Kansas Gets New, More Pessimistic Fiscal Forecast
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas faces a $349 million shortfall in its current budget and more gaps in the near future after officials issued a new, more pessimistic fiscal forecast for the state. The forecasters slashed the state's previous projections for tax collections through June 2017 by 5.9 percent, or $355 million. They also issued the first projections for the two fiscal years beginning in July 2017. Those projections were conservative. Legislative researchers projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019. The previous fiscal forecast was issued in April. The state has missed monthly revenue targets six of the seven months since. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since slashing taxes in 2012 and 2013. The new forecast also reflects pessimism about the agriculture and energy production industries.
Saline County Slow to Count Write-in Votes
SALINA, Kan. (AP) - One central Kansas county had its vote counting slowed by a large increase in write-in votes. The Salina Journal reports that there were nearly 1,300 write-in votes in Saline County --- that's about three times more than in the 2014 general election. County Clerk Don Merriman says that every time the machine saw a write-in, it stopped counting. Besides legitimate write-in votes, some people wrote in "Anybody but" or "None of the above." There also were votes cast for Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse and Jesus. Unofficial totals, which didn't include the write-in votes, weren't announced until shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday. The count that included the write-ins was finished shortly after 2 pm Thursday. For general elections, voters have a right to put down any name they choose.
Westar Plans Solar Installation for Reno County in 2017
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy says it is quickly filling subscriptions for a new one megawatt "community solar installation" west of Hutchinson. The utility says that construction on the installation will begin in December and the plant is expected to be in service early next year. The plant will include 3,400 panels. Westar officials say that 90 percent of the available subscriptions to use the plant have been filled. Plans for the plant were announced early this year. Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig said about 900 customers had signed up so far. Participants can choose to lock in their energy price for five to 20 years.
Farm Income Continues to Shrink: Loan Demand Growing
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says demand for farm loans is still growing because cattle and crop prices are lower than they were a year ago and farm profits are shrinking. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Missouri, said Thursday that over 87 percent of bankers in the region reported a decline in farm income in the third quarter. The changing conditions have bankers expecting loan demand to continue growing while repayment rates decline. The 10th Federal Reserve District covers Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, northern New Mexico and western Missouri. The value of irrigated farmland in the region fell 7 percent while non-irrigated land declined 6.1 percent and pastures declined 6.5 percent.
Kansas Teen Wounded After Shooting at Police
COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 17-year-old shot at law enforcement in Council Grove before an officer shot and wounded him. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says Council Grove police received reports of shots being fired at a vehicle on Thursday. The Wichita Eagle reports that when police officers and deputies from the Morris County Sheriff's Office arrived at the scene, the teen fired at the officers. A Council Grove police officer returned fire, striking the shooter. Authorities say the suspect is hospitalized with injuries that aren't considered life-threatening. No law enforcement officers were injured. The KBI is investigating.
University of Kansas Science Building Closer to Completion
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A new science building at the University of Kansas is getting closer to completion. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the final beam has been hoisted into place for the new $117 million Integrated Science Building. Several hundred people gathered Thursday in the partially completed building to celebrate the construction milestone. The 28,000-square-foot building is the keystone of the university's $350 million Central District redevelopment project. Funding comes through something called a public-private partnership in which a private, outside entity gives money for construction and then leases the building to a university until it's paid off. The university says the goal is to complete the massive project with little state funding. But lawmakers have raised concerns that if something goes wrong with the project, taxpayers will be responsible.
Senate GOP Leader Says He Asked Trump to Back Keystone XL
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The top Republican in the Senate says he asked President-elect Donald Trump to move swiftly in approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters on Friday that he made the request during his Capitol Hill meeting with Trump a day earlier. President Barack Obama had vetoed legislation that would have moved ahead with construction of the pipeline projected to carry 800,000 barrels a day of crude from Canada and North Dakota to Nebraska, where existing pipelines would bring the oil to Gulf Coast refineries. Environmentalists had opposed the project, but the prospect of an all-Republican government next year boosts the chances for Keystone. McConnell also said he expect a major overhaul of the tax system next year.
Wichita State University Gets $1M Gift for Sculptures
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has been given $1 million to create an outdoor sculpture fund. The Wichita Eagle reports that Joan Beren presented the gift to the university to create the Joan S. Beren Outdoor Sculpture Conservation Fund before her death in January. Beren's gift will cover maintenance and cleaning of the 76 works in the university's Martin H. Bush Outdoor Sculpture Collection. Beren served two terms on the school's Board of Trustees and chaired the Ulrich Museum of Art's Outdoor Sculpture Committee for several years.
