The Kansas State Fair has mounted a statewide lobbying effort to boost a funding bill over the finish line.
The Legislature reconvenes today for the wrap-up session. Unfinished business includes Senate Bill 415, which would dedicate a sales tax revenue stream for fairgrounds capital improvements.
Thousands of Kansans recently received a mailing from the State Fair that included “talking points” to cite when urging House members to support Senate Bill 415, which passed the Senate earlier on a 40-0 vote. “It’s the House we’re probably most concerned about,” said State Fair Interim General Manager Bob Moeder on Wednesday.
The mailing included a House roster with Statehouse phone numbers and email addresses for the 125 members. A stamped postcard for mailing to Topeka was enclosed, too.
Moeder said an advertising agency that handles State Fair business is helping to push the message, also, through social media.
“This bill is critical to the future of our Kansas State Fair. It would allow the fair to keep 5 percent of the 6.5 percent state sales tax, which is generated on the fairgrounds annually, that equates to an estimated $400,000,” Moeder wrote in the letter. “The Bison Building and Expo Buildings are in dire need of renovation,” he wrote.
Senate Bill 415 contains an amendment offered by State Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson, stipulating that the proposed sales tax funding for the fair would end if the State Fair was relocated outside Hutchinson. Moeder likes that provision but would prefer a sunset date for the sales tax be removed before the bill goes to a final vote. The legislation currently is in a Senate-House conference committee. When a compromise package emerges, it will need the approval of both chambers. Moeder did not know when that would occur but the Legislature is scheduled to finish the session May 4.
“I’m just hoping that we can get enough people to contact their Representative to encourage them to vote for the bill before it comes to the floor,” Moeder said.
He said they sent out about 5,000 mailings. “Oh, it didn’t cost that much at all, really,” Moeder said when asked about the cost. Hutchinson Correctional Facility inmates “put it all together for us,” he said. “They were good enough to put it all together and put it out in one day,” he said.
According to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission office, the State Fair’s mailing, financed from its budget, is allowed. That’s regarded as a state agency carrying out its duty.
Moeder will not be in the Statehouse Thursday. “I’ll wait to hear when they’re going to bring it to the floor,” he said.
State Fair Board President Virginia Crossland-Macha is monitoring the bill’s progress, too, he said.