Visitors from Home
This week it was great to visit with Carolyn, David and Travis Quillin. We talked about the legislative agenda of our soil conservation districts as well as a more general discussion on the issues facing all of Kansas especially the economic opportunities available for our residents.
Dr. Trzaska, President of Seward County Community College/ATS, was in town for meetings. There is a push in the legislature to change the funding formula for tiered technical education. This change could result in less state funding for our college and others in Southwest Kansas. Another concern we talked about was the implementation of service areas for the public four year institutions without any approval from our local college.
At Thursday’s Agriculture Committee I received a report from the Local Food and Farm Task Force. The report talked about higher profit crops that could be grown in Southwest Kansas. I was pleased that a member of the Task Force was David Coltrain. David is the Sustainable Agriculture Program Specialist at SCCC. Agriculture is the base of our economy. Increasing sustainability, adding value, and increasing the profitability of our local Ag economy are vital to our community’s economic growth
Highway 54 Bid Letting
The first phase of the Highway 54 four lane expansion project in Seward County was bid out last week. It is my understanding this phase is the portion of Highway 54 by the ethanol plant. The successful bid came in around $4 million less than program estimates. On Highway 83 the intersection for US160/K144 intersection north of Sublette will also receive a major upgrade.
This week I learned that the $400 million in KDOT bonds that were issued last year (to cover the $385 million in KDOT transfers to the general fund) were interest only until 2025. Most bonds begin amortization of principal when they are issued, like a home mortgage. I do not believe it is fiscally conservative for the state of Kansas to be issuing interest only bonds. Just as troubling is the fact that the bonds were issued in this way without legislative input.
On Wednesday the Governor signed a $20 million, 15-year lease-purchase deal for a new state power plant without legislative approval. In fairness, lease purchase agreements do not specifically require legislative approval but it was widely viewed in Topeka as an end-run around the Legislature. Items of this nature are normally handled through the legislative appropriations process, especially when it involves putting state buildings up as collateral. The original estimate for the project had been $9 million with the final cost rising to $16.4 million. With the cost of financing added in, the total bill gets to $20 million. Legislators that serve on the State Building Committee had recently asked for a new feasibility study to determine whether it still made financial sense to proceed with the demolition of the Docking Building and to build a new power plant or if instead the existing power facility and a portion of the Docking Building should be preserved. Instead of issuing the requested feasability study so that legislators could evaluate the costs, the lease-purchase deal was executed.
Both of these issues have added to the distrust in Topeka. I will be working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to drill down for more answers and determine what measures need to be put in place to ensure proper oversight and fiscal responsibility.
I will be having my next Legislative Coffee Saturday, January 30th at 10 am at Spencer Browne’s Coffee House. Please come by and let me know your thoughts.
Please reach out to me regarding issues with our state government that I can help with. I do ask that you send the request to me by email. My email address is: Shannon.email@example.com
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“I say that power must never be trusted without a check.
” (John Adams
Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Please contact me anytime. My email is: Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org