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Archive for Saturday, December 4, 1999

GRAVES OFFERS BUDGET DETAILS

December 4, 1999

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Departing from past practice, the governor offered some advance details about the budget he plans to send to the Legislature.

Topeka -- Most state agencies will take budget cuts for the rest of this fiscal year, and they will take even deeper cuts next year, under a plan that Gov. Bill Graves will send to the Legislature.

Those cuts will be needed to pay for increases the governor plans to propose for public schools, higher education, and social programs -- some of which were promised in the budget bill passed by the 1999 Legislature.

"There will be a large percentage of agencies that will get less money in the revised 2000 recommendations, and that pretty much embraces the 1-percent cut that we asked for," Graves said at a news conference Friday. "And then there are a majority of agencies that will be getting less actual dollars than that 1-percent cut level in 2001."

Overall, Graves said his plan calls for less spending from the general fund in fiscal year 2001 than the adopted budget for this fiscal year, but it would be about the same compared to the adjusted budget he will recommend for the rest of this fiscal year. He also conceded that could mean some agencies will have to cut back on the services they provide to the public.

"Some (of the cuts) I think have the potential to have some degree of impact on the quality of services those agencies are providing," Graves said.

Preparing for cuts

In August, Graves advised state agencies

to be prepared for a 1-percent cut in general fund spending for the current year, and a possible 6-percent cut in next year's general fund spending, because revenue flowing into the state has been falling far short of projections.

The state ended fiscal year 1999 with $73 million less than had been projected for that year, and the latest estimates show revenues for the current fiscal year may be $103 million less than what had been projected when lawmakers adopted the budget in May.

Since then, several lawmakers have criticized the governor for suggesting across-the-board cuts instead of setting priorities for which agencies and programs that should be targeted for cuts first.

Although Graves typically refuses to divulge details of his budget proposals before the annual State of the State address, he departed from that policy Friday by announcing several specific items that he will propose, including:

  • Restoring $10 million in fiscal year 2001 for state aid to community mental health facilities that the governor's budget staff earlier had recommended cutting from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation's budget request.
  • Also restoring $6 million the budget staff had recommended cutting in 2001 for community-based programs for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Some new money for building additional medium- and maximum-security prison space, although he declined to say how much.
  • And proposals to spend $30 million in tobacco settlement money along the same general guidelines that were used this year, including the Parents as Teachers program, services for at-risk 4-year-olds, and grants for community programs to prevent juvenile delinquency.

"That would not necessarily be what some would recommend being done with that money," Graves said.

Plan for tobacco money

Next week, as Graves puts the finishing touches on his budget plan, the Kansas Childrens Cabinet will meet to vote on its recommendations for spending that money. The panel will receive a strong push from the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition -- with the help of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Medical Association -- to dedicate part of that money to a coordinated statewide anti-smoking

campaign, something that was not included in the first year's allocation of tobacco money.

Graves also echoed a statement he made last month when he identified K-12 education, higher education and social services as his top priorities. When questioned by reporters, however, Graves would not make a specific commitment to full funding for the two consecutive increases of $50 in per-pupil state aid to public schools that lawmakers approved in 1999.

"The big-dollar items are the ones that are most in play as we try to get all the pieces to fit together," Graves said, adding that he would make his specific education budget plan during the State of the State address.

Department of Education officials had projected the proposed 1-percent cut in current-year spending would have eliminated about $23 out of the first $50 increase, while the initial recommendations from the Division of Budget would have eliminated the entire second $50 increase.

Funding for universities

Likewise, Graves would not commit to full funding of the $21 million promised for higher education reform in fiscal year 2001, which included $8.5 million for faculty salary increases, although he did say he would recommend at least partial funding of that program.

"We are attempting to have some money in the budget to show good faith on the implementation of higher education reform," Graves said. "I will not go so far as to tell you that every dime is locked in, but that does not mean to assume that we might not get there."

To pay for those priorities, Graves said, most other state agencies -- including his own office and those of other elected officials -- will have to tighten their belts.

"Equipment acquisition in general government agencies is just not going to happen for a year," Graves said. "In effect, we're going to be challenging our managers to manage, and I'm confident they will."

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