I have had the great fortune of seeing folks from back home that have made the trek to Topeka. Below is a picture with the Barton County Appraiser Barbara Esfeld. She gave me a lot of insight into property taxes and their impact on different parts of the population.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting one-on-one with Transportation Secretary Mike King. We discussed my concerns about roadway safety along with bridge and highway maintenance in light of the hundreds of millions taken from KDOT. We also discussed concerns about paying only interest (NO principle) for the first 10 years of the latest round of KDOT bonds. Many in Topeka have expressed concern about this practice - and whether KDOT bonding is really just bonding to fund other state spending.
It recently came to light that the Department of Administration had signed a contract with Bank of America to build a new $20 million utility plant for state offices in downtown Topeka. The cost had not been included in the budget nor had the project or bonds been approved by the legislature. It was just announced, however, that the project is on hold for the time being. Currently the Docking State Office Building houses the utility plant but some want to tear the building down, which would create the need for a new utility plant. I am glad the project is on hold since we really don't have an extra $20 million lying around to spend.
In a few days we will get January revenue numbers. The budget process has been largely on hold awaiting these numbers to see whether state revenues continue to fall below projections. Even though revenue projections are estimated and updated every 6 months, actual revenue continues to lag projections leading to additional budget cuts. There are a few trains of thought as to why revenues continue to lag beyond just the 2012 income tax cuts - including that sales in border counties are being pushed out of state to our neighbors because of last year's sales tax increase.
I am sure most of you have heard or read about Dillons closing their store in my hometown, St. John. This is a devastating blow as it would be in any of our communities in the 113th
. I have been trying to help local officials connect with state and federal resources. Hopefully, we can get another grocery store in St. John before too long.
One day soon activity will pick up here in Topeka so that we can finish up our work on time. Meanwhile, please stay in touch with me on issues affecting you and our communities along with meetings and events that I will try to attend. If you are going to be in Topeka be sure to let me know so we can set up a time to meet or visit at a reception.