TOPEKA — Amid the budget negotiations during the legislative session, south-central Kansas' interests were rarely on the chopping block.
The budget on its way to the governor's desk includes $5 million apiece for aviation research and training, $5 million for the Fair Fares program intended to support lower fares at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, and about $530,000 for Wichita's Equus Beds aquifer recharge project.
"We were able to keep a lot of programs in place and these are programs that help generate revenue for our state," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.
The money — particularly the dollars for aviation — is a good idea, Gov. Mark Parkinson said Wednesday.
"It's really an investment in the aviation industry, and it is a small investment when you consider we pay $100 million, sometimes two or three hundred million to keep an individual company here," he said. "It's really good long-term planning."
During a review of the session, he said the best way to create economic development is for Kansas to create centers of expertise, "areas that we are really, really good at so companies will naturally come here and naturally stay here."
Mayor Carl Brewer reiterated that the money supports programs that will pay dividends for the state and Wichita.
"Although there may have been sharp disagreement over the final budget solution, our delegation remained supportive to our community agenda throughout the process," he said in a written statement. "The continuation of Affordable Airfares and the support for the National Institute for Aviation Research and the National Center for Aviation Training are vital to the economic growth of our community."
Earlier in the session, some members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee attempted to remove funding for aviation training and research and the Fair Fares program. South-central senators on the panel made a similar argument to the governor's: The money is an investment in the jobs and industries that help pay for many of the state's programs.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, noted Wednesday that aviation is not a stagnant industry; it is one that needs to retrain workers with new skills and develop innovations to keep the industry in Wichita competitive.
The money is "one of those strategic investments that state government has made, I think, in the future of the Kansas economy that we have to preserve even in the toughest of economic times," he said.