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Hot stun 10 teams compete at 9th annual Chuckwagon Chili Cook-off /C1 POOD Playoff lever Florida and Atlanta capture NL playoff victories/D1 SPORTS • FedEX JPOWth: Shipper buys land to handle growing business / B1 • COW CUT6?: New treatment cuts severity of symptoms 50 percent / C3 INSIDE Low: 62 Sunny and warm today with south winds 5 to 10 mph / B3 Classified / C5 Comics / B4 Deaths / A7 Food/C1 Great Plains / B1 Money / C4 Sports / D1 Viewpoints / B2 ;:> INDEX" : -~ Salina Journal Serving Kansas since 1871 WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 1, 1997 SALINA, KANSAS 50 cents V TAXES Panel proposes tax relief for Kansans If enacted, move would save taxpayers $29 million next year and even more in the future By LEW FERGUSON The Associated Press TOPEKA — It didn't take the Legislature's tax study committee very long to recommend how the state should spend some of an.expected property tax windfall. The interim Assessment and Taxation Committee learned Monday that the 27-mill statewide property tax levy will bring in much more revenue this fiscal year than previously thought — because property valuations are up 8.3 percent statewide over 1996. The higher a piece of property is appraised, the more 27 mills will produce in revenue from it. A mill is $1 tax for each $1,000 of assessed valuation. On Tuesday, the committee voted without dissent to have a bill drafted to increase both the personal exemption and standard deduction on state income tax returns, a move that would save income taxpayers nearly $29 million next year and even more in the future. It also agreed to have a second bill drafted to provide an earned income tax credit for working poor Kansans — making it 10 percent of the existing federal earned income tax credit * Jumps in property taxes might be smoothed out in Kansas; Clinton, Gingrich offer views on IRS / Page A5 next year and 15 percent after that. The committee was charged only with reviewing the state income tax exemptions and deductions, which have not been changed in nine years and now lag significantly behind the federal allowances. But committee members noted in voting for the income tax relief that a myriad of other tax cut proposals will be considered when the 1998 session opens in January: removal of the state's 4.9 percent sales tax on food and remodeling services; inher- itance'tax reduction, and business machinery tax breaks among them. "My motion was not intended to move us precipitously in any direction," said Rep. Ralph Tanner, R- Baldwin, who moved to have the exemption-deduction bill introduced. "There are never too few ways to spend money." Under Tanner's motion, the bill to be reviewed at the committee's Oct. 22-23 meeting would increase the state's individual income tax standard deduction by $200 for single taxpayers, $400 for heads of house- hold and $600 for married couples filing joint returns. Kansas' standard deductions for those three classes of taxpayers now are $3,000, $4,400 and $5,000. Also, the personal exemption, now $2,000, would be increased by $50 next year, and both the standard deduction and personal exemption would be indexed for inflation in the future. The state has not increased its standard deduction and personal exemption since 1988, and the increases in the proposed bill would not bring the state into conformity with federal deductions and exemptions. TERRY NICHOLS TRIAL juror spar j&Tan being interviewed suggests computers could decide trials By STEVEN K. PAULSON TtifAssociated Press DENVER — The judge in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Terry Nichols took a break to control his anger Tuesday after getting into a vcTbal..iparring inatcli with a potential juror who suggested computers could do a better job of deciding trials. Nichols' lead attorney, Michael Tigar, later took issue with the "to'ne and content" of U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch's questioning and the judge called the attorneys into his chambers. The squabble began when a computer programmer, a tall, blond man with wire-rimmed glasses, said he had formed an opinion that Nichols was guilty. The judge noted that making a decision on a man's guilt wasn't like putting information into a computer, "That's why we don't have computers" in trials, Matsch said. "Maybe we should look at 'the computer," the potential juror shot back. "I'm a pretty opinionated person," the man added. "I'm not a computer. I can't just turn that off." Matsch then called a break, saying he was getting angry with the man. "I just take some umbrage at the notion that what is done by jurors ... is something a computer could do better," Matsch said. Nineteen children were among the 168 people killed in the April 19, 1995, blast that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. Hundreds of others were injured. Selecting the 12 jurors and six alternates is expected to take two weeks to a month. T CAMPAIGN FUND-RAISING TOM DORSEY / The Salina Journal Susan Uaynes, manager of Unlglobe Knowles Travel, 128 N. Santa Fe, makes an airline reservation for a customer. Travel agents In Salina may charge fees In the future for such services as booking airline tickets and making hotel reservations. Airlines' action threatens travel agents Local agents say they may be forced to charge extra fees in future to consumers By DAVID CLOUSTON The Salina Journal A decision by some major airlines to cut commission rates for travel agents means some formerly free services may soon cost consumers, while some smaller agencies might not survive, agents in the Salina area say. But aside from the effect on their business, the agents say the action threatens to restrict consumers' choices and their ability to get the best fare. Airlines say they're not out to close travel agencies but that they need to control costs. Major airlines paid $6.1 billion in commis- sions last