Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gambling is hot topic at breakfast

March 29, 2007

State Rep. Kenny Wilk didn't have much time to rest between a meeting Friday that lasted until 3 a.m. and a 9 a.m. Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast Saturday morning.

He was up all night discussing the 2007 gambling proposal that moved to the Senate on Monday. The Senate denied the bill last year.

"It was a rough ride," he said. "Worse than the education bill last year."

He, along with State Sen. Mark Gilstrap, discussed several issues including the extension of lottery money, as well as the working week and franchise tax at the Riverfront Community Center.

The gaming proposal would make casinos eligible for Wyandotte, Sedgwick, Ford, Cherokee and Crawford counties, providing a minimum capital investment of $225 million and a privilege fee of $25 million. Those locations were chosen, Wilk said, because they are high-traffic areas already bringing in tourism.

Part of the proposal would also provide 2,200 slot machines to be distributed among racetracks at The Woodlands, Wichita Greyhound Park and Camptown. A 15-year moratorium on the expansion of casinos was to be decided on Monday, as well.

Wilk said Gilstrap could probably expect a late night himself on Monday.

Gilstrap said he supported the generated revenue from the casinos and was frustrated other senators didn't view the lottery the same as gambling.

"We have funny senators in Topeka that will support the lottery bill, which generates $65 million," he said, "but not the five counties out of 105, they don't want them to have expanded gambling."

On Wednesday, a franchise tax reduction was passed, which provides social security benefits for income tax purposes for certain taxpayers and taxes certain businesses.

Gilstrap supported a phase out last year, but not this year. He said he's trying to get the bill in conference and he's trying to support his caucus, but said he will end up supporting it. He predicted the franchise tax would most likely be exempted over the social security tax also proposed, but not both, he said.

Wilk said he'd like to phase out the franchise tax, which is the oldest state tax, created in 1863, he said.

"It was increased in 1992 in response to a budget crisis," he said, stating that the tax needs to be corrected or eliminated, because it doesn't help Kansas businesses.

Union workers pushing for the elimination of the waiting week got what they wanted last week. Gilstrap said it was a partisan issue but the Republicans and Democrats supported a compromise to eliminate the waiting week after a four-week time period for unemployed individuals.

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