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Audit finds commerce department mishandled PEAK

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- A state audit says that the Kansas Department of Commerce mishandled an economic development program and violated state law by extending tax breaks above a statutory cap.

Auditors said Wednesday that the commerce department authorized $7.5 million in incentives through the Promoting Employment Across Kansas, or PEAK, program in the current fiscal year. State law caps those incentives at $6 million annually.

Republicans on the Legislative Post Audit Committee defended the handling of the program, saying it was being used to develop jobs.

The Legislative Post Audit also said it was difficult to assess the benefits of PEAK because the commerce department has not compiled meaningful information on the program.

Commerce department officials said they believed the cap was a cumulative amount that increased by $6 million each year.