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Archive for Friday, April 20, 2001

Spending plan begs tax question

Graves’ proposal silent on increases, but lawmakers feel the pressure

April 20, 2001

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— A day after branding tax increases the best solution to the state's budget problems, Gov. Bill Graves outlined spending proposals that appeared to some legislators to force the issue.

Graves on Thursday proposed adding $35.5 million to appropriations already approved by legislators for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The total includes nearly $20 million that lawmakers already had anticipated spending to meet growing demand for social services.

The governor also wants an additional $9.4 million for state universities for operating expenditures and new equipment. The Senate Education Committee endorsed the same idea Tuesday, suggesting the money come from higher corporate, liquor or income taxes.

University officials had complained that while Graves' original budget included money for a 6.2 percent faculty pay raise, it neglected other needs.

Graves' new proposals would expand the gap between state spending and expected revenues to $221.6 million from the $206 million that legislators have been working to close.

On Wednesday, Graves said he would support a wide array of tax increases to cover the difference. But the budget amendments he presented Thursday did not include specific suggestions.

That led some legislators to suspect that Graves was trying to force the issue of tax increases. House Republican leaders and many GOP senators have said the Legislature will not raise taxes.

"If you raise base spending and the expectations all this is going to happen then there's more pressure for a tax increase," said Rep. Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Budget Director Duane Goossen said Graves was simply proposing changes to his budget.

He noted that Graves endorsed adding nearly $3 million for more staff at the Department of Revenue, which has estimated it could collect at least $37 million more in delinquent taxes with the extra personnel. Also, the governor would use extra federal nursing home funds, spread out over several years, for health-related expenses.

But some legislators wanted more detail from the governor.

"How's he going to fund it?" said Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Graves on Wednesday denounced new budget plans from the House and Senate as too reliant on money that wouldn't be collected again in 2003. He also criticized the House plan for trimming $5.2 million of an approved $20.8 million increase for higher education funds promised when the Legislature reorganized the system in 1999.

Some lawmakers, meanwhile, had said Graves' original budget plan scrimped on operating funds for state Board of Regents universities and failed to provide money for technology. His new plan would add $5.5 million for operating expenditures and nearly $3.9 million for technology.

"He's trying to make amends to the regents, and I commend him for doing that," said Sen. Paul Feleciano, D-Wichita.

Graves also proposed an additional $300,000 for the judicial branch. The Kansas Supreme Court says it needs the money to meet payrolls.

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