Daily Archives: Feb. 4, 2009

County cancels next week’s commission meeting for retreat

Sedgwick County commissioners won’t meet Feb. 11, instead deciding to spend most of the day in a retreat to talk about the budget and financial issues.

The retreat, which commissioners attend every year, will start at 9 a.m.  Feb. 11 at the fire station at 7750 N. Wild West Drive in Park City. The meeting is open to the public.

House budget debate starts, school cuts lessened.

Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, questions House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, about changes to school spending cuts on Wednesday in the Kansas House of Representatives.

Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, questions House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, about changes to school spending cuts on Wednesday in the Kansas House of Representatives.

TOPEKA – The budget debate has started in the House and the first move was an amendment to reduce cuts to schools by about $15 million.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved $322.6 million in cuts to this year’s budget, which ends June 30. That included a 1.5 percent reduction to spending for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, who chairs the committee, lessened the cut to 1 percent in the first amendment. The move would equal a decrease of $66 per pupil student spending versus the $88 reduction schools would have faced in the starting proposal. The move adds about $16 million in spending back into the budget.

The amendment passed 75-47 on a roll call vote.

Lawmakers face a budget gap that could grow to $1 billion in 2010 if nothing is done. All the changes pertain to the current budget year, which ends June 30. Current estimates show the state falling about $200 million short of funds for this year.

The proposal also adds $12.4 million for services for people with physical disabilities and $4 million for those with developmental disabilities.

The House proposal make public schools a priority while still protecting the state’s most vulnerable people, Yoder said when he introduced the bill. “These are necessary evils.”

Yoder warned that there would be more cuts in 2010 and said he wasn’t sure that the current budget reductions would be enough to accommodate falling revenues.

“Really what we are trying to do is keep up with that sinking ship,” he said.

Layton already drives a hybrid

Last fall, the city put 12 hybrid Honda Civics on the streets. Now there’s another hybrid in the coveted front row parking spot at City Hall, and it has Iowa license plates, a Chicago White Sox license frame and an Iowa Hawkeyes sticker on it. That would make it City Manager Robert Layton’s car — a hybrid Mercury Mariner. (Layton calls Chicago home, but worked in Iowa for a bit more than 25 years.)

When the city rolled out the Civics, it said the cars would $8,400 a year in fuel. But the cars cost $22,782, which is more than the old cars the city bought, so it will take a while — about five years — for the cash savings to be felt.

Coal plant debate back in Topeka

TOPEKA – Two years after a state regulator rejected plans to build two coal plants in Western Kansas, supporters are back before lawmakers hoping to resurrect the project.

Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and a broad business coalition urged a panel of lawmakers to take away the regulator’s discretion to block environmental permits when they meet all federal requirements. They say the decision was arbitrary and will result in higher electric bills and fewer jobs in Western Kansas.

“We can’t regulate on a whim,” said Sunflower vice president Mark Calcara. “At what point do our freedoms end and tyranny begin?” Read More »