Archive for April 2015

Police investigate stabbing on North 70th

Kansas City, Kan., police are investigating a stabbing at 7:18 p.m. April 30 in the 800 block of North 70th Street.

Officers found a man in his 30s who had been stabbed, according to a police spokesman.

The victim had serious injuries from the stabbing and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, the spokesman said.

A dispatcher told police officers that the suspects had fled the scene in a Firebird and they were seen getting on the highway heading east on I-70 from 72nd and State Avenue, the spokesman said.

Officers tried to stop the Firebird, but the suspects refused, the spokesman said, and a chase started.

The pursuit continued into Kansas City, Mo., where two females and two males were taken into custody in the 4700 block of Prospect, the spokesman said.

The incident is under investigation by the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department’s criminal investigations division, which is encouraging anyone with information to call the TIPS hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

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UG Commission votes to allow Legends 14 Theatres to be put up for sale

The Unified Government Commission tonight gave its permission to allow the UG administrator to offer The Legends 14 Theatres for sale.

According to a resolution approved tonight, the theater is being offered to Red Legacy for $8.8 million for the property.

Currently the theater, owned by the UG, is under the management of Phoenix Theatres. According to UG officials, the UG would have to pay a $1 million breakup fee if it sells the theater to a third party.

The anticipated sale price of $8.8 million would be expected to cover the costs, according to UG officials. Closing would be expected to take place in four to five months, officials said. The UG expects to have an estimated balance in its favor of $255,000 after the sale takes place, according to figures presented by Lew Levin, UG chief financial officer.

In a unanimous vote, the commission voted to allow the UG administrator to offer the 10-year-old theater for sale. The UG owns the 8.6 acres, the theater building and the theater equipment.

A supplemental agreement specifies that Red Legacy will have the right of first offer for the sale of the theater.

Red Legacy will have 20 days to accept the UG’s terms and enter into an agreement, or to waive its right of first offer, according to UG documents. Red Legacy also will have the right of first refusal to buy the theater if the UG offers it to some other third party other than Phoenix for use as something other than a theater.

According to figures prepared by Levin, there is a $300,000 debt listed as property taxes for the theater. An executive summary the UG prepared for this project stated that the theater is behind on its property tax payments. The property taxes are paid with operating revenues from the theater and Phoenix is not required to put in Phoenix’s private money to pay tax shortfalls under this current management agreement, according to the executive summary. The UG likely will have to bring the property taxes current at closing with a portion of the proceeds from the sale, according to the executive summary.

UG Administrator Doug Bach said it was never the UG’s intent to own a movie theater. In 2004, there was a private theater lined up for The Legends Outlet development, but that project did not go forward. Since there was a public demand from the community, which did not have a large movie theater, the UG decided to build a theater. The UG did not have to subsidize the theater with any public funds during these 10 years, he said.

“Phoenix has been an outstanding operator for us of this theater,” Bach said. “Over the years, they have served our community and served this theater well.”

Marlon Goff, of the UG economic development department, said the Legends 14 Theatres are doing very well in the Kansas City area market. They are consistently in sixth to eighth place among more than 30 theaters in the Greater Kansas City area.

The Legends 14 Theatres has a 129,000-square-foot building with 14 screens and just under 3,000 seats on an 8.6-acre site, Goff said. It includes a lounge and balcony area, with two rooms used for birthday parties.

Bach said the UG is working on some restrictions to the sale that would keep the building as a movie theater, as suggested by Commissioner Gayle Townsend at a committee meeting.

If the theater is sold to a third party, Phoenix would be entitled to a $1 million breakup fee, according to Todd Lasala, an attorney working with the UG. The $1 million would be built into the sale price. There would be a 120-day period to terminate the agreement. After giving Phoenix notice, they have 30 days to let the UG know of transitional costs, according to Lasala. Then the UG has 45 days to make a decision to go forward, he said. The buyer would be asked to put $1 million in escrow so the UG would be covered in case the sale falls through, he said.

In other action tonight, the UG Commission approved a resolution of intent to have a public hearing to issue $18 million in industrial revenue bonds for NPIF2 Kansas Avenue, LLC. The project is at 5100 Kansas Ave. Commercial buildings would be renovated and there would be an addition of 50 new jobs, according to UG information.

Also approved was a special use permit application from Ben Barreth for Homes for Hackers LLC, to allow up to five individuals to operate businesses out of the home at 4428 State Line Road. Several people spoke at a public hearing on this application. Some of the neighbors said that while they approved of it for this particular location, they did not necessarily support other businesses operating out of residences.

The commission also went into a closed session tonight to discuss labor negotiations and security.

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Tax committees push tobacco talks to next week

All options on table as legislators look to fill growing budget hole

by Andy Marso, KHI News Service

House and Senate tax committees began talks Thursday on a plan to close a burgeoning budget hole and end the 2015 session.

Both committees pushed to next week any talk of whether to approve Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to raise tobacco and alcohol taxes.

Sen. Les Donovan, a Wichita Republican who chairs the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, said he is preparing amendments that would raise the cigarette tax by $1 or $0.50 per pack if the committee does not approve the governor’s proposal for a $1.50-per pack increase.

“We’re going to try to get something out of here that will raise some revenue,” Donovan said. “But we’ve got to be realistic about what we can do.”

