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Recent Kansas Editorials

May 21, 2019

The Kansas City Star, May 19

Missourians subsidize KC stadiums to tune of $3 million per year. When will Kansans chip in?

Professional sports teams play an integral role in our region’s economy. Thousands of local sports fans from both Kansas and Missouri cheer on the Chiefs and the Royals at the Truman Sports Complex each year, and the economic benefits from the two stadiums ripple across the metro area.

But when the bill comes due for the upkeep of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums, only Missourians are chipping in.

Last week, Missouri lawmakers approved House Bill 677 requiring the state to shell out $3 million per year for the next decade for maintenance at the Truman Sports Complex. It’s an extension of a 1990 measure authorizing the payments. An additional $2 million per year is allocated to maintain Bartle Hall.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jon Patterson of Lee’s Summit. The legislation would extend funding until 2031, when the leases at Kauffman and Arrowhead expire for the Royals and the Chiefs.

The measure also includes funding for the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. The facility could get $2.5 million annually for 10 years starting in fiscal year 2022. For the following decade, it could receive 4.5 million each year.

When it comes to maintaining Kansas City’s stadiums, Missourians should not shoulder the responsibility alone. Kansas needs to be a part of this equation.

Jackson County pays $3.5 million per year for stadium maintenance, while Kansas City provides $2 million annually.

So, Kansas City residents are taxed three times for the stadiums: first as city residents, then as Jackson County taxpayers and again as residents of Missouri.

Kansans who still have easy access to the Truman Sports Complex get a free ride.

Inevitably, many Kansas politicians will be resistant to the idea of pitching in to pay to maintain two stadiums that are situated in Missouri. But in the interest of bistate cooperation, residents from both states that reap the benefits of the stadiums should share the cost of upkeep. And $3 million is a modest price to pay.

“It’s a worthy investment,” said Jim Rowland, executive director of the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority, the entity that operates the Truman complex. “That $3 million generates $27 to $31 million each year in direct taxes alone.”

Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a Republican-turned-Democrat from Overland Park, said she would be willing to listen to any requests regarding the budgetary needs of Kansas teams that play in Kansas. But she does not support sending Kansas tax dollars to Missouri unless Kansas taxpayers make that decision.

“I think that a vote on a bistate tax is appropriate to bring to the people so that they can make that determination at the ballot box,” Clayton said. “Kansas is struggling to recover from eight years of financial mismanagement, and we need every penny for our core services.”

Clayton said there is support among her constituents for a bistate tax to fund improvements at the Truman Sports Complex. A ballot initiative similar to the 1996 measure that authorized $118 million in sales tax revenue for the renovation of Union Station would be a more appropriate approach than a legislative mandate, she said.

Both Missouri and Kansas voters approved the Union Station project. But shortly thereafter, Kansas voters rejected a tax increase to fund Truman Sports Complex upgrades and arts organizations.

Still, a new, narrowly drawn measure to fund basic stadium maintenance could win support from Kansas voters. Or Kansas lawmakers could tackle the issue themselves and allocate funds for upkeep.

Missouri’s yearly contribution to maintain Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums is a relatively small price to pay for these valuable regional assets. Now, taxpayers on the Kansas side of the state line should contribute their fair share, too.


May 19, The Topeka Capital-Journal

College should be more accessible for all

Kansas’ three major universities embrace the same mission as other outstanding higher-education centers nationwide.

The Kansas-based institutions of learning are steadfast in a quest to foster students’ reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. The goal is to prepare students for a career and a lifetime of contributions in their chosen field — along with the ability to adapt, should they decide to change course.

But too often, the high cost of education deters some students and their families from continuing their education after high school, whether in a traditional or technical-education setting.

During a recent visit with The Topeka Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board, Kansas State University President Richard Myers, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod and Wichita State University interim President Andy Tompkins addressed that challenge and others. They’re determined to make college more accessible to all — a goal hindered by political interference.

In the past several years, a far-right faction of policymakers interested in shifting state support to private education options targeted the state’s colleges and universities with deep funding cuts.

Such shortsightedness only undermines long-term prosperity. With as much in mind, the 2019 Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly rightly changed course by agreeing to funnel $33 million more into Kansas’ higher-education system, which includes universities and technical colleges. The governor also recommended that the state’s universities avoid raising tuition to mend its fiscal woes.

Such a quandary wouldn’t exist if more lawmakers would try to better understand the return on investment. Higher education is a known driver of economic development, with business prospects seeking an educated, skilled workforce when they’re selecting places to set up shop or expand. At the same time, colleges and universities must be innovative and evolve in efforts to prepare future generations of workers for critical roles.

Myers also recommended doing more to recruit first-generation students, and especially from underrepresented populations in Kansas.

College never was intended to be for a privileged few. Increased diversity on campus would create a student body that better reflects society and enhances the educational experience for all — a prime example of a forward-thinking initiative policymakers should support.

For Kansas to achieve progress, taxpayers and lawmakers alike should know the investment in higher education — and, in turn, a quality workforce — cannot be neglected or shortchanged.

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