TOPEKA —The Senate on Tuesday approved a $14.7 billion spending plan for fiscal 2012 that reduces state education spending per pupil by $151, to $3,786.
Gov. Sam Brownback had recommended a $157 cut. The House version of the budget cuts spending by $232 per student.
The Senate plan would leave the budget with an ending balance of $8.1 million.
"It's not as good as we would probably like," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee. "But let's hope for better times."
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, cast one of only three votes against the budget bill.
"This leads us down the path of slowly but surely dismantling our K-12 education system," he said.
The $14.7 billion in spending includes about $6 billion from state revenue and closes a projected $493 million spending shortfall without raising taxes or forcing state employee layoffs. Senators followed Brownback's desire to eliminate about 2,000 unfilled state positions that have been vacant for six months or longer.
Kansas would fund mandated increases in health care and social services, including $43 million for services for the elderly, and restore funding for mental health services to 2011 levels.
In a budget debate marked by frayed nerves, confusion and course reversals, senators voted to reduce a planned cut in their own pay, then later restored it.
But while the Senate's budget bill would reduce lawmaker pay by 7.5 percent starting in July, the governor, other statewide elected officeholders, judges and department heads would get only a 2.5 percent pay cut.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee had recommended a 7.5 percent pay cut for all of those officeholders.
Initially, lawmakers voted 19-17 to reduce the pay cut to 2.5 percent for all the affected officials. Later, they voted 35-4 to take themselves back to a 7.5 percent cut but leave the others at 2.5 percent.
If the pay cuts survive budget negotiations with the House, they will take effect July 1 and last through fiscal 2012 .
After winning on his motion to cut legislators' pay by 7.5 percent, Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, hit strong opposition on an amendment to extend the cut to all state workers making more than $100,000 a year.
Abrams said his amendment "sends a message to the state of Kansas we are serious about balancing the budget. ... I continue to say we must learn to live within our means."
But several senators argued that it would seriously hurt the state's universities and economic development efforts, because 80 percent of the researchers who are paid more than $100,000 get most of their income from federal and private grants — money they could take elsewhere if Kansas cuts their pay.
Others said it's time to stop cutting and start building.
"Give me a break on this 'message to the state of Kansas,' " said Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan. "The state of Kansas knows where we are. We're bumping along, bungling along, trying to show everybody how good we can be about cutting our expenses. Kansas is better than this."
He said excessive budget cuts will end up hurting the economy and the state.