Politics & Government

Kansas House, Senate approve budget

TOPEKA — Shortly before dawn Friday, the Kansas House joined the Senate in approving a $13.88 billion state budget making deep cuts in education and shedding thousands of public jobs but preserving low-airfare subsidies for Wichita.

Democrats and a few Republicans decried cuts to schools and social service programs for the disabled and elderly. Conservative Republicans argued the cuts didn't go deep enough.

The budget passed 69-55 just before 3 a.m.

"There's a lot of heartburn with the things we did," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton.

None of the 33 House or eight Senate Democrats voted for the budget. "No Democrat was willing to sacrifice Kansas citizens so the state can stash money away in its bank account," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

"There is pain in this budget," Gov. Sam Brownback told a group of Republican senators before debating the budget. "There will be pain in future budgets as well. This isn't the end of it. This will be life as we know for the next three or four years."

Freshman Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, said he had campaigned on cutting government spending and couldn't vote for the budget bill, which increased state general fund spending while cutting the all-funds budget that includes federal money and other sources of revenue.

He said the proposed general fund spending is 250 percent more than in 1992 and about 40 percent more than as recently as 2003. "As I recall, Kansas was a pretty darn good place to live in 1992," he said. "It was a pretty darn good place to live in 2003. And I can assure you, I think we all feel it's a pretty darn good place to live this year."

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said cuts in education take the state back to school funding levels near those of 20 years ago.

"The cost of a U.S. postage stamp in 1992 was 29 cents — today it's 44 cents," Ward said. "The cost of a gallon of gasoline was $1.13. I bought gas the other day ... for $4.03.

"And what we are asking schools to do on that 1992 dollars is to make more kids smarter in math, science and reading and we will hold them accountable for that. That's the wrong way to go."

Rep. Mike Kiegerl, R-Olathe, said he wouldn't vote for the budget because it leaves 4,000 disabled people waiting for public services.

"These are children that need desperately our services," Kiegerl said.

The final budget:

* Sets overall spending at $14.75 billion for fiscal 2011, which ends June 30. For fiscal 2012, spending will dip to $13.88 billion.

* Plans $5.76 billion in general fund spending for this fiscal year and $6.05 billion in 2012.

* Sets per-pupil spending in base state aid to public schools at $3,780, as Brownback had requested. He cut spending to $3,990 this year to make up for declining revenue.

* Substantially reduces the number of state employees, from 41,147 this year to 39,184, the lowest number since 2002.

* Includes $5 million to subsidize low-cost airline service to Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

* Carries over a projected $50 million ending balance. That balance rises to about $72 million when unexpected April revenue of about $22 million is added.