Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

Sebelius criticized over sex predator unit’s budget

January 24, 2004

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— House Speaker Doug Mays suggested Friday that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' proposed budget would harm Kansas' sexual predator program, but her budget director said the governor fully supports the program.

Mays, R-Topeka, said Sebelius' recommendations would create uncertainty in funding for the sexual predator unit at Larned State Hospital.

The unit currently holds 104 people who served prison terms for sex crimes, then were judge by civil court juries to be "sexually violent predators" needing psychological treatment. State law allows them to be held indefinitely for treatment at the Larned unit, which has a staff of 67.

Administrators expect to need more staff, however, so Sebelius has recommended supplementing the unit's $3.7 million budget with about $2 million immediately. The extra money would allow the unit to add about 72 staff jobs in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

But most of the extra funding would be temporary. Sebelius' budget plan proposes $3.86 million budget for the unit in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Mays said giving the unit more money to hire staff now but taking most of the extra funding away in July meant the unit would be "defunded."

"I, as much or more than anybody around here, want to squeeze as much as we can out of state government in efficiencies, but I think we all draw the line at public safety," Mays said. "All I know is it breaks the back of the program."

But State Budget Director Duane Goossen said it was difficult to predict the unit's needs since its inmate population may rise or fall. Sebelius will watch conditions and propose supplemental funds next year if needed, Goossen said.

"The administration is committed to the program," he said. "There's no question about that."

Mays was unswayed by Goossen's comments about the difficulty of predicting a future number of inmates.

"I don't buy that excuse," he said. "Take your best guess."

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