Topeka More state budget cuts could result in shutting down a prison or releasing hundreds of offenders from parole supervision, Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz said Tuesday.
Werholtz’s dire warning to the Senate Ways and Means Committee was typical of testimony given by other agency chiefs in areas of health care, social services and highways as state lawmakers confront an unprecedented budget crisis.
“It’s not a good picture,” said Committee Chairman Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg. Emler said that while most lawmakers probably oppose any kind of tax increase to shore up the budget, “It’s something that is going to have to be discussed.”
The 2010 legislative session starts Jan. 11.
Even after several rounds of budget cuts that have led to layoffs, shuttered corrections facilities, longer waiting lists for health care services, and a wide-range of reductions in education, the state will still face a $359 million general revenue shortfall, or 6.5 percent, in the next fiscal year, officials said.
Werholtz said he has already lost 90 percent of state funding for programs aimed at reducing repeat offenders, such as sexual offender treatment, drug abuse treatment and vocational education.
If Corrections has to cut more to comply with a further reduction target from the Division of the Budget, Werholtz said he will have to virtually eliminate parole supervision or seek legislative approval to shut down the Winfield Correctional Facility.
Gov. Mark Parkinson’s budget director Duane Goossen told the committee, “We face a very difficult budget.”
The looming revenue shortfall is exacerbated by the fact that caseloads are increasing for Medicaid services, the state will have to resume paying principal on debt service, and there is less federal stimulus funding available. State government has suffered an unprecedented two consecutive years of falling tax revenue, and projections show that that revenues could drop for an additional two years.
“It’s going to be devastating,” said state Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington.
Lee said she is hearing that after Parkinson’s recent 10 percent cut to Medicaid, some nursing homes have said they won’t accept anymore Medicaid clients.
And Goossen said some physicians may decide not to accept Medicaid patients.
“Every one of these cuts has consequences,” he said. “They are deeper than anyone wishes that we need to go. The results from doing this are not positive things; they are almost entirely negative things.”
Andrew Allison, acting director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, said he is concerned the cuts will jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funding because it will increase the waiting time for eligible Kansans to receive Medicaid coverage.
“We’re concerned about complying with federal rules on Medicaid,” Allison said.
KHPA has cut 20 percent of its administrative budget, and has drastically reduced funding to its contractors that process Medicaid applications and handle consumer questions and claim issues from doctors and other providers.
Lee said the state budget cuts on health services will mean more uninsured people will seek health care in emergency rooms. “We are pushing the burden onto local taxpayers,” she said.
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has seen its budget cut 15.7 percent, including an $11 million cut to community mental health centers. SRS Secretary Don Jordan said that means nearly 4,000 people will see services reduced or eliminated at those centers. Meanwhile, the number of people seeking food stamps has increased approximately 30 percent in the past two years, he said.
Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller said the budget cuts have reduced highway funding to 1989 levels and will hurt efforts this winter to clear roads of snow and ice.
“Every day we pray to the snow gods that they will be kind to us,” Miller said.