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Headlines for Monday, April 2, 2018

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Collects $39.5M More in Taxes than Expected in March

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says it collected $39.5 million more in taxes than it expected in March to make it the 10th consecutive month revenues were greater than anticipated. The Department of Revenue reported Monday that tax collections last month were almost $490 million when the state's official fiscal forecast predicted $450 million. The surplus was 8.8 percent. Since the start of its current budget year July 1, the state's tax collections have exceeded expectations by about 7 percent. The state has collected $4.8 billion in taxes so far during the fiscal year and the official estimate predicted $4.5 billion. The surplus is $315 million. Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said changes in federal tax laws enacted last year are a key factor and it's hard to say how much economic growth is occurring.


Kansas House Rejects $522 Million Boost in School Aid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has rejected a proposal to phase in a $522 million increase in aid to the state's public schools over five years. The vote Monday was 65-55 against giving first-round approval to a bill that Republican leaders believed would meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to boost education funding. The court ruled in October that the state's current spending of more than $4 billion a year is not sufficient under the state constitution. Leaders of the House's GOP majority immediately scheduled another debate on school funding for Tuesday. Many Democrats did not think the spending increase was big enough, while some conservative Republicans wouldn't support the increase in the bill. GOP leaders said the measure was about as much as the state could afford without increasing taxes.

3:35 p.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas have blocked an attempt by Democrats to add more spending to a five-year education funding plan designed to satisfy a court mandate to boost state aid to public schools. The House debated a bill Monday to phase in a $522 million increase in funding over five years. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current aid of more than $4 billion a year is not adequate under the state constitution. Democratic Representative Ed Trimmer of Winfield proposed making the increase in aid $295 million higher so the state would phase in an increase of $817 million over five years. The vote was 76-46 against his amendment. Republican leaders said the bill is as much as the state can afford without raising taxes.


Reviewer Backs Study Calling for $2 Billion Boost in K-12 Spending

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - An independent reviewer is backing the validity of a study that found improving Kansas's public schools could cost an additional $2 billion a year. The Legislature hired Jesse Levin, of the American Institutes for Research, to conduct a peer review of the recent cost study. He told lawmakers that the study was "fairly cutting-edge and done very, very well." The study found that Kansas needs to add between $1.8 billion and $2.1 billion a year in education spending in order to boost its high school graduation rate to 95 percent and to raise significant numbers of students up to grade level or college readiness on statewide reading and math tests. Legislators are facing a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to increase spending on public schools.


Former Missouri Governor to Testify in Support of Midwest Wind Energy Transmission Line 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A renewable energy company that wants to build one of the country's longest electric transmission lines is turning to a former governor to try to revive its blocked project. Former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is set to argue tomorrow (TUE) to the Missouri Supreme Court that utility regulators he appointed wrongly rejected the power line while relying on an incorrect court ruling written by a judge whom Nixon also appointed. Should Nixon prevail, it could help clear a path for Clean Line Energy Partners to build a 780-mile power line from wind farms in western Kansas across Missouri and Illinois to Indiana. It would then connect to a power grid for eastern states. The project is currently being blocked in Missouri and Illinois. 


Kansas Facing Skilled Aviation Worker Shortage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A shortage of skilled workers is a growing concern for companies that repair and maintain airplanes in Kansas. Lynn Nichols has a fixed-base operation, Yingling Aviation, which does aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul. Nichols says there's a tight labor market for aviation skill sets. He says the need for airframe and power plant mechanics and avionics technicians is increasing. The 2018 Global Fleet & MRO Market Assessment estimates the global aviation maintenance market will grow to $114 billion in 2028 from $77.4 billion this year. The report commissioned by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association also shows a shortage of aircraft mechanics less than four years from now. According to the report there will be a 10 percent shortage of mechanics by 2028.


