Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2005

Budget bill goes to House-Senate negotiators

March 24, 2005

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— Legislative negotiators will draft the final version of an $11 billion state budget, with senators having largely followed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' spending plan and House members having rewritten large parts of it.

The Senate approved its measure today, 30-9, a week after the House passed its proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

One key difference is education funding. House members provided $116 million in additional dollars for public schools.

Senators didn't include any new money. Their Republican leaders wanted to wait for lawmakers to settle on a plan for satisfying a Kansas Supreme Court order giving lawmakers until April 12 to improve education funding.

Also, House members diverted money from higher education to provide more money to public schools. Senators kept Sebelius' proposals for increased spending on universities, community colleges and vocational colleges intact.

Senators also endorsed Sebelius' proposal to give state employees a 2.5 percent pay raise, starting in June. The House plan would delay the raises until March 2006.

The final version of the budget is likely to increase overall spending more than $400 million, or by nearly 4 percent. Many of the extra dollars will cover higher costs associated with social services for low-income and disabled Kansans, but some will go to public schools and the higher education system.

Sebelius has been critical of the House's work.

Today, she said, "The Senate budget, I think, reflects the values that I tried to put forward in a tight budget time."

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