Legislature working to wrap up by deadline

TOPEKA — With time ticking away, Kansas lawmakers resumed talks on the state's $14 billion budget Monday as the Senate tendered a new offer that sets aside a bigger nest egg.

Senate leaders offered a plan they said leaves more than a $55 million cash balance at the end of the year, but preserves funding for education, social services and other programs.

"We're hopeful the House is going to come back with a good counter proposal and something we can start to whittle down and compromise on," said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, lead Senate negotiator.

Lawmakers are racing to wrap up the session before a Thursday deadline. McGinn has moved to shut off legislative pay after Thursday. Gov. Sam Brownback also is urging lawmakers to wrap up their work by the deadline.

Among other things, senators signaled they would compromise on a number of issues including across-the-board cuts in social services, the judiciary and the state health department.

Senators want to keep the state contribution for K-12 education at the amount they had proposed earlier, about $3,786 per student. That would cut the state's general aid to schools by $226 per student, or about 5.6 percent. Brownback proposed a cut of $232 per student, and the House passed a cut of $250 per student.

The current aid figure is $4,012 per student.

Possible compromises mapped out in the Senate proposal Monday include:

* Cutting $4.8 million from the state's social service agency's budget, down from $10 million sought by the House.

* Cutting $2.1 million from the judiciary, down from $6 million wanted by the House.

However, there are some items the Senate still wants funded. They include:

* $5 million for the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program to help subsidize lower fares at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita

* $8.5 million to bring the pay of classified state executive branch employees up to market value.

* $1.5 million for public broadcasting. The House wanted spending reduced.

Talks are expected to resume this morning.