State Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, on Wednesday chastised Lawrence and Kansas University during the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce legislative priorities breakfast.
"KU and Lawrence are not very well-respected," said Brown.
He said many people across the state see Lawrence as too liberal. Brown said he sees signs in local businesses that read "Free Republic of Lawrence."
"That needs to change," he said.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, however, defended her hometown as one that recognizes equal rights for all.
"Maybe Lawrence is the conscience of the state," Ballard said. "Every community is different. Ours is different," she said.
Their comments came during the chamber event at Maceli's that was attended by more than 150 people. The 2011 legislative session starts Monday with Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, a Republican, and a much larger Republican majority in the Legislature taking office.
Several legislators praised the work that KU does, but said public universities need to do a better job of letting the Legislature know about their successes.
"The universities need to do a full-court press on the Legislature and tell them how they are creating jobs," said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City.
Higher education has been cut $100 million over the past two years because of tanking tax revenues that have caused cuts across most state programs.
The state still faces an estimated $550 million budget deficit, but that could grow to $850 million if a group of House Republicans have their way and repeal the 1-cent state sales tax increase that was approved during the last legislative session and went into effect July 1.
Brown said he will push for repeal of the sales tax increase and said there is a good chance the Senate will approve it too, which would leave the matter up to Brownback.
But Brownback has said he doesn't want to repeal the tax increase. He found an ally Wednesday in House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence. "I praise Gov.-elect Brownback for standing by the Legislature and resisting attempts to repeal that," he said.
Earlier in the program, Mayor Mike Amyx said the Brownback administration should look at Lawrence for examples of how communities develop businesses. "We can be the model," he said.
Other legislators who spoke at the event were state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, state Reps. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, and Ann Mah, D-Topeka, and state Rep.-elect TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City.