GOP plan on Kansas budget is expected on Monday

TOPEKA | The Senate budget committee's chairman plans to outline a plan Monday with targeted spending cuts proposed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and other, across-the-board reductions to eliminate a state budget deficit.

Outlines of the proposal emerged Friday in interviews with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Emler and other Republican leaders. However, they said not all details are settled.

Emler and other Republican senators are trying to trim $300 million from the current budget by June 30. Emler's plan is likely to hit public schools harder than the Democratic governor's deficit proposal, which spared them from a cut in their overall state aid.

"I'm putting something together over the weekend here, and I'll present it on Monday," Emler said. "We looked at some of the things the governor did. Part of that's going to be in there."

He also said: "There'll be an across-the-board (cut). I don't have the final numbers yet."

Legislative researchers have projected a deficit of $186 million between anticipated revenues and approved spending for the current budget. But Republican legislators believe revenues will continue to fall short of expectations, making the gap grow.

Sebelius proposed $63 million in cuts to agencies' and institutions' operating budgets and withholding up to $64 million in aid to cities and counties, as well as accounting changes. Her grab-bag of measures is worth about $200 million.

"The governor had some suggestions that are good," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, an Independence Republican. "Her overall package just doesn't work; her math is off."

Schmidt said GOP leaders hope Emler's committee endorses a deficit plan Monday, so that the Senate can debate it midweek. The House Appropriations Committee expects to draft its own plan but won't begin its discussions until next week.

Sebelius has said she favors targeted cuts over across-the-board reductions and wants to protect aid to public schools and social services as much as possible. Spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said the governor continues to view across-the-board cuts as "an irresponsible course of action."

"It's impossible for the governor to comment on what action legislators may or may not take," Corcoran said. "She has put forth budgets that balance and reflect shared sacrifice for all those impacted by state funds."

Sebelius' fellow Democrats are backing her proposals and have said they're not involved directly with GOP senators in drafting an alternative plan.

"They're not talking to us," said Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.

But Kelly said she and her fellow Democrats have heard that Emler will propose a 3.5 percent cut in all spending financed by general tax revenues, on top of some cuts Sebelius has proposed.

Emler and Schmidt said the details aren't final.