Kansas lawmaker says STAR Bonds legislation needs hard look

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker said the economic development incentive tool that could finance a proposed outdoor activity center at a Lawrence lake will be examined during the upcoming legislative session.

The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to conduct hearings on whether STAR bond authority should be allowed to continue, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The special taxing district allows projects to keep large amounts of state and local sales taxes generated at the development.

Republican Sen. Julia Lynn of Olathe, who leads the committee, has raised questions about whether the aggressive form of public incentives will be an option for the $70 million recreation center project at Clinton Lake or other future development in Kansas. She said the “program needs a lot of work and attention.”

Some Lawrence and Douglas County residents have questioned whether STAR bonds would create a new tax, but state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism assistant secretary Linda Craghead said the bonds do not work like that. Craghead said the bonds would allow the city to collect 49 percent of the city, county and state sales tax generated at the recreation center, while the remaining 51 percent of the revenue would be from sales taxes from associated mixed-use development west of Lawrence.

The STAR bond legislation has until June 30 to be approved, unless extended in the next session starting in January.

Gov. Sam Brownback and other state officials have backed the STAR bond authority. The project is expected to have a man-made whitewater rafting and kayaking facility, zip lines, rock climbing, a trail system, outdoor amphitheater, restaurants, beer garden and conference center.

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