Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2006

Candidates stake positions on higher ed

October 26, 2006

If elected, what would you do, if anything, to pay for deferred maintenance and repairs at Kansas institutions of higher education?

What would you do to ensure higher education is accessible in light of significant tuition increases? Would you support a tax increase to pay for the repairs and make higher education more accessible?

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Democrat: "Even though I inherited a billion dollar deficit when I took office, funding for higher education has increased under my administration, and my budgets have been balanced. I will keep higher education a priority in my second term. I have worked around the state, and the globe, to make sure our regents institutions remain pinnacles of research and scholarship in areas such as bioscience. Staying a leader in this field, and many others, will bring in the private dollars, grants and royalties needed to supplement the state aid to our fine institutions."

In addition, her campaign added:

"The more we cut waste and grow this economy, the more money is freed up in the budget to send toward our regents institutions.

"Under Gov. Sebelius, state aid to higher education has increased over the past four years and has been directed towards programs and initiatives that the Board of Regents has identified as top priorities.

"In the 2006 legislative session, the governor signed legislation that allows for additional funding for deferred maintenance by investing the interest on state accounts to assist in funding additional maintenance work.

"As the Board of Regents continues to work on the issue of deferred maintenance, the governor will continue to work with them to address the problem.

"But the only way it will ever happen is if the regents institutions have a leader in the governor's office who values higher education as playing a vital role in growing our economy as Gov. Sebelius does. She will continue to work with the Board of Regents on deferred maintenance and other challenges."

State Sen. Jim Barnett, Republican: "As a product of our Kansas Regents institutions, I am committed to ensuring we have first-class facilities for our students and protect the investment of Kansas taxpayers. The maintenance of our universities is just one of many unmet needs facing our state. KPERS, the state retirement system, has a multibillion-dollar unfunded liability, the current highway plan is nearing completion, and countless others. A vibrant economy, with more Kansans working and more businesses growing, will create a larger tax base to support the types of services Kansans need."

In addition, his campaign added:

"Dr. Barnett does not believe increasing taxes on families is the answer to making higher education more affordable. Instead, he has proposed a $500 increase in the dependent exemption, which could be used by families to pay for educational costs.

"Currently the Educational Building Fund receives about $30 million from a 1 mill statewide property tax. Half is used to pay for the 1996 building projects, and the other half for additional repair projects. The Board of Regents should prioritize the maintenance issues as they have greater visibility of the particular needs of each university.

"Sen. Barnett's education and economic package included additional money for regents institutions. The latest budget projections, based on this year's school bill, shows a third year shortfall and does not include any additional dollars to the regents."

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