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Topeka — Fixing infrastructure problems at state universities would be good for the economy, higher education officials said Thursday.
The Kansas Board of Regents released a report that said addressing deferred maintenance at the six public universities would produce a $2 billion financial boost to the state by injecting money into the economy that would be spent several times over and creating nearly 14,000 jobs.
"As state policymakers continue to focus on ways to improve the state's economy, they need not look any farther than our crumbling state universities," said Reggie Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the regents.
The report, conducted by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University, comes amid a heated debate in the Legislature on how to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of repair projects.
The regents initially said there were $727 million in needed repairs. If funded, that would result in a $1.6 billion increase in economic output of goods and services, $468.5 million in increased earnings and 13,964 jobs, the report said.
The regents have since reduced the deferred maintenance list to $663 million of critical needs and said a $100 million per year increase in maintenance funding would allow schools to get a handle on the major repairs.
So far lawmakers have been unable to find a way to raise funding for the repairs.
They have floated many proposals, including increasing tuition, turnpike tolls, taxes and ticket prices, but none has been warmly embraced.
But contractors praised the new report, saying taking care of the deferred maintenance problem would improve higher education and the state's fiscal picture.
"University maintenance funding would create thousands of good-paying jobs that would benefit Kansas workers and the Kansas economy," said Corey Peterson, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Kansas.
If all projects on the $663 million repair list were done, the report said that would increase gross state product by $1.5 billion and earnings by $427.3 million and add 12,736 jobs.
Every $1 million spent on state university deferred maintenance projects would raise the gross state product by $2.2 million and earnings by $644,500 and add 19 jobs, according to the report.
The study cost $4,500 and was split evenly between the regents and regents institutions.