Archive for Saturday, March 2, 2002

House speaker tells lawmakers to fix budget now

At session midpoint, Glasscock says deficit decisions will start March 11

March 2, 2002


— With about half the 2002 legislative session gone, it's time for lawmakers to put up or shut up when it comes to fixing a record budget deficit.

That's what House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, said Friday as he announced that starting March 11, the House will start voting on whether to increase taxes, and if not, where to cut spending.

"There is no other honest way to do this," Glasscock said.

The Legislature faces an approximate $426 million revenue shortfall out of a $4.5 billion budget.

Without an increase in revenue, funding would have to be reduced to schools, social services and higher education, which together make up about 85 percent of the budget.

And the shortfall is expected to grow to about $600 million when budget forecasters revise their estimate Friday.

After the new budget figures are in, Glasscock said the House will start filling the hole.

The strategy, Glasscock said, "is forcing the chamber to look squarely at the issue before us."

Once the House picks a revenue level, budget writers will craft a spending plan to fit that mold, Glasscock said.

If the House refuses to adopt a spending plan, the process will start over votes on revenue and then budgets to match that revenue.

"We are going to begin the process of grinding them down until they make decisions," Glasscock said. He said he doesn't expect quick progress.

Glasscock said he doesn't want lawmakers to be allowed to talk against tax increases and then refuse to cut the budget.

"All of us here in public service have to match our speeches with our votes," he said.

Because of the size of the revenue shortfall, he said, lawmakers will be able to vote for both tax increases and spending cuts.

Glasscock, a candidate for lieutenant governor on a Republican ticket led by Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall, said he supports an increase in the cigarette tax, and may support other revenue increases before the whole process has been completed.

He said that although Republicans own a significant majority in the House over Democrats, 79-46, Democrats will be needed to help solve the budget problem.

But House Minority Leader Jim Garner, D-Coffeyville, said he wasn't sure Glasscock's plan would work.

"There is concern about how the money is being spent," Garner said. "Maybe there is something to this exercise, but I'm not sure anything is going to come of it."

Meanwhile, in the Senate, President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said he would appoint a special committee to take a big-picture look at the budget to decide where to go next.

Earlier in the session, Kerr tried unsuccessfully to get lawmakers to agree to a 1 percent to 2 percent budget cut.

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