A story in Sunday’s Journal-World indicates that Kansas legislators and the governor’s office plan to keep close track of each other’s spending in the coming year.
Kansas taxpayers should be keeping an eye on both.
Last week, the Legislature submitted spending proposals to Gov. Mark Parkinson that outlined a 4 percent increase in the branch’s current budget and a 3 percent increase for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010. The governor’s office responded by questioning the proposals and wondering out loud whether such increases undercut legislators’ contention that the state should cut spending, rather than raise taxes, to keep its budget balanced.
Legislators shot back, saying the proposals were routine and only represented how additional money would be spent if it became available. And, besides, they added, the governor isn’t one to talk; the budget for his office has ballooned in recent years as it has taken over grant programs from other agencies.
Suffice it to say that public schools, state universities and social services that have seen their state funding cut back at least to 2006 levels shouldn’t tolerate spending increases by either branch of government this year.
It’s interesting to read some of the justifications offered by legislative leaders for their budget requests.
“We’ve been very conscious of trying to save where we can,” said House Speaker Mike O’Neal. “I want us to do what we can.”
For many state-supported entities, funding cuts have required them to go far beyond “trying to save.” They are cutting staff and eliminating services.
Senate President Steve Morris noted the cost of preparing for the 2012 redistricting process and of completing a five-year modernization of computers used to write bills and compile journals. “We have to be careful that we don’t reduce the budget so much that we shoot ourselves in both feet,” he said.
Apparently, it’s better to aim that gun at K-12 education or state universities. Does Morris think those schools haven’t had to put off computer updates or delay setting aside money for expenditures they know are coming up in order to meet their immediate needs?
The fact that legislative leaders and the governor’s office already are trading potshots over their own spending is a strong indication of just how contentious the upcoming legislative session is likely to be. We hope the partisan undercurrent to last week’s charges won’t overshadow the efforts of both the Legislature and the governor to pursue a budget that’s in the best interests of the state.