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Legislators seem to be getting closer on budget, meeting again at 5 p.m.

TOPEKA — Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, and head budget negotiator for the House, pitched his chamber’s offer to the Senate this afternoon that would leave the state with an ending balance of $51.7 million.

Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, made an immediate counteroffer, which the House plans to consider this afternoon.

The Senate is asking for $7.5 million for Kan-Ed, a program that provides high-speed Internet access to schools, universities, hospitals and libraries. The House is offering $5 million.

Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, said $5 million isn’t enough for the Kansas Board of Regents program, which he said is crucial for rural areas of Kansas that don’t have Internet access.

“The Senate feels very strongly we should not kill Kan-Ed at this time. We will do harm to our school districts if we kill Kan-Ed,” Vratil said.

Vratil said $7.5 million would be meeting halfway with the House wanting to fund $5 million and the Senate initially shooting for $10 million.

But Rhoades said the House felt it was meeting the Senate halfway with $5 million, and he said he had heard the program already had $2 million. Vratil said that money could come 18 months after the program applies for federal aid.

“It’s not excess money,” Vratil said. “It’s not reserve money.”

Negotiators also are haggling over e-filing for Kansas courts. E-filing would allow lawyers to file cases electronically instead of at courthouses across the state. Vratil said an e-filing system would “pay big dividends in future years and great efficiencies in government.”

It also would help Kansans who file court cases because they’d pay less in hourly fees to their lawyers since lawyers would only need to “press a button” to file a case, Vratil said.

The Senate is offering $2.1 million for e-filing; te House has offered $2.9 million.

Negotiators are also apart on bringing state salaries up to market pay.

In the latest round of offers, the Senate would give $1 million to the Center of Innovation for Biomaterials in Orthopaedic Research, or CIBOR.

Asked if she thought conferees would reach an agreement today, McGinn aid “I sure hope so. We’re really running ahead of time.”

Earlier today, Rhoades said he thought conferees could finish today, sending the budget to the chambers on Friday.

It’s looking likely that legislators will be here Saturday,

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