Politics & Government

Legislature cuts $92 million in budget

TOPEKA — The House and Senate on Thursday agreed to cut $92 million in spending by the end of June in an attempt to balance the current fiscal year's budget, but few legislators think their agreement will be the last word on cuts.

Among other things, the bill legislators sent to Gov. Mark Parkinson would cut salaries for elected state officials — including him — by 5 percent, and reduce the amount each legislator can spend on mailings to constituents.

"I think we all need to help out," said Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita.

Parkinson said passage of the 2010 budget bill was "encouraging" but sounded a word of caution as legislators start work on the larger task of closing a projected $416 million deficit in the 2011 budget.

"I expect all ideas to be on the table for responsibly balancing the budget," Parkinson said in a statement. "However, I reiterate that after already cutting a billion dollars from the state budget, there is not $400 million left that we can responsibly cut, especially from our schools, public safety programs and aid to the elderly and disabled."

Thursday's agreement would balance the budget, as outlined by the official revenue estimate for tax collections issued in November. However, revenue collection dipped another $39 million below that estimate and absent revenue growth, legislators will be required to get the state back to zero on June 30.

Legislators will learn more in April how much revenue they have available for the 2011 budget when economists make their next estimate.

"I think there are more adjustments that must occur to the current year budget. More cuts are in store," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, who negotiated the budget bill sent to the governor.

The bill also includes $5 million more for the judicial branch in hopes of avoiding closure of district courts for several days because of a lack of funds.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, said court officials think the additional funds will prevent furloughs, "but that remains to be seen."

Emler said if more spending reductions are necessary that they may be included in the 2011 budget, which is still several weeks from being completed.