The Star – Maintenance plan clears final hurdle – Universities to get less than they want, but it’s “the best that we can do.”

Kansas City Star; May 1, 2007

KANSAS LEGISLATURE – Five-year plan approved: Maintenance plan clears final hurdle – Universities to get less than they want, but it’s “the best that we can do.”

TOPEKA Lawmakers knew the cost — a $663 million maintenance backlog at state universities and colleges.

In the end it was just too much money to find in one session.

They settled instead on $210 million in new revenue for universities. Bonding authority for $100 million will be available to Washburn University in Topeka and community and technical colleges, which would have to pay back the money over the next eight years.

The five-year package was approved Monday by the Senate 30-8 and a short time later by the House, 102-20.

Passage of the plan resolves a key issue of the 2007 legislative session and puts the Legislature in position to adjourn, perhaps as early as today, once final budget negotiations are completed.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican, said the Kansas Board of Regents had asked for “as much money as the Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to produce for K-12 education.” Lawmakers last year passed a three-year, $466 million school funding plan.

“I don’t think it was ever realistic to expect that a majority in both bodies was going to smile and say OK,” Schmidt said.

Reginald Robinson, the regents president, called the plan an important down payment.

“But as numerous legislators pointed out … it falls significantly short of the kind of comprehensive solution that would adequately and ultimately address this difficult issue,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said anticipated revenue from a casino gambling bill approved earlier in the session would allow lawmakers “to improve on this in the future.”

But several lawmakers said the plan amounted to a token gesture and didn’t go far enough in addressing maintenance backlog.

“This will be back on our plates in January” when the 2008 session begins, said Sen. Jim Barone, a Frontenac Democrat.

The approved plan was a compromise between a $545 million plan approved Friday by the Senate and a $233.2 million proposal approved the next day by the House.

“I believe that at this point in this legislative session, this is the best that we can do,” said Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, a Thayer Republican.

Supporters said it was the first time in years that the state had taken on the maintenance backlog issue.

“It’s probably not enough for some people and too much for others,” said Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff, a Wichita Republican. “But this is really momentous.”

It may not be very momentous for Johnson County Community College, however.

That’s because the college, unlike the state’s 18 other community colleges, has no projects on the current deferred-maintenance list.

Resolution of the university maintenance issue could spur compromise on the final challenge of the year, a wrap-up spending bill.

So far in the negotiations, a provision allocating money for a management audit of the Board of Public Utilities of Kansas City, Kan., has been taken out of the budget. Also excluded is money for a Feb. 2 presidential primary.

Money to eliminate waiting lists for programs for disabled people is in the budget.

Issues still unresolved — and therefore potential obstacles to compromise — include:

** Abortion provisions. The House added a requirement that would make late-term abortion providers submit more specific information about the medical diagnosis used to justify late-term abortions.

** Underage sex reporting. In the same provision, the House would require state health officials to report to law enforcement when they suspect underage teens are engaging in sex.

** University of Kansas Medical Center proviso. Another attempt at increasing oversight over affiliation talks between KU Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital. The House wants KU Medical Center to get an agreement signed with KU Hospital before any affiliation can proceed.

How they voted

Here’s how the Kansas House members from Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties voted on Monday’s university maintenance bill:

** Republicans voting yes: Pat Colloton, Leawood; Jeff Colyer, Ronnie Metsker, Tim Owens, Sheryl Spalding and Kevin Yoder, all of Overland Park; Kay Wolf, Prairie Village; Rob Olson and Arlen Siegfreid, both of Olathe; Terrie Huntington, Mission Hills; Stephanie Sharp and Ron Worley, both of Lenexa; Ray Merrick, Stilwell; and Kenny Wilk, Lansing.

** Republicans voting no: Anthony Brown, Eudora; Ben Hodge, Overland Park; Owen Donohoe and Judy Morrison, both of Shawnee; Mike Kiegerl and Lance Kinzer, both of Olathe.

** Democrats voting yes: Stan Frownfelter, Margaret Long, Louis Ruiz, and Valdenia Winn, all of Kansas City, Kan.; Candy Ruff and Marti Crow, both of Leavenworth; Cindy Neighbor, Shawnee; Gene Rardin and Sue Storm, both of Overland Park.

** Democrats voting no: Tom Burroughs, Broderick Henderson, Mike Peterson, all of Kansas City, Kan.

Here’s how the Kansas Senate members from Johnson, Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties voted on the university maintenance bill:

** Republicans voting yes: Barbara Allen and Dennis Wilson, both of Overland Park; Karin Brownlee, Olathe; Nick Jordan, Shawnee; and Roger Pine, Lawrence.

** Republicans voting no: Julia Lynn, of Olathe; John Vratil, Leawood; and David Wysong, Mission Hills.

** Democrats voting yes: Mark Gilstrap, Chris Steineger and David Haley, all of Kansas City, Kan.

Author: JIM SULLINGER and DAVID KLEPPER, The Star’s Topeka correspondents
Section: NEWS
Page: B1

Copyright (c) 2007 The Kansas City Star