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Senate begins its budget debate

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, presents his proposal to balance the budget without raising taxes.TOPEKA – The Senate slogged into the budget melee Wednesday afternoon debating a measure that would rely on some cuts but also about $350 million in new taxes.

The Senate proposal eliminated from the governor's initial proposal about $8.5 million that would have gone to bring state employee pay up to market rates and also eliminated $55.3 million that would have boosted per pupil state aid by $50. It would also cut the salaries for top state officials by 5 percent.

Some of the $500 million budget gap for the more than $13 billion budget would be filled by money lawmakers hope to receive in fiscal year 2011, which starts July 1. The anticipated funds includes $131 million from federal Medicaid match funds, which have not been approved, there is also $27 million anticipated from a pilot program to recover Medicaid costs.

The budget also anticipates $25 million from a gaming facility in south central Kansas.

The $350 million tax package, which will be debated later, would rely on a three-year, 1 cent sales tax increase starting July 1 and would eliminate a tax deduction for certain industries in the state worth about $17 million.

Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover quickly countered with his own proposal.

"I prefer to fill the hole with something besides taxes so this is a $300 million filler," he said.

The package includes selling off surplus state property, or selling some off and buying it back. There is also $66 million saved by deleting equal amounts from the general state and state money to local option budgets. The move would reduce the base amount schools received per pupil to $3,962 instead of $4,012 in fiscal year 2011.

The package would also reduce state employee pay by 5 percent, which could be accomplished by closing state government every Friday at 3 p.m., Masterson said.

The Senate is currently debating Masterson's proposal.

After nine hours of debate Tuesday, the House failed its budget proposal, which included no tax increases and contained some ideas similar to Masterson's proposal.

The House planned to debate a second version of its budget Wednesday.

For more, read Thursday's Wichita Eagle