A bill introduced in the Kansas House to allow proposals from cities to take over hosting the Kansas State Fair is an irrational response to alleged unhappiness among some with the city of Hutchinson and the blue-ribbon role it has fulfilled for 105 years as home to the annual event.
The measure was launched by Rep. Don Schroeder, who chairs the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Committee. That panel oversees budgeting for the fair. The Hesston Republican referenced dissension among some who were upset that stormwater fees imposed by the city of Hutchinson had risen to a $50,000 annual expense. Schroeder did not identify anyone who had voiced complaints regarding the fair and its Hutchinson backdrop.
The legislative proposal seems like an overreach to spur additional concessions from the city of Hutchinson, which along with agencies representing both the city and Reno County has long worked to provide infrastructure and services needed to support the fair. Facilities are also made available to other state and national events.
Each September, Hutchinson is synonymous with the Kansas State Fair and all it offers. Kansans recognize the importance of maintaining the event in the same community, which is centrally located for fairgoers throughout the state and has accommodated attendees for more than a century. Replicating a new fairgrounds elsewhere would be cost-prohibitive, a point stressed by Rep. Jason Probst, a Hutchinson Democrat.
Until more substantive complaints surface regarding conditions, expenses and relationships related to the Kansas State Fair and its longstanding place in Hutchinson, this is a frivolous issue that should not divert state lawmakers’ attention from more pertinent matters.
In fact, another Hutchinson lawmaker, Republican Edward Berger, worked to do just that when a bill he authored was passed unanimously by the Senate. The measure allows for sales tax revenue generated at the Hutchinson fairgrounds to be used for the fair’s capital improvement fund beginning in July. The bill should temper some alleged complaints with a funding stream that will help with capital improvements and deferred maintenance.
In addition, the funding mechanism would expire if the Kansas State Fair were moved from Hutchinson, which is clearly where it belongs.
— GateHouse Kansas