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Archive for Saturday, January 25, 2003

House panel endorses budget plan for 2003

January 25, 2003

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— A budget-balancing bill that cuts $118 million in planned state spending this year won endorsement Friday from the House Appropriations Committee, sending it to the full chamber for debate next week.

The measure reflects orders issued last August and November by then-Gov. Bill Graves, making a 2.7 percent reduction in the $4.4 billion portion of the state budget financed by general revenue.

Under the Kansas Constitution, the state cannot end the fiscal year on June 30 with a deficit -- a possibility that arose as tax revenues slumped.

Graves' cuts included $30 million in the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, criticized by advocates for the poor, elderly and disabled. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed restoring about two-thirds of those cuts in the next budget year, which starts July 1.

Graves also withheld $95 million from highway projects and $48 million in aid to cities and counties, and he directed that $35 million in fees earmarked for specific purposes be used instead for general government programs.

Sebelius said Friday the speed with which the House panel considered and endorsed the cuts was "somewhat unusual."

"But I'm delighted with the fact that they're taking this seriously," she said.

With the cuts, the state would spend nearly $10.2 billion in the current fiscal year, or about $335 million more than the Legislature approved.

The difference is due to $269 million in transportation projects that were delayed from the previous fiscal year and the state's receipt of $99 million in federal funds for unemployment benefits.

Committee members said they were eager to complete the 2003 budget so they could use it as the starting point for their debate on spending for the next fiscal year.

"We're willing to work with the governor to get to the end here," said Chairman Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls. Sebelius is a Democrat.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to consider Monday a bill containing parts of Sebelius' recommendations for the 2003 budget. Other changes will be reviewed later, said Chairman Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

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