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Topeka Tax increases, casino gambling, turnpike tolls and student fees were among a smorgasbord of possible solutions that a Senate task force proposed Monday to pay for major repairs at the state's six public universities.
The failure to come up with a specific recommendation shows the severity of the problem, said Sen. Jean Kurtis Schodorf, R-Wichita, task force chairwoman.
"It was difficult for people to make choices. This was the best we could do," Schodorf said. "It doesn't have to be pretty."
The task force has been meeting for more than a month, studying the $660 million in repair and maintenance projects plaguing the schools, including Kansas University.
But in the end, task force members couldn't agree on a definite plan.
Instead, the task force came up with two major options to generate approximately $100 million per year to chip into the backlog of repairs, which university officials say have built up because of years of underfunding.
One proposal calls for a single source of ongoing revenue, such as expansion of gambling.
The other option includes multiple sources of revenue, including a property tax increase of 1 mill, a $5 to $15 per-credit-hour maintenance fee on students, a one-tenth of a cent increase in the sales tax in counties that have public universities, and a 10 percent surcharge on ticket sales for university events.
Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, noted that many of the proposals were controversial "but could be part of a final plan."
Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, Janis Lee, D-Kensington, and David Wysong, R-Mission Hills, voted against the multiple revenue source option.
The task force also identified as a viable option Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' proposal to increase turnpike tolls as part of a $575 million, six-year plan.
Schodorf predicted it will become more difficult to agree on a funding plan as the session, now near the halfway point, progresses.
The maintenance problem has increased year after year because lawmakers have been unable to make the tough choices to fund the repairs, she said.
"The reason we haven't done this before : we haven't been able to get the votes," she said.
Despite the lack of a specific recommendation, Kip Peterson, a spokesman for the Kansas Board of Regents, said he was pleased with the task force's work.
"All seven members of the task force agree that deferred maintenance is a serious issue that has to be addressed," Peterson said. "I'm optimistic a comprehensive funding solution will soon be identified."