Trustee Hodge uses post to blast triangle tax plan

Johnson County Sun, April 25, 2007

Trustee uses post to blast triangle plan
BY: Jack “Miles” Ventimiglia, Editor

Less than three hours after the triangle bill signing, a conservative Kansas House member who holds a second elected position as a Johnson County Community College trustee, Ben Hodge, used the college board meeting as a forum to oppose the triangle.

“One of our most important roles is taxation and that is why I’m speaking here. Arguably, this does not directly affect the college, but there is much more evidence that this would,” Hodge said April 19.

Hodge said he did not want anyone to come away thinking the college board favors the triangle.

Trustee Jon Stewart said later the board does not oppose the plan, either.

“My concern is that this will take money away from other worthwhile causes, including we are told that $500,000 would fix a whole lot of problems around here – with regard to people who cannot afford to go to this school,” Hodge said, without explaining how the triangle plan would reduce college funds.

Hodge said the construction part of the triangle would cost less than $20 million, but paying off the loan would cost more than $500 million. He then criticized Sens. John Vratil and Barbara Allen for not placing a “sunset” clause on the proposed tax.

“The people behind this don’t have an appreciation for taxation,” Hodge said.

Supporters have said the tax covers construction and ongoing personnel costs.

Board Chairman Lynn Mitchelson said, “As I understand it, first of all, this has to have legislative approval, then it has to have approval through the County Commission to be on the ballot, and then the voters have to approve it, so I think the democratic process will be served.”

“Actually, this was bulldozed through,” Hodge replied.

“Now, wait a minute, don’t you believe a vote by the voters – they’re the ones entitled to determine whether this is the taxation they want?” Mitchelson asked.

“If you’re asking me whether the voters elect people to just hand things to them-”

“If the voters are able to vote on this taxation,” Mitchelson said, “aren’t they able to express themselves as to whether they want it?”

“They are. It’s a question of whether that is truly the leadership they’re truly asking for.”