Politics & Government

Kansas House OKs budget of $14.3 billion that includes 1.5 percent cut for universities

The Kansas House on Saturday passed a $14.3 billion budget that includes a 1.5 percent cut to public universities but protects some Wichita-area priorities, including $5 million each for low-cost airline service to Mid-Continent Airport and the National Institute for Aviation Research.

The budget reduces state support to $3 million from $5 million for the National Center for Aviation Training, the job-training center at Col. James Jabara Airport.

The budget vote came after a lengthy debate touching on community-based support for people with developmental disabilities.

Some lawmakers from both parties wanted a proviso in the budget that would delay Gov. Sam Brownback from adding nonmedical services for the developmentally disabled to KanCare, the state’s managed-care health program for low-income and disabled people.

Provisions for the developmentally disabled were carved out of KanCare for a year last year because of concerns in the disabilities community that managed-care organizations might not be equipped to provide the broad range of services needed by the developmentally disabled.

Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, argued for the proviso on the floor, saying that the state should pause for another year, possibly two, to let a pilot project testing KanCare on community-based services for the developmentally disabled run its course.

“IDD (intellectually and developmentally disabled) families were ill-served by this body today,” Rubin said after the vote. “I think the budget was passed at the expense of what’s best for our developmentally disabled Kansans.”

Rep. Jack Thimesh, R-Cunningham, argued against carving the developmentally disabled out of KanCare again.

He said he had talked to a constituent family with a disabled child who are in the pilot program, and “they told me, ‘We have not had any problems.’ ”

Another controversy that came to the floor was reductions in the budget for the Department of Corrections.

“I believe all conservatives would agree the first responsibility of government is defense and protecting the public,” said Rep. Ed Bideau, R-Chanute. “If we want strenuous law enforcement, we have to be willing to pay for it.”

Another controversial aspect of the bill was a $33 million cut each of the next two years to the Board of Regents, a 1.5 percent reduction in state support for the public universities.

In his initial budget, Brownback had proposed to keep education funding flat.

The initial vote on the budget bill was 57-57, but the deadlock was broken by a vote on a seemingly unrelated issue.

House Speaker Ray Merrick paused debate until the Senate passed a bill to de-fund Common Core education standards – a vote some lawmakers linked to support for the budget.

Immediately after the Senate vote, six representatives changed their votes for a final margin of 63-51.

The Senate was expected to vote on the budget either late Saturday or early Sunday.

For updates throughout the evening, check out the Wichitopekington blog.