Top Stories Of The Week
Missouri's governor vetoed a bill raising sales taxes and lowering income tax rates. And the Kansas Legislature ignored the governor's entreaties not to cut higher education spending. Steve Bell revisits those and other top stories of the week on KCUR's Saturday News Review.
Cuts hit Kansas higher ed hardest, tuitions will increase
After weeks of haggling, the Kansas Legislature passed budget and tax bills by narrow margins and adjourned the 2013 regular session.
As the House prepared for a vote, Majority Leader Jene Vickrey commented that the assembly had the opportunity to “bend the cost curve of government.” And bend it they did,
K-12 spending stays flat... but higher education cuts come to $66 million over the next two years. Kansas Regents said tuition will be going up . The share to the KU Med center, jewel of the system, is $8 million, to which Regent Dan Lykins sai, The legislature is making it hard for you to turn out good doctors,” and added that the way things were going was “sad.”
The med school asked to raise tuition 8 percent for some students, but officials said it would take an out of the question 12 percent increase to avoid a loss.
Others worried about public safety, with cuts to the corrections budget. Tom Laing and other advocates for disabled persons said services will be harder to deliver and harder to get. Corrections advocates said cuts in that area could endanger public safety.
Kansas tax plan keeps elevated sales tax, eliminates many tax deductions
The sales tax will stay above 6 percent, and though income tax rates will continue to decrease, so do allowable deductions. Less will be deductible for “head of household” and many itemized deductions are eliminated altogether.
April Holman of Kansas Action for Children noted that the tax credit for child care was not renewed. She commented that most of the thousands of families affected won't know about the several hundred dollar tax increase until they prepare their 2014 returns, at which time it will be “an unpleasant surprise.”
Nixon gambles against override, vetoes Kansas-like Missouri Tax Plan
Democratic Governor Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would have lowered Missouri's income tax and raised its sales tax. He said it would cost the state $800 million in revenue. Speaking at UMKC, the governor remarked that the cost would be equivalent to the total amount the state now spends on higher education.
Republican bill sponsor T.J. Berry called that an exaggeration. He said Nixon's figures represented a 10-year worst-case scenario that was unlikely to happen because the planned income tax reductions would not kick in in any given year unless revenue collections increased $100 million in the preceding year. Democrats retorted that the figure was based on gross collections, not on net revenue after refunds. They said the plan would have cut taxes the year the current recession began. .
Republican Senator Will Kraus said that chamber has enough votes to override the veto, but it's not certain they have enough votes for that in the House.
Halls to leave Country Club Plaza, expand at Crown Center
Iconic Kansas City department store Halls announced that it will close its Plaza store in 2014 and expand the one at Crown Center. About half of the Plaza employees will be offered jobs at the other store, which will fill the entire third floor at Crown Center.
Jacob Wagner of the Historic Kansas City Foundation said a lot of Plaza enthusiasts are already upset by the fact that the trademark shopping district is losing its local character, and will be disappointed.
But some business analysts said it was a smart move for Halls in an age of decline for most local department store retailers, expecially “upscale” stores like Halls..
Party bus company cited, shut down by federal government
Federal regulators cited multiple safety violations as they shut down the company that operated the party bus from which passenger Jamie Frecks of Edwardsville fell to her death May 4. Frecks fell from the rear door of the bus into Interstate traffic only about 10 minutes into the party excursion. The door was a converted wheelchair-access door. Investigators found problems with the brakes, improperly marked and blocked emergency exits and an empty fire extinguisher, among other violations. The operators also did not carry the required liability insurance.
Families sue over deaths in Birmingham airport, Plaza fire
The family of Luke Bresette, the boy who died when a flight information sign fell on him and relatives at Birmingham, Alabama's airport filed a suit against contractors who designed it. The family lives in the Overland Park area. In addition to the death of the 10-year-old, the falling video information system injured his brother and his mother, who suffered a crushed pelvis.
In the same week, the family of Megan Cramer who died in the Plaza explosion and fire of February 19th sued several companies including the gas company, contractors, gas-line locating firms, and the cable company that had hired the contractors.