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County, city review state legislative priorities

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

Payments in lieu of taxes and property tax abatement for accessary buildings destroyed in tornadoes.

These are among the issues Leavenworth County commissioners would like for state lawmakers to address during their upcoming session.

County commissioners discussed their state legislative priorities during a meeting Wednesday.

And commissioners for the city of Leavenworth also reviewed their state legislative priorities this week.

Priorities for the Leavenworth City Commission includes expansion of Medicaid and support for the replacement of Centennial Bridge.

State lawmakers will begin their 2021 session Monday in Topeka.

County commissioners discussed their priorities during a work session Wednesday.

The county commissioners agreed some of their legislative priorities from last year remain priorities for them this year.

These include restoration of what are known as demand transfers from the state such as local ad valorem tax reduction funding and money from a county-city revenue sharing program.

Another priority from last year that remains important to county commissioners is a change in policy that would provide property tax abatement for accessory buildings that are destroyed by tornadoes or other disasters.

This issue came up in 2019 following a tornado in southern Leavenworth County. The state currently allows tax abatement for homes that are destroyed but not outbuildings.

Commissioner Jeff Culbertson said he would like for the state to push for payment from the federal government in lieu of taxes for a new federal prison that is planned in Leavenworth.

Federal property typically is exempt from local taxes.

Officials with the Federal Bureau of Prisons are looking to construct a prison that will replace the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth. The new prison will be built on the grounds of the existing USP.

Allocated funding for the new prison and a satellite camp totals $356 million.

Culbertson also said he would like to continue to push for support among state officials for a proposal that is referred to as the Eastern Gateway project.

The proposed project would create a link between a roadway in Leavenworth County and Missouri 152 Highway.

At Leavenworth City Hall Tuesday, City Manager Paul Kramer reviewed a 2021 Statement of Municipal Policy with city commissioners. The document had been prepared by The League of Kansas Municipalities.

Kramer reviewed some of the priorities listed in the document.

One of the issues Kramer mentioned is a comprehensive transportation program and continued support for the replacement of Centennial Bridge.

The Centennial Bridge stretches across the Missouri River from north Leavenworth to Platte County, Missouri.

Last year, a replacement of the bridge was included in the development pipeline for the 10-year Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program. But this is not a guarantee a new bridge will be constructed.

“That’s a huge first step,” Kramer said Tuesday.

But he said city officials need to advocate for moving the project along every step of the way.

An issue raised by Mayor Nancy Bauder during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting is expansion of Medicaid in the state.

Medicaid expansion was included in the League of Kansas Municipalities’ Statement of Municipal Policy under an entry concerning EMS and hospital funding.

Bauder suggested expansion of Medicaid may benefit Saint John Hospital.

“We support our local hospital,” she said. “We have one left. We don’t want to lose it.”

City Commissioner Mike Griswold also suggested that a review of Medicaid reimbursement rates is important.

Bauder said this also could be included among the City Commission’s state legislative goals.

Kramer sent letters Thursday to members of the Kansas House of Representatives and a member of the Kansas Senate who represent the city of Leavenworth. The letter lists the city’s legislative priorities.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR