Lawmakers discuss money matters over breakfast

By Paul Harris

Saturday’s Eggs and Issues breakfast featured five local politicians discussing a smorgasbord of issues from NBAF, to education, to transportation funds.

The most frequently discussed item may have been the prospect of additional support for the NBAF. President Obama called that project into question by eliminating funding for the facility from his 2013 budget. State Sen. Roger Reitz said the question is an open one, although he hoped the state did not go into debt over it.

“If we want and need these things, we need real money,” Reitz said. “If it’s important, we will get it done.”

The redistribution of highway funds was also discussed. Currently, the Kansas Department of Transportation’s State Highway fund receives $320 million, but there is a plan to freeze the funding level until FY 2014-2015, when the fund will receive $581 million.

Most lawmakers were supportive of efforts to maintain the highway appropriations. “Kansas has the best roads in the United States and we need to keep those things in good working order,” said Reitz, who is on the Senate’s transportation committee.

None of the lawmakers favored Gov. Sam Brownback’s new education funding idea. Beginning in 2013-14, the state would provide $4,492 per pupil. Local districts would need to raise extra money through property taxes.

“Rich communities are going to get more money than the poorer districts,” Rep. Sydney Carlin said.

Rep. Tom Phillips said he is going to talk to Supt. Bob Shannon about the proposal’s impact on area schools.

“What we have currently may not be so bad,” Phillips said.

Reitz said he does not believe the governor’s proposal will pass.

He was equally vocal about Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s idea to move up the requirements for proof of residency in voting registration by six months.

“We need this like we need a hole in the head,” Sen. Reitz said. “We need to encourage rather than restrict.”

Carlin said the new restrictions will hurt voter registration.

“There won’t be any more League of Women voter registrations,” she said. “It is illegal to copy naturalization certificates. I don’t want to disenfranchise voters.”

Phillips said Manhattan is ready to handle the new requirements.

There was also discussion of creating a “rainy-day fund,” in which excess revenue would be placed for state emergencies. Some lawmakers wondered whether it would be possible to do that while also addressing the shortcomings in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System or KPERS.

“Watch what happens to KPERS at the end of the session,” Reitz said.

He added that some lawmakers have not kept their promise on attaining the necessary funds to take care of the $8.3 billion gap in funding.

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