Kansas State to Partner with Regional Airline to Offer Tuition Help for Aspiring Pilots

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State University has partnered with a regional airline to help students who want to be pilots with tuition and job placement. The university's Polytechnic Campus in Salina has partnered with Piedmont Airlines and its cadet program. Piedmont's cadet program will provide the benefits to select students enrolled at the school's professional pilot program and who have their Certified Flight Instructor rating. Accepted students will be eligible to receive tuition reimbursement once they have completed 500 hours of flight time. Ben Jaffee is the senior assistant chief flight instructor at the university. He says students are eligible for graduation as well as their Airline Transport Pilot rating after completing 1,000 hours of flight time. Piedmont officials plan to meet with prospective students on April 17.


Siemens Wind Turbine Plant in Hutchinson to Rehire Laid-off Workers and Offer 100 New Jobs

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy is rehiring employees who were laid off from their Hutchinson manufacturing plant last year. The company expects also to hire an additional 100 people in the next six months at the central Kansas plant, which makes parts for wind turbines. The company laid off 140 employees last year, citing a reduction in orders. Siemens' Hutchinson plant spokeswoman Myca Welch says only employees who were laid off can apply now. She says hiring will be gradual, and the plant expects to be back to a two-shift operation by August.   

Senate Passes Kansas State Fair Tax Bill

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Kansas senators have unanimously passed a bill for state sales taxes collected during the Kansas State Fair to be used for capital improvements at the fair. But the bill only would allow for money to return to the fair if the event stays in Hutchinson. The measure passed after a House bill was introduced last week that would require the State Fair Board to seek proposals from other cities interested in hosting the fair. House bill sponsor Republican Representative Don Schroeder of Hesston says the goal was to encourage talks between the city and fair officials who have expressed frustration with a hike in city stormwater fees. Hutchinson has been home to the State Fair for more than a century.


Kansas Unveils New App for Renewing Vehicle Registrations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents can now review their vehicle registrations on a smartphone or other mobile device. The "iKan" app only offers vehicle registration renewals for now but officials hope to add other services, including voter registration applications and access to birth certificates. The app was developed by PayIt LLC, a company that creates digital platforms for customer transactions for governments. CEO John Thomson says the app was extensively tested in Shawnee County. Thomson says the data is secure from hackers. He says information won't be sold or transferred to third parties. People are charged $2 for each transaction. 


Kansas Woman's Ex Hides in Attic, Falls Through Ceiling

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman suspicious that someone had broken into her home later found her ex-boyfriend's legs punched through her ceiling. The Salina Journal reports that a 23-year-old Salina woman called police to her house Thursday after finding her front door chained from the inside. Police say they searched the house but didn't find an intruder. Two hours later, the woman and her current boyfriend heard a loud noise and found the 25-year-old former boyfriend had fallen partly through the living room ceiling. Police say the suspect, Tyler Bergkamp, was hiding in the attic. Police say the current boyfriend pulled Bergkamp's legs through the ceiling and began fighting him. Bergkamp faces several charges, including aggravated burglary, criminal damage to property, criminal threat and possession of methamphetamine.


Kansas Vet Fights to Keep Adopted Child from Deportation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas couple has filed a lawsuit in hopes of reversing federal immigration officials' decision not to allow their adopted Korean-born daughter to become a U.S. citizen. Army veteran Patrick Schreiber and his wife finalized their niece's adoption in 2014 when she was 17, The Kansas City Star reported. She now studies at the University of Kansas but may soon be forced to leave the country when her visa expires. Schreiber said an adoption attorney informed him he had until his niece turned 18 to adopt her. But a federal statute says children brought into the country must be adopted before age 16 for access to U.S. citizenship. "The law clearly says that if you're 16 or older when adopted, you cannot derive citizenship from your parents," said USCIS spokeswoman Sharon Rummery. "We don't make the law. That's the job of Congress." The girl arrived legally in the U.S. with a student visa at the age of 15 after family problems in Korea prompted the Schreibers to host her in 2012. Schreiber said he and wife put their niece's adoption on hold after the military called him to Afghanistan in 2013. "I should have put my family ahead of the Army," Schreiber said. Now Schreiber is determined to keep his family together, even if it means moving back to South Korea. "Yes, she loves the United States. But our biggest concern is staying together as a family," Schreiber said. The Schreibers' attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, said the immigration system "really is broken."


