Topeka — Area legislators saw two keys in Gov. Joan Finney's budget message Tuesday: no new taxes and property tax relief.
But the governor mentioned some other issues that are important to the Lawrence community, legislators said.
One of the priorities of the Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission this year is to continue funding for the state highway program, which provides a major source of funding for such projects as the South Lawrence Trafficway.
In her budget message, Finney said she would defend the comprehensive highway program, which she called "a vital transportation and economic initiative."
Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, said there could be a fight over using highway money to finance other state programs.
"The raiders are going to mount up," Winter said.
MEANWHILE, Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, said he thought Finney's statement would quell ideas to cut the highway budget.
"If the governor doesn't want the highway fund raided, it won't be raided," Solbach said. He explained that Finney has the power to veto line-item appropriations that would take funding from highway projects.
Solbach said he has never liked the idea of transfers being made from the general fund, which provides revenue for education and social services, to the highway fund. He said he would prefer that the Legislature fund the highway program entirely with "user fees," such as gasoline taxes. However, Solbach said he wasn't yet ready to support increases in gasoline taxes to do so.
Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence, said she wasn't surprised by Finney's decision not to dip into highway funding.
"That's what most people said, it was sort of expected," Charlton said.
CHARLTON said she noticed some discrepancy in the Democratic governor's message.
"She talks about spending with current resources. And every time she said `no new taxes,' she got applause," Charlton said. "But it seems we're going to fund a lot of things we haven't funded before. So that means you have to cut in some areas."
Charlton said that Finney also called for "quite a bit of bond borrowing," in her proposal.
In her message, Finney proposed a combination of bond financing and district court docket fees to complete improvements to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center in Hutchinson.
The governor also proposed that lawmakers allow the Kansas Development Finance Authority (KDFA) to issue mortgage revenue bonds to to supplement resource of the state housing trust fund.
"THEORETICALLY, or constitutionally, the state's not supposed to borrow or go into debt," Charlton said. "But there has been a quasi-governmental agency set up, the Kansas (Development) Finance Authority, to issue bonds for the state."
The state has used the KDFA to fund part of the highway program, Charlton said.
"I'm always concerned when I hear about proposals for more bond financing," she said.
Solbach said he was pleased with the governor's announcement that she wants to work toward shifting emphasis for mental health care from institutional care to community based treatment.
FINNEY recommended $3.9 million for community placement of children moved out of Topeka State Hospital and adults moved from Osawatomie State Hospital.
"We over-institutionalize people in this state," Solbach said. "We rely too heavily on it for prisons, too heavily on mental hospitals, too heavily on mental retardation hospitals and too heavily on nursing homes."
Solbach said the state could save one-half to one-third of what it now spends in those four areas by switching to more community-based services.