Union Station Gets $1M Gift for Festival Space
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Union Station in Kansas City has received a $1 million gift for the creation of an outdoor concert and festival space. The Kansas City Star reports that the donation is from the Michael and Marlys Haverty Family Foundation. The landscaped festival plaza is part of the station's nearly $8 million expansion that also includes a new traffic and pedestrian bridge. It will be called Haverty Family Yards and will be built in the area where 18 tracks used to bring trains in to Union Station passengers. The space is set to open next spring. The gift will also be used to create an indoor gallery to house paintings depicting the 12 original railroads that formed a consortium to create Union Station in 1914.
Kansas Man to Be Paroled for Seventh Time
WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of a 1981 Douglas County killing is set to be released from prison for the seventh time. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Prisoner Review Board decided to parole 57-year-old L.V. Luarks. He remains in the Winfield Correctional Facility while the Kansas Department of Corrections considers the Review Board's plan. Luarks was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Terry Brown. The Topeka woman's body was found on a Douglas County road six miles northwest of Lawrence. Prison records show Luarks has been released six times between 1992 and 2009 but each time, he was returned to custody for violating the rules of his release.
Feds: No Criminal Charges in Kansas Grain Elevator Explosion
ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say there is not sufficient evidence to charge the owner of a northeast Kansas grain elevator where a 2011 explosion killed six people and injured two others. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a statement Thursday that his office has closed its inquiry into the October 29, 2011, explosion at the Bartlett Grain Company elevator in Atchison. Kansas investigators previously determined the grain dust explosion was accidental. The announcement does not dismiss pending enforcement actions by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has said the deaths could have been prevented had operators addressed known industry hazards. The explosion killed Bartlett employees John Burke, Ryan Federinko, Curtis Field, and Chad Roberts, as well as grain inspectors Travis Keil and Darrek Klahr.
2 Suspected Shoplifters Killed in Kansas Crash After Chase
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two suspected shoplifters in a stolen car were killed in south-central Kansas when they crashed into a tractor-trailer during a chase by police. Police say the crash happened shortly after 9 am Friday near Hutchinson. The victims' names were not immediately released. Police say three people who used fraudulent credit cards to buy $1,100 worth of merchandise from a Walmart in Newton sped away in two vehicles. Investigators say two of the suspects in one car later led officers on a chase involving speeds of up to 115 mph. That car later swerved out of control when the driver tried to avoid tire-flattening strips police had set out on the highway, and the car crashed slid sideways into a tractor-trailer that had stopped for a roadblock.
Five Charged in Connection with Missing Kansas Man
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Five people were charged in connection with the disappearance of a Wichita man believed dead following a disturbance Sunday at a home in Valley Center. Three men and a woman were charged Thursday with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Two of the defendants were additionally charged with the rape of another victim. A second woman was also charged in a separate related case with kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Authorities are looking for any evidence or witnesses that might help them find the body of 33-year-old Scottie W. Goodpaster, Jr. They are asking hunters in Harvey County this weekend to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. Police are also searching for a white pickup spotted in Harvey County the day of the crimes.
Texas Man Accused of Stalking Taylor Swift at Texas Airport
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas man accused of stalking singer Taylor Swift in Austin, Texas, has been charged with violating a lifetime restraining order. Travis County records show Frank Andrew Hoover is being held Friday on a charge of violating a protective order issued in Kansas that requires him to stay at least 500 feet away from the multi-Grammy award winning artist. An affidavit says Hoover followed Swift's motorcade after her October 22 concert at Austin's Circuit of the Americas to a private area at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The affidavit says the 39-year-old suspect came within 50 feet of Swift. Hangar workers say he talked about wanting to accompany Swift onto her plane. Hoover, of Austin, was arrested Thursday. Bond is set at $100,000. No attorney is listed to speak on Hoover's behalf.
Chiefs' Justin Houston Hopes to Play Sunday at Carolina
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs' linebacker Justin Houston says he hopes to make his season debut Sunday at Carolina, though the decision to put the four-time Pro Bowl pass rusher on the field ultimately rests with coach Andy Reid. Houston was hobbled by a knee injury in the second half of last season, and injured it again in a playoff win over the Texans. He had surgery in February. The Chiefs have been hoping to have him for the stretch run this season. Houston began practicing a few weeks ago, and was removed from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday. In his first comments since his surgery, Houston said Thursday that he's ready to "dominate."