TOPEKA — In one of the first moves of the 2013 legislative session, senators plan to discuss new rules that would stop lawmakers from increasing state spending during their final budget debates.
The move, backed by new conservative Republican leaders in the Senate, requires lawmakers who want to increase spending after House and Senate committees set an overall spending amount to offset the increase with a corresponding budget cut.
Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican now in charge of Senate budgeting, said the so called "pay-as-you-go" rule restrains spending and prevents lawmakers from “gotcha” votes where a lawmaker proposes unrealistically big increases to assist needy Kansans and criticizes anyone who opposes for not helping the neediest.
The idea is similar to a rule approved in the House last year, except the Senate’s change would apply to both the House and Senate budget debates.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said the idea gives too much budgeting power to committees made up of only a fraction of lawmakers.
“I think it’s intended to stifle debate,” he said.
Hensley said he plans to pitch an amendment that would require any tax cuts to be similarly offset with increased revenue.
Senators plan to discuss the proposal as part of a debate on new Senate rules Wednesday afternoon.
Another proposal would give the Senate president power to appoint the members and chairs of legislative committees that debate bills before advancing them to the full legislature.
The change would elevate the Senate president’s importance to a level similar to the speaker of the House. If it is approved, newly elected Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, could install more like-minded committee members.
Currently, an organizational committee appointed by majority votes in the Senate decides who will be on which committees.