Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

Compromise $10.2 billion budget moves to governor’s desk

April 1, 2004


— A compromise budget for state government that trims overall spending by three-tenths of 1 percent went Thursday to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The Senate approved the compromise 32-8, and the House approved it 98-26 less than hour later.

The budget, drafted by legislative negotiators, follows most of Sebelius' recommendations for individual agencies and programs for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The measure includes her proposal to give state workers a 3 percent pay raise.

"It's very close to what the governor recommended," Budget Director Duane Goossen said after the Senate vote.

The compromise budget does not resolve the two largest spending issues facing legislators this year, education and transportation funding. Leaders expect decisions on those issues to come just before the Legislature ends its session in early May.

Leaders also expect legislators to consider one final budget bill before the session adjourns, giving them a chance to correct any mistakes, add money for new programs and adjust spending to match revenue estimates that will be made April 20.

The compromise budget does differ with Sebelius on one of her major legislative initiatives. She proposed to increase spending by $6.8 million on Smart Start programs, which provide services such as day care and parent education to families with young children in 19 counties. The state currently spends $3.2 million, and Sebelius' plan would have raised that to $10 million for the next fiscal year.

The compromise budget would increase Smart Start funding by $4.2 million, for a total of $8.4 million for the next fiscal year.

In making spending recommendations, Sebelius and legislators were constrained this year by a decision they made last year.

Starting this year, Kansans must pay half of their annual property taxes in May, rather than June, as in previous years. Moving up the deadline artificially inflated property taxes revenues flowing to school districts for the current fiscal year, cutting the state's obligation to provide aid by $163 million.

That gimmick kept the current budget balanced, but the state must put the $163 million back in the budget for the next fiscal year.

As a result, the state's cash reserves would drop from $242 million at the end of June to $110 million at the end of June 2005.

If the state continues to eat up those reserves, it will face increasing taxes in future years just to keep existing programs at their current levels, said Sen. Henry Helgerson.

"Our state is financially out of balance, and we need to take steps to correct it," said Helgerson, D-Wichita, who voted against the compromise budget.

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