TOPEKA — As lawmakers debate painful funding cuts, they’re considering giving $87,000 in grants to bolster two Wichita-area golf tournaments.
A budget proviso pitched by Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, would provide a $45,000 grant to the Air Capital Classic, a $650,000 purse professional golf tournament played at the Crestview Country Club in Wichita in June.
Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Cummings, said it may bring traffic into the state, but predicted that spending state money on golf tournaments could generate a tough debate in the House.
“To come out and just say we’re going to give $80-some thousand dollars to support some golf tournaments, I think, kind of makes you take a pause and think about our priorities,” he said. “In the bigger picture, it’s not a lot of money. But it does kind of make a statement about what is a priority and what is not in the state of Kansas.”
In March, the tournament lost its title sponsor, Preferred Health Systems, and reorganized as a nonprofit organization.
Rhoades said the state nets about $700,000 in economic activity from out-of-state visitors at the Air Capital Classic, formerly known as the Wichita Open.
“If they want us to continue to get almost a million dollars for the Air Cap Classic in out-of-state money, that’s probably a good investment,” he said.
The remaining $42,000 would go as a grant for the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship played at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton.
Rhoades said that could generate as much as $2 million in economic activity from out of state.
The budget proviso is part of ongoing negotiations between the House and Senate as they try to reach an agreement that could set the parameters of future income tax cuts.
Their biggest disagreement is over how much to cut higher education. House lawmakers want a 4 percent cut while the Senate has backed a plan for a 2 percent cut. Gov. Sam Brownback wants to keep funding flat.
University officials have said such cuts could drive up tuition or lead to significant cutback in the programs they offer students.