year, their fifth-biggest expense, according to reports in the national press. The airlines are refusing to comment beyond press statements about the change, because of fear of being sued. The airlines paid $72 million last year to settle a lawsuit charging airlines with collusion for capping commissions in 1995, according to a recent article in USA Today. On Sept. 18, United Airlines announced it was cutting sales commissions it pays travel agents down to 8 percent from the previous level of 10 percent. This comes on top of major airlines' move in February 1995 to cap commissions at $50 for roundtrip domestic airline tickets written for more than $500. The commission cuts mean a travel agent's commission on a $500 ticket would be cut from $50 to $40. Under the cap, the agent's commission could not be more than $50, regardless of the price of the ticket. "If I sold a first-class ticket for $3,000, I was only going to make $50 versus $300," said Luci Larson, co-owner of Action Travel, 116 S. Seventh. By making cuts and keeping the cap, United claims to be saving $80 million annually, Larson said. But travel agents generate 80 percent of all airlines' income, she said. "When they capped (commissions) at $50, a lot of (agencies) went out of business. And this, to me, is worse," Larson said. "This will cause the demise of some agencies." Those agencies that do survive will likely begin charging fees for services that had been free before, such as booking airline tickets and making hotel reservations. The fees are likely to range between $5 and $20 for each service. See AGENTS, Page A7 V EDUCATION $25,000 goes to 4 educators Stockton instructor who developed new courses is among the recipients From Staff and Wire Reports TOPEKA — Four Kansas educators, including a Stockton teacher, are $25,000 richer. The Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards were given out at impromptu assemblies by Kansas Commissioner of Education Andy Tompkins, a former superintendent in Salina. Keith Hall, Stockton High School teacher, called the award "pretty exciting" Tuesday night. The other recipients were Nancy McRoberts, Olathe North High teacher; Allen Poplin, Baldwin High assistant principal; and Janice Crowley, Independent School teacher in Wichita. Hall has made the transition from an industrial arts teacher to a technology instructor. He still teaches some woodworking classes, but he also has helped develop courses in applied physics for students who might become electronic repairers and a course called engineering and design, which is an exploratory class for prospective engineers. In the engineering course, he has his students design a project for the National Engineering Design Challenge. Last year, they designed a fitness center and took second in the state. Hall isn't sure why he won the $25,000 award, but he guesses it has something to do with the courses. "We've done some things to change how we've been doing things before," he said. "I don't know if we've made large strides, but we're trying to make a transition." Hall never stops thinking about education. He plans to use the money for his two children's college funds. His eldest, Jenny, is a freshman at Stockton High and his youngest, Justin, is a fifth-grader at Stockton Elementary School. Journal staff writer Dan England contributed to this story. Kassebaum Baker urges end to 'soft money' "The Associated Press With former Vice President Walter Mondale looking on, former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker testifies Tuesday before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. Ex-Kansas senator and Mondale want to end the influence of large, unlimited donations in campaigns By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Walter Mondale, and ex-Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, urged senators today to "swiftly and decisively" end the influence of large, unlimited donations in political campaigns. Asked by President Clinton to study campaign fund-raising problems, Mondale and Kassebaum Baker predicted a ban on the so-called "soft money" donations would survive a challenge in the Supreme Court. They also suggested to the Governmental Affairs Committee that the enforcer of campaign fi- nance abuses, the Federal Election Commission, be restructured. The current setup, with commissioners divided equally between the political parties, "too often produces inaction or stalemate," Kassebaum Baker, a Kansas Republican, testified. Soft money refers to the unlimited contributions by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals that are to support party-building activities such as voter participation, rather than individual campaigns. Mondale said this money, often used to circumvent limits on donations to individual campaigns, is- "an outrageous loophole neyer approved by Congress. These rivers and oceans of money are swamping this system" and "causing an appalling diminution of public trust...." Mondale and Kassebaum Baker released a statement by more than 70 former members of Congress backing reform of the campaign finance system. Former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush previously have supported reform, including a soft money ban. Kassebaum Baker warned that if soft money is prohibited, the gains "will be incomplete if funds now contributed to political parties are redirected, whether by corporations or unions, into election advertisements disguised as 'issue advocacy.' " "We believe the highest priority is to end, swiftly and decisively, the influence of soft money," she testified. The panel met with resistance from the AFL- CIO, the Christian Coalition and other groups to turning over documents about their political activities. Unable to resolve the legal impasse and faced with a Senate floor debate on legislation to overhaul campaign finance laws, the committee shifts its focus back to the operation of the campaign.