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Topeka — The Kansas Legislature on Monday approved an approximately $380 million, five-year plan to repair crumbling classrooms at higher education institutions, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said she would sign the measure into law.
The flurry of action broke a months-long deadlock over the issue of deferred maintenance in which universities claimed to need $663 million to fix a backlog of repairs and maintenance projects.
But even with movement on the issue, state leaders said the fight wasn't over.
"While the Legislature has taken a step forward, I don't think anyone believes that they've solved the problem," Sebelius said. "We're clearly going to need to revisit this issue, probably next session."
Sebelius and lawmakers had searched in vain all session for a way to pay for the repairs, which universities had said were due to years of inadequate funding. Proposals to increase taxes, tuition and turnpike tolls all failed.
The plan that finally gained legislative approval included $90 million in guaranteed state funds for universities, including Kansas University; $100 million in loans for community colleges, technical schools and Washburn University; and tax credits to lure private donations for repair projects on all campuses.
"Clearly, this is an initial down payment," Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said after the Senate approved the measure 30-8. Moments later the House concurred 102-20.
Some legislators vowed that more funding would be raised for universities in future years from the new law that expanded gambling.
But opponents of the bill argued the proposal was little more than a temporary fix and did nothing to take care of the backlog of repair projects.
"We will be losing ground in the deferred maintenance race if we pass this bill," said state Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood.