Budget conferees at end-of-week impasse at Statehouse

TOPEKA — Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, this morning called the latest two budget offers by the Kansas House “regressive” and said she had hoped for more progress going into the weekend.

Appearing tired from a grueling week of negotiations, McGinn said she nonethless was encouraged that Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said his committee would take a new look at its offers. McGinn chairs the Senate’s budget committee. Rhoades chairs the House’s.

Rhoades said he believed his chamber’s budget negotiators had made a “good-faith effort” in its proposals to the Senate.

But McGinn said the House’s offers were too focused on an ending number and not enough on public policy.

The republican leadership of the House issued a statement Thursday that both sides had agreed to an ending balance of $50 million. Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, this morning said he didn’t know where that statement came from.

“It was a surprise to me,” he said in a meeting with reporters.

“We would all like to see a healthy ending balance in this budget,” Morris said in a news release issued after the meeting. “But we’d also like to make sure our local schools stay open, our senior citizens are cared for and our economy remains on track for recovery. We have the ability to do both.”

Legislators have worked 13 rounds of negotiations, and budget conferees will meet again Monday morning.

McGinn said it is important for the Legislature to ensure the state’s core services are funded so they are not “dumped on the backs of local goverment. That can certainly change the makeup of your community.”

Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, said when the House makes an offer that promises progress, the Senate will accept it.

“We’re sitting at the table with a plan that is balanced, that minimizes the cuts to our communities and that leaves money in the bank,” Vratil said in a news release after the meeting. “The Senate is ready to get that plan passed and wrap up the session.”

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, plans to meet with reporters at 2 p.m. today.