Topeka Senate budget writers Thursday advanced a recommