Topeka Taking direct aim at Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Attorney General Phill Kline issued checks Wednesday to four women's health care clinics that do not provide or advocate abortions.
Last month, Sebelius vetoed a provision in the budget that would have provided $300,000 for grants to such nonprofit clinics.
In issuing the first of four checks Wednesday, Kline said Sebelius' veto was "disappointing," noting that the budget for the governor's office has increased to $14.5 million for fiscal 2005, which begins Thursday, from less than $2.2 million in fiscal 2002. The figure counts all funding sources and reflects consolidation of several grant programs from other state agencies in Sebelius' office.
"It rings hollow that the state doesn't have $300,000 to help these women," Kline said.
The checks, worth $60,456.80, are funded by all of the state's share of a $7.7 million antitrust settlement with Salton Inc., makers of the George Foreman Grill. Kansas was one of 47 states receiving funds, which were to be used for nutrition education programs.
Kline issued checks worth $15,114.20 each to the LifeCare Center in Ottawa, Advice and Aid in Shawnee, Grace Center in Kansas City, Kan., and Gabriel House in Topeka. The four agencies serve about 6,500 women each year.
In a message to legislators last month, Sebelius said such programs already have other sources of funding and that other health care programs are forced to compete for limited state dollars.
"What he did was find another means to support these programs," said Nicole Corcoran, spokeswoman for the governor. "In these tight budget times, Gov. Sebelius believes state dollars should be directed to programs that don't have such funding options."
The House overrode Sebelius' veto, but an override attempt fell short in the Senate.
Some legislators attributed Sebelius' veto to abortion politics -- something the governor's staff has denied. The provision prohibited any money going to any group providing or referring women for abortions or even "educating in favor of abortion."
Sebelius, a Democrat, is a strong supporter of abortion rights. Kline, a Republican, is a strong opponent of abortion.
In 2001, Gov. Bill Graves vetoed a similar provision, but he and legislators later worked out an agreement to restore the funds to the budget.
Sebelius also vetoed increased funding for upgrades at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's lab in Great Bend and additional staff for Kline to prosecute white-collar crime. Kline said he would search for funds for those operations this year.