KC Star – Lawmakers consider repealing bi-state pact

Posted on Mon, Mar. 05, 2007 — Kansas City Star

Lawmakers consider repealing bi-state pact
By DAVID KLEPPER and JIM SULLINGER

TOPEKA | Sixteen years after Kansas and Missouri agreed to the first bistate compact to renovate Union Station, some Johnson County lawmakers want to end the compact.

“People are tired of all these taxes and big schemes,” said Rep. Judy Morrison, a Shawnee Republican.

The first bistate tax helped pay for the renovation of Union Station. The second, which failed at the polls, would have paid for arts projects and the remodeling of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums.

Any future project funded by a bistate tax must be approved by voters in both Jackson and Johnson counties.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Ben Hodge, an Overland Park Republican, would repeal the bistate accord. It would pull Kansas out of the deal, probably killing the compact entirely.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on the bill last week. Rep. Arlen Siegfreid , an Olathe Republican and the committee’s chairman, said he considers the issue a Johnson County matter. Before holding a committee vote on the bill, he said, he would poll Johnson County lawmakers on their views.

Judging from lawmakers’ comments last week, the bill is likely to elicit some heated discussion. Several referred to the compact as a Jackson County “money grab.”

Morrison called those behind the bistate efforts “elitist.” She also said that “unless you live in Johnson County , you don’t know what it’s like” to contribute so much tax revenue to causes outside the county. She said Missouri should look after itself.

Hodge argues there’s nothing preventing Kansas , Missouri and local governments on both sides of the border from cooperating without bistate plans and joint sales taxes.

“I think the people of Johnson County are getting weary of this,” he said.

Bob Vancrum, the lobbyist for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, defended the bistate compact and urged lawmakers to oppose the bill. He noted that voters have shown they will pick which projects to support or oppose.

The mystery of the eminent domain loophole in Senate Bill 316 has been solved. Olathe wants the bill to attract a professional soccer stadium.

The issue was first raised a week ago and delayed action on the bill.

Sen. Tim Huelskamp , a Fowler Republican, found a section of the bill that appeared to create a loophole in a 2006 law prohibiting taking private property for future ownership by a private business.

Sen. Karin Brownlee, an Olathe Republican and committee co-chairwoman, said the problem has been fixed, making the bill ready for debate by the full Senate.

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