Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' budget office has proposed a $114.4 million cut to higher education, officials said Wednesday.
Kansas Board of Regents Chairwoman Donna Shank said such a cut would "profoundly stunt the progress the system has made toward meeting the state's workforce and economic development needs."
The proposal would include a 3-percent reduction in the operating budgets of higher education institutions for the current fiscal year and an additional 4-percent cut in the next fiscal year.
And it would include cutting $15 million for deferred maintenance projects, $15 million for the Kansas University pharmacy expansion in Lawrence and Wichita, $2.5 million for the KU graduate medical education program in Wichita, $2.5 million for Wichita Aviation Infrastructure funding, $2 million for Kan-Ed funding, and $900,000 to start up the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science.
In a statement put out by the regents, Shank said higher education institutions have worked hard to absorb proposed budget cuts in the current 2009 fiscal year.
But she added, "Looking ahead to fiscal year 2010, further budgetary reductions will make it increasingly difficult, if not entirely impossible" to address many critical needs in the state, such as increasing the number of math and science teachers and health care workers.
Sebelius' budget director Duane Goossen said the proposed cuts represent an initial recommendation from his office and that the regents, just like other state agencies, can appeal them.
"These are not final recommendations," Goossen said.
Once the appeals process is completed, Sebelius will begin putting together her budget proposal for the Legislature, which starts the 2009 session in January.
Goossen said the state is facing "an incredibly challenging budget" because of the nationwide economic downturn.
"We have a big gap between expenditures and expected revenue that we have to close," he said.
Last week, state budget experts said lawmakers face a potential $1 billion budget shortfall by the next fiscal year.
Sebelius has said she wants to protect school finance and social services, which accounts for most of state spending. That means budget cuts in other areas, such as higher education, could be deep.
"There are a lot of hard decisions ahead," said Goossen.
Concerning the KU pharmacy reduction, Goossen noted that his office has proposed paying for that $15 million with bonds, rather than from increased gaming revenues, which is how the project is now funded.
Shank said higher education has only recently recovered from cuts it sustained from the last recession several years ago. And, she said, cuts now may be short-sighted.
"Increased workforce skills boost overall economic productivity," she said, "thus the surest way to grow the Kansas economy is through an investment in higher education."