PITTSBURG — State officials met with members of the public at the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce office for a legislative briefing Friday.
Senator Jake LaTurner and Representatives Monica Murnan and Adam Lusker met with a full house at the chamber office to discuss current and upcoming developments in this year’s legislative session, as well as answer questions from the public.
The three officials said shortfalls in the state budget were the number one topic being discussed in Topeka.
“The big name of the game up there is budget shortfalls,” LaTurner said. “There’s a bunch of plans being brought forward. I’ve seen six on the Senate side.”
He said options range from borrowing money from a pooled money investment fund, cutting K-12 education funding, delaying KPERS payments and more.
He also discussed Senate Bill 147 which would repeal the LLC loophole. The bill will be discussed in committee Monday and Tuesday.
“It won’t pass,” LaTurner said, adding that it is simply a way to get the conversation started.
Murnan said the process is as slow as she had heard before starting her freshman year in Topeka. However she said the tone has been great.
“The tone was a pleasant surprise,” she said. “There’s a big group of bipartisan freshman representatives that meet, and from my knowledge that hasn’t happened since 2002.”
She also expressed worry about the delay to find a solid plan for budget shortfalls.
“I wake up thinking one more day we haven’t told schools or high education if they’re getting cut this fiscal year,” Murnan said. “I think the longer we wait the harder schools are hit by cuts.”
Murnan is serving on the Social Service Budget Subcommittee as well as the Health and Human Services Committee. She discussed KanCare expansion hearings that will begin next week.
She said she has heard loud support for expanding KanCare.
Many members of the public asked questions regarding legislation to repeal a campus carry law. LaTurner chairs the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, which oversees that legislation. He said a bill to repeal has not made it out of committee yet.
“In 2013 I voted for a four year grace period to give universities time to prepare,” LaTurner said. “I am still comfortable with that vote.”
Another popular topic was the Highway 69 Project.
“Best we can tell the light at the end of the tunnel is a train,” Lusker said.
He said right now legislators have to focus on revenue and getting it back where it needs to be before getting back to Highway 69.
Lusker also discussed a bill that will go before the Federal and State Affairs Committee Tuesday.
The bill, if approved, would lower the tax rate that parimutuel racing facilities pay on slot machines from 40 percent to 22 percent.
Lusker said 22 percent is the rate state-owned casinos pay, so this bill would level the playing field, as well as open up the possibility of reopening the Camptown Dog Racing Track in Frontenac.
“It’s estimated that the dog track would create 650 jobs, and it will bring $1.4 million in property tax to the county if it reopens,” Lusker said. “Racing is an attraction that brings people in from out of state.”
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.