Kansas lawmakers this week will look at tightening the rules for companies and local governments that want to tap into a major economic development program, STAR bonds.
With Sales Tax Revenue, or STAR, bonds, local governments borrow money for a building project, and tax collections created by the development pay off the loans. In Wichita, city leaders approved the use of STAR bonds to finance a new baseball stadium to replace Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, and the program has been used in the past to support a proposed sports complex in east Wichita.
The state secretary of commerce approves projects, but Republican Sen. Julia Lynn wants more scrutiny.
“To make a decision on whether to use millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to go to a development project, there’s just nothing in place," Lynn says.
Her bill would create a commission to study whether there’s a positive return on investment for the state.
It’s a balancing act, says Democratic Sen. Tom Holland, between boosting economic growth without giving up too much state revenue.
“Because we’re literally throwing money out the door when we need to pay for schools and other vital things for our citizens," he says.
The committee will also consider limiting the type of developments eligible for STAR bonds.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.