Topeka — To pay for a backlog of repairs at Regents universities, some lawmakers have floated proposed increases in tuition, taxes and turnpike tolls.
All have met strong opposition.
"There's something about those 'T' words that sets everybody off," Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, joked Wednesday.
Now lawmakers are fighting another 'T' word: time. There is less than two weeks left before the first adjournment of 2007 legislative session.
On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on a new proposal - Senate Bill 377 - but didn't get much further toward resolving the problem.
"Hopefully before too long we'll come up with a solution," said Chairman Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer.
The Kansas Board of Regents has said the state's six public universities need about $660 million to make numerous repairs and renovations on their campuses. Some of the repairs are needed for health and safety reasons, university officials have said.
Lawmakers have discussed the issue all session but have failed to come up with a solution.
Regents officials said they need about $100 million per year in maintenance funds to handle the problem - approximately $85 million more than they currently receive.
"The problem is critical and the need is substantial," Diane Duffy, vice president of administration and finance for the Regents, said. "There is no easy solution."
SB 377 would provide about $43 million in the next fiscal year and allow the Regents to make no-interest loans for repairs.
But in discussing the problem, several senators said the Regents needed to do more than ask the Legislature for funding.
"This is a team effort," Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said. "What things are you doing to help us help you," she said.
And Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac, said universities should consider using their endowment funds to help pay for the deferred maintenance.
He said many people make contributions to the endowments with the understanding that the funds will go toward areas of greatest need. He said repairs could be considered great needs.