Kansas and regional news

Kansas and regional news

Legislature Panel endorses 3.3 percent cut for education

April 23, 2009

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— A budget-balancing bill that would trim education funding in Kansas by 3.3 percent cleared a House committee Wednesday.

The Appropriations Committee’s voice vote sent the bill to the House for debate, which is expected next week. The committee’s chairman warned that legislators will probably have to consider even deeper cuts.

Under the measure, public schools would lose an additional $100 million for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Base state aid would drop to $117 per pupil, to $4,250.

State universities, community colleges and vocational colleges would lose $25 million, which could lead to higher tuition this fall.

The measure also would cut spending on social services and in other areas. Its proposed cuts to the $13 billion spending plan would be about $215 million.

The cuts would be on top of those included in a budget legislators previously approved for the 2010 fiscal year. Legislators thought that budget would balance when they approved it at the end of March. But last week, officials and university economists issued a new fiscal forecast, slashing projected revenues.

The committee was working on the year’s last spending bill, which the entire Legislature will consider when it reconvenes April 29 to wrap up business for the year. The Senate Ways and Means Committee also began meeting Wednesday to draft its own version of the bill.

Other committees would consider proposals to boost state revenues, such as suspending tax cuts authorized in previous years, tapping gambling funds or diverting revenues from cities and counties.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to make enough revenue adjustments to get us where we need to be,” said House committee Chairman Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican. “We’re probably going to need to make additional cuts.”

Public schools already have seen their base aid and special education dollars reduced about $26 million, or less than 1 percent, for fiscal 2010. But Republicans, who hold majorities in the House and Senate, noted that many state agencies and programs have seen far deeper cuts.

That trend would continue under the House committee’s bill. Some social services and government agencies would have their allocations of state tax dollars cut an additional 5 percent.

Most Republicans on the House committee also wanted to trim aid to public schools by 5 percent.

But the vote was 12-10 against that proposal and in favor of the 3.3 percent cut.

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