Washington Curbs on Medicare spending and agriculture programs in President Bush's $2.77 trillion budget plan released Monday could mean bad news for a Kansas economy that depends heavily on both.
The proposals, which still must be approved by Congress, would slow the growth of Medicare - the government's insurance program for the elderly - by about $36 billion over the next five years.
"When we reduce Medicare payments to health care providers, they will struggle even more to provide services to people who live in rural America," said Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
"Kansas takes a disproportionate cut because such a large portion of our health care providers' bills are paid by Medicare," said Moran, whose rural western district has a large number of elderly residents.
Other lawmakers were more content with the plan. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., said he is satisfied that Bush's budget addresses national priorities.
"The American people want Congress to cut the deficit, hold the line on spending, reduce the growth of entitlement programs and keep Americans and their families safe," Tiahrt said.
The state's congressional delegation and governor's office spent the day scouring the massive document to see how the state fared, a task that could take several days, officials said.
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius warned that the goal of providing affordable rural health care in the state "will be more difficult given the recommended cuts in these areas."
Moran said he is also concerned about other curbs on rural health care programs that help small hospitals recruit health care professionals. The budget plan, for example, would reduce rural health care programs by $133 million and cut $136 million from health professional training programs, he said.
Agriculture programs would also see cuts that could hurt Kansas farmers, although many of Bush's proposals are the same ones that Congress rejected last year.
Bush wants to trim payments to farmers by 5 percent, lower the annual ceiling on farm subsidies from $360,000 to $250,000 and close loopholes that allow many producers to exceed that amount.
Moran said he would again urge his colleagues to reject those proposals, which he called a "safety net" for farmers.
"With a continued drought and increasing fuel prices, now is not time to take another shot at farmers across the country," Moran said.
Sebelius also objected to plans that could lead to reductions in the Army or Air National Guard. All 50 governors, including Sebelius, signed a letter last week urging Bush to reconsider any plan for force reductions in the Guard.
On a positive note, Sebelius said the state expected to benefit from Bush's promise to boost federal funding for alternative energy sources like ethanol and wind energy. Her office was still sifting through the budget to determine the impact of those plans.