City, county and school officials had a basic message for the local legislative delegation: If you can't help us, please don't hurt us.
Nearly 100 people packed the Eldridge Hotel Tuesday morning to meet with state lawmakers from Douglas County to discuss the 2003 legislative session that starts Monday.
With the state mired in a record deficit that has been estimated at $800 million, local officials said they don't expect the Legislature to provide increased funding.
So, they asked lawmakers to not impose more mandates without the funds necessary to carry out those orders.
"We are under so many mandates that are unfunded, it's almost impossible to produce an education system this community will accept," Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said.
Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson said the partnerships between the state and local governments "are failing" because the Legislature has been unable to make the tough decisions to balance the budget.
Lawmakers approved about $300 million in tax increases last year, but Gov. Bill Graves has had to cut spending twice since because revenues fell short. Some of those cuts have been at the expense of schools, counties and cities.
Johnson told lawmakers to balance the budget in a way that doesn't require more cuts after counties have already set their spending plans.
"We strongly object to the loss of revenue after budgets have been set," he said.
Lawrence Mayor Sue Hack urged lawmakers to oppose any legislation that would restrict how local governments raise or spend money.
"Local spending and taxing decisions should be made by locally elected officials," she said.
State Sen.-elect Mark Buhler, R-Lawrence, said the budget hole is so deep that a tax increase will be needed. He said he is willing to vote for a plan that adequately funds state government without a tax increase, but added that such a plan probably doesn't exist.
"I'm not afraid to raise taxes," he said, adding that the crucial factor is whose taxes are going to be raised.
For more on this story, watch the 6News report at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunflower Broadband's cable Channel 6 and pick up a copy of Wednesday's Journal-World.