-shortening to do.
While the regents contend they need $84 million a year to prevent the backlog of projects from growing, House Speaker Melvin Neufeld contends $40 million is a more accurate figure.
"I think the package needs to be more of an actual needs-based package, of what do we really need to do this year and next year?" said Neufeld, R-Ingalls.