By Diane Silver
The good news is that the Legislature has finally decided to fund desperately needed repairs for the state's crumbling campuses. The even better news is that lawmakers have finally realized that Kansas' state universities are actually part of the state.
I'd call that a good first step for a state that has been abandoning its universities at an alarming rate.
Depending on who's talking, the package provides about $380 million or about $326 million (if I did the math right) over the next five years to the six universities, multiple community colleges and technical schools. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius is expected to sign the bill.
A combination of grants, state-subsidized loans and donor incentives, the package doesn't come close to the $663 million the Board of Regents says it needs.
However, the plan does not include an earlier Republican proposal for folks in university towns to raise local taxes to pay for the repairs. First floated by Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, that plan scared the heck out of me.
I'll admit that as a resident of the home of the University of Kansas, I would have paid higher taxes under the plan. That isn't the most frightening thing, though. I'd actually be glad to pay higher taxes to fix our universities if the taxes applied equally across the state.
What really spooked me was the idea that one of most powerful people in state government didn't understand that universities serve the entire state. Such foolishness shows an ignorance that is, well, mind boggling.
All I can say today is congratulations to Neufeld and the rest of the Legislature for figuring out that our state universities are actually assets to Kansas and not burdens.
More on the repair funding can be found in the Topeka Capital-Journal and Wichita Eagle.