The tobacco tax increase is particularly popular with public health experts, but has failed to gain much traction with legislators.

Donovan said his committee would debate specific tax bills Tuesday through Thursday next week.

Lowering the state’s earned income tax credit and making it non-refundable will also be considered, he said.

“That’s going to be in the mix,” Donovan said.

The state’s EITC mirrors a federal tax credit expanded by former President Ronald Reagan that gives money back to low and moderate-income workers in amounts that depend on income level and number of children.

Making it non-refundable would mean that recipients would no longer receive checks from the state if they qualify for more than they pay in taxes.

Rep. Marvin Kleeb, a Republican from Overland Park who chairs the House Taxation Committee, said his committee will look at the governor’s tobacco and alcohol proposals Monday and urged members to have their questions ready.

Representatives from the University of Kansas Medical Center, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network and other health groups testified that the proposed $1.50-per pack increase in cigarette taxes would gain the state about $90 million in the short term and lower health care costs by as much as $1 billion in the mid-term by prodding tens of thousands of Kansans to quit smoking or never start.

The governor also proposed a tax increase on smokeless tobacco products, which is projected to bring in far less revenue because of the lesser popularity of chewing tobacco and snuff.

There are currently few public health professionals in the Legislature, and one legislator who works with health professionals said he’s not sure yet how he will vote on tobacco increases.

Rep. Lane Hemsley, an attorney who is executive director of the Kansas Dental Board, said dentists play a role in diagnosing oral cancers, which is related to tobacco use in about 90 percent of cases, according to the Mouth Cancer Foundation.

Hemsley said oral cancers, if not caught quickly enough, can lead to patients having portions of their jaws removed or even death.

“From a health care standpoint obviously I think the risks and the impacts of cigarette use or other tobacco use, those are fairly well known,” Hemsley said. “I think those are meted out and I think we understand there are health risks we would obviously voluntarily decide to entertain if we chose to use those types of products.”

Hemsley said his vote on tobacco taxes would be informed by the opinions of his constituents, who he said have given him a broad range of advice thus far.

“I’m not certain my district is as interested in targeted taxes on one particular piece of consumption but I think I would be misguiding everybody if I didn’t say I think everything is on the table,” Hemsley said.

Kleeb said after his committee vets the governors proposals, including alcohol and tobacco taxes, it will move on to other potential revenue sources.

“Whatever the solution may be, it will probably be two or three parts, or even more,” Kleeb said.

Thursday’s House Taxation Committee meeting laid a foundation for one of the foremost tax fights to come, as some conservative Republicans defended a tax exemption on “pass-through” earnings of business owners that was part of a large income tax package in 2012.

Democrats and some Republicans have proposed rolling back or entirely repealing that exemption, saying it was more costly than anticipated and made the tax structure less fair because it exempted business owners from taxes their workers still must pay.

Gov. Sam Brownback, who spearheaded the 2012 tax bill’s passage and campaigned on it last year, has resisted calls to alter the exemption.

The tax fix is becoming increasingly complex because the budget picture continues to worsen.

A group of economists who met April 20 revised downward their earlier estimates of how much tax revenue the state will collect next year.

With the new estimates, the gap between how much the state is projected to spend from the general fund during the fiscal year that begins July 1 and how much revenue it will take in is almost $800 million.
The Legislature expects to approve Brownback-proposed budget maneuvers like transfers from other funds to cut that deficit to about $422 million. From there, even if legislators also approve the governor’s tax increases in full — including the tobacco and alcohol taxes — there would still be a projected shortfall.

Rep. Don Hineman, a Republican from Dighton, said passing the governor’s proposals would only make up about half the difference.

“So we need to at least do the governor’s recommendations for tax plus something additional to get back to zero,” Hineman said. “And we obviously don’t want to aim for zero. We don’t want to leave town and have the governor make allotments a few weeks into the new fiscal year.”

State law requires legislators leave an ending balance of 7.5 percent — or about $470 million in next year’s budget — but that law is routinely ignored.

Kleeb said committee members should consider how much of a cushion they are “willing to discuss.” A budget expert who works for the state recommended an ending balance of between $50 million and $100 million, which would make the unofficial target for tax talks about $500 million in new revenue.

Democrats opposed the 2012 tax plan and have generally stayed on the sidelines of the discussion over new taxes. Rep. Tom Sawyer, the top Democrat on the House tax committee, said they’re willing to talk to Republicans about supporting a tax package, but only if it repeals the pass-through tax exemption for business owners.

When asked if the minority party also wanted to change the part of the 2012 bill that lowered income tax rates, Sawyer said “that’s negotiable.”

Several Republicans said they feared ending the income tax exemption for businesses would slow the rate of job growth the state has seen. They pointed to 8,800 new tax filers among the estimated 333,000 business owners currently using the exemption.

Rep. Ken Corbet, a Republican from Topeka, said he was concerned about raising taxes of any kind.

“I guess what worries me is, by raising taxes, do you still think it will make Kansas a leading place for growth and people to want to come and raise their family, retire and start a business?” Corbet said. “Money walks. It’s like habitat for animals. You need water, cover and food. Kansas needs to be friendly to get these people to stay here and come here.”

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org when a story is reposted online.

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