All four Salina area legislators returned home for a question and answer session with the public on Saturday.
About 50 people gathered, including Senator Randall Hardy and Representatives Steven Johnson, Diana Dierks, and J.R. Claeys for the townhall style question and answer session.
The event was dominated by talk of the state budget, taxes, and education.
The legislators conceded that the only way at this point to balance the budget for the current year is through some creative accounting moves. Johnson said that there are really only two solutions. A payment to the state employees KPERS retirement fund can be delayed, or in lieu of that money can be borrowed.
Hardy said that the looming future budget problems are so daunting that it will take years before there is ever a real fix. “Right now we are simply trying to stop the hemorrhaging,” he said. He said that he is “disappointed but not discouraged” by the problems in Topeka.
While none of the news at the event was particularly good, perhaps the worst news for Salina came from Claeys. He said that the Kansas STAR Bond program is right now in jeopardy, thus putting the revitalization of Salina Downtown in jeopardy. The STAR Bond program, which is supposed to fund $19 million for the Salina project, will end on June 30th unless it is renewed. Right now, though, it has stalled in the Senate.
Claeys urges citizens to contact their legislator, and to also contact Senator Susan Wagle in particular. “You need to tell them how important specifically this project is to you, and how it specifically will be shut down if STAR Bonds are not reauthorized,” he concluded.
The final legislative update is scheduled for Saturday, May 20th, at the Salina Area Chamber’s Visit Salina Annex.
J.R. Claeys discusses with KSAL News the impact of STAR Bonds on the Salina Downtown Project: