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House votes 45-75 against proposed state budget

TOPEKA — The Kansas House rejected its budget proposal late Tuesday after about nine hours of stop-and-start debate.

The bill contained no tax increases but could have increased property taxes at the local level. Lawmakers voted it down 45-75 about 10 p.m.

As things stand, the Legislature runs out of money to operate today.

The Senate is expected to debate its budget proposal today. That proposal relies on some cuts, more federal matching payments for Medicaid and a $350 million tax package.

The Senate plan would increase the state sales tax 1 percent for three years starting July 1 and would eliminate a tax deduction for certain industries, worth about $17 million. It no longer increases taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Conservative Republicans, including House Leadership, argue that raising taxes is the wrong move when the economy is struggling to recover.

"Part of your job is to defend the taxpayers, the people who are out working right now," Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, told the chamber. "Every dollar we spend comes from a Kansan who works hard and pays taxes."

Democrats and moderate Republicans derided the House budget, saying it cut services to some of the state's most vulnerable citizens. They've pushed for tax increases instead of cuts to help offset the state's almost half a billion dollar budget shortfall.

"I ask you to reject this budget," said Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita. "There is really not enough lipstick in the world to fix it."

The budget should reflect the state's values, he said. "This one falls way short in reflecting what I think are the values of the citizens of this state."

During the debate, lawmakers approved several amendments.

One stipulated that lawmakers wouldn't get paid for two days while they were in session. House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said the plan was to apply the two days to last Saturday and Sunday so the Legislature can continue working this Thursday and Friday.

Another, offered by Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, would require the state to take a complete inventory of property it owns. By the end of January 2011, the state would begin selling off parcels it does not need.

Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, said the plan was a real opportunity for Kansas. "This has been done in other states. It has been done very successfully," she said.

Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, doubted the plan would bring in much money. Two legislative post audits, one 20 years ago and one almost 10 years ago, had studied the idea and estimated the state could generate $7 million from the sales.

"For those thinking this would be a panacea, don't, because the money is just not there," she said.

Later, during a debate on a similar amendment that would have put a dollar amount on how much the property sales needed to raise, Rep. Phil Hermanson, R-Wichita, said he understood people's worries with the retail real estate market suffering. Hermanson, a Realtor, said he wasn't worried.

"Just with the easements and farmland alone, if it is only 1.5 percent of the total property that the state of Kansas owns, this could help us get through a really tough time," he said.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, has proposed a similar idea in the Senate.

An amendment offered by Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, aims to keep Planned Parenthood from receiving federal dollars that flow through the state to provide family planning services. The money cannot be used to provide abortion services.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri received a $314,000 grant from the program, which is administered through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kinzer said.

His amendment would require that the department give first priority when allocating the grants to county public health programs, hospitals and safety net clinics.

"I believe that it is appropriate that they receive all the money and it doesn't go to Planned Parenthood, which many of us have significant problems with," he said.

Rep. Don Schroeder, R-Hesston, proposed introducing a half-cent increase in the state sales tax to replace $85.9 million in federal stimulus dollars that no longer will be available for public schools.

He said not replacing that money would have devastating effects for rural school districts, such as those he represents.

"It's a compromise. I think it is a good compromise," he said.

The amendment failed on a voice vote.

The House rejected another Kinzer amendment that would have eliminated a program that offers in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges for students who graduate from a Kansas high school but aren't citizens. Students would have to sign an affidavit affirming that they were working toward receiving citizenship to qualify for the program, which costs $400,000 annually.

O'Neal said seeing the budget proposal fail was frustrating but not surprising. He said he's thought this session that "we wouldn't have the votes to do anything," he said after the vote.

"We're sort of in a situation where we're waiting for something to materialize," he said.

O'Neal also said he planned reoffer the proposal dealing with the two day's of legislator pay so lawmakers could continue working on Thursday and Friday.

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