2 People Killed in Garage Fire Near Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigation continues into a fire that killed two people near Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire broke out Sunday in a garage north of Topeka. The Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office identified the victims as 56-year-old Phil Lee, who died at the scene, and 83-year-old Patricia Lee, who died later Sunday at a hospital. Foul play is not suspected. Fire crews contained the blaze to the garage of the home.


Police Identify Man Fatally Shot in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a man who was shot to death last week at an apartment complex. The Wichita Eagle reports that 36-year-old Darren Williams of Wichita was killed Friday night at Sugar Creek Apartments. No arrests have been made. Police say Williams and his girlfriend went to the apartment to meet another man. A fight broke out and Williams was shot multiple times. He died at the scene. The death is Wichita's 11th homicide for 2018.


Owners Offer Reward After Miniature Horse Fatally Shot

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The owners of a miniature horse are offering a $500 reward after the animal was fatally shot in Saline County. KSAL Radio reports that Misty the horse was shot in the cheek and the neck sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning on private property. Owners Ronda and Randy Russell own "A Little Hors'n Around Petting Zoo." The horse was in a pasture close to the owners' home, but they heard no shots.


Report: Midwest Business Conditions Index Rise Again

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A business conditions index for nine Midwestern and Plains states surged again last month, which a report released Monday said is a sign of continued improvement in regional economic conditions. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index hit 62.1 in March, compared with 59.7 in February, the report said. The January figure was 57.3. Twenty percent of the business supply managers who participated in the survey "reported rapidly expanding healthy economic growth in their area, while only 4 percent reported an economic downturn in their area," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Durable-goods manufacturers were expanding at almost twice the pace of nondurable-goods producers, Goss said. "Over the past 12 months, regional manufacturing employment has expanded by 1.9 percent, compared to U.S. manufacturing growth of 1.8 percent," he said. The March employment index slipped to 58.4 last month from 59.4 in February, but two-thirds of firms who responded to the survey indicated they would add workers for the remainder of the year. The regional wholesale inflation index and the U.S. inflation gauge remain elevated, the report said. "I expect this elevated inflation to begin to show up at the consumer level," Goss said. "As a result, I expect the Federal Reserve's interest rate setting committee to raise short-term interest rates by one-quarter of one percentage point" at its meeting May 2. Looking ahead six months, the March Business Confidence Index, dipped to a still strong 64.3 from February's 74.5. Goss cited good profit growth, low interest rates and a reduction of global trade tensions for maintaining business confidence.


Substitute Kansas Teacher Charged with Sex with Teen

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas substitute teacher has been charged with having unlawful sexual relations with a teenager. The Concordia Blade-Empire reports that 42-year-old Nicole Reed, of Clyde, was arrested last week at the Concordia Junior-Senior High School on a day that she wasn't working there. She was charged in Cloud County District Court with one count each of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and solicitation of a child. She was released on $20,000 bond. A call to her home rang unanswered Monday. Charging documents say that on or about the Fourth of July in 2015, she had unlawful sexual relations with a boy who was at least 14 but not yet 16. She also is accused of soliciting the teen previously.


Sheriff: Man Dies in Dirt Bike Accident in South Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 32-year-old man has been killed while riding a dirt bike with a friend in south Wichita. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says in a news release that Brian Shuss was found dead Saturday night. The release says Shuss and a friend had been taking turns riding the dirt bike. The Wichita Eagle reports that after Shuss was gone about 20 minutes, the friend went looking, found Shuss and called 911. Shuss was unresponsive and receiving treatment from emergency responders when deputies arrived. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


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