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Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Local leaders to legislators: Go easy on bills

January 9, 2008

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Local officials and lawmakers meet

Do no harm. That's the advice local leaders gave to state lawmakers on Tuesday as they prepare to head back to Topeka for the upcoming legislative session. Enlarge video

At a breakfast meeting Tuesday, local leaders implored legislators to "do us no harm" when they considered bills in the upcoming legislative session.

And, in response, legislators told them the upcoming session would probably be one of the more difficult ones in recent years. Among the reasons they cited: Lawrence's active opposition to the coal power plants in Holcomb.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment rejected the permits necessary to build the plants, angering western Kansas lawmakers.

"We will have fallout for the coal plan decision and there's no way around that," said Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence. "Some of our priorities may be put on the back burner."

Although it was not entirely unexpected, that wasn't good news for the leaders of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, the meeting's sponsor, the city of Lawrence, Douglas County, the Lawrence school district and Kansas University. Nonetheless, they still have ambitious legislative agendas.

Randy Weseman, Lawrence schools superintendent, said the district wasn't so much asking for money from the state - though that would be nice - as it was asking for the state to empower the district to generate more money on its own.

"We're really not pleased with the requirement of holding an election in order to increase the local option budget," he said.

The local option budget, based on property taxes levied in the community, accounts for about 30 percent of the district's budget. If the district wants to raise the portion of local support to the state maximum of 31 percent - an extra $750,000 - there must be an election.

Weseman also said Lawrence schools were beginning to see teacher shortages, which he expected to be much more dramatic in the next five to 10 years.

Both Bob Johnson, Douglas County commissioner, and Dave Corliss, Lawrence city manager, said their biggest priority for this legislative session would be finding a way to maintain existing levels of service without raising taxes.

"Because of the housing decline and lack of sales tax collection, the only way we're going to be able to get the revenue increases we projected is to increase taxes," Johnson said. "No one wants to do that."

Corliss echoed that comment and said the best thing the state could do was not take local taxing authority away from the cities and counties and not pass along any unfunded mandates to governments in an effort to cut state spending.

KU presented a legislative agenda that has already been fleshed out. In addition to more money for deferred maintenance and the increase in the general higher education block grant, Kathy Damron, KU's main lobbyist in Topeka, touted the expansion of the School of Pharmacy in Lawrence and Wichita as a major goal.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she expected that the expansion in Wichita, as well as Lawrence, would give that project a strong chance of success despite a tight budget.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said he thought one of the most important activities of the upcoming legislative session would be laying the foundation for a new comprehensive transportation plan in 2009.

"We're going to talk about (that) plan, and it is going to require a significant tax increase," Sloan said.

Comments

monkeyhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

Weseman wants a tax increase.

At least we can vote on that one.

Bob Johnson, Douglas County commissioner, and Dave Corliss, Lawrence city manager, don't want a tax increase, but "the only way we're going to be able to get the revenue increases we projected is to increase taxes".

How could their projections be so wrong? We can only hope to have a vote on that one.

"Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said he thought one of the most important activities of the upcoming legislative session would be laying the foundation for a new comprehensive transportation plan in 2009.

"We're going to talk about (that) plan, and it is going to require a significant tax increase," Sloan said.

That word "significant" is scary. Do we get what we pay for in this city and state? Wouldn't it be nice to live near the beach?

Since the market is worried about recession, and many signs point to that, why are all of our leaders talking about tax increase? I do understand that a fake prison is sorely needed, but what if we want to keep some of our money instead of spending it on empty buses? Why do the little people have to bail out the big government?

Now, more than ever, we need an accounting of where our money goes (and went), starting at the local level.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"Finally, I find it childish that the legislature is going to focus on_Lawrence_in regards to this plant."

It's the same logic that prompts BushCo sycophants to whine about "Bush-haters." It's impossible for them to argue against the fact that Bush is the worst president in US history, so they go for the emotional distraction.

Likewise, it's difficult to argue that the coal plant proposal isn't a really bad idea, so they resort instead to saying that everyone in the east (particularly Lawrence) "hates" western Kansas.

monkeyhawk 6 years, 11 months ago

its_getting_warmer:

You don't give them enough credit. The merrils and boozos know exactly what the consequences are, and they don't care as long as they can cram their agendas down the throats of all they oppose. It is all about them and their views and everyone else be damned.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"they don't care as long as they can cram their agendas down the throats of all they oppose. It is all about them and their views and everyone else be damned."

Seems a perfect description of the poor "oh they hate us, why don't they let us build a power plant that's a really stupid idea" folks, and the current city commission for that matter.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"Just another reason why the rest of Kansas is blaming Lawrence for the Coal plant decision."

Blame? Construction of the plant would have had negative consequences for the whole planet, all to satisfy the greed of a handful of people, who promised jobs to a few dozen. Get over yourself, warmer, and try to do something constructive, as the Land Institute is doing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"Bozo, I AM doing something constructive. I am calling for the denial of the renewal of the more polluting power plants in Lawrence and Jeffrey Energy Center."

Calling for something that isn't going to happen isn't "doing something."

Those plants will be closed only when there is a comprehensive energy plan that will allow it without creating economic and humanitarian disaster. That's precisely what the Land Institute's project will be working for, not the intellectual dishonesty you offer up.

janeyb 6 years, 11 months ago

Tax increases in an election year? Don't think so.

Tighten your belts legislature, local governments and school districts just as your constituents are having to do.

Minimalism might be the best idea for this year's legislative session.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm stating a simple fact, warmer. Sorry if it doesn't jive with your (whiny) fantasy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

BTW, warmer, I have no doubt that the coal industry will be buying up lots of legislators, both in the east and the west (the west doesn't have the votes to do anything by themselves) to override the KDHE ruling. And they might just succeed. But stupidity fueled by blind greed only lasts so long, and eventually, coal plants will be shut down. If the Sunflower plant ever gets built (and that's far from certain) it may be on the short list.

snowWI 6 years, 11 months ago

its_getting_warmer (Anonymous) says "Not that ag and water policy issues are not worthy of discussion, they most certainly are:.. but not in the manner that SnowWI and Cool freely post things which are patently false."

Plenty of family farms exist in this state. What I am saying is that the average farm size is becoming LARGER over time. Most younger people are leaving the more isolated rural counties and have been doing so for decades.

snowWI 6 years, 11 months ago

its_getting_warmer, You sure love talking to us posters about western Kansas quite a bit when you do not even live there. I will be back on this issue occasionally when something new happens, but the coal plant decision stands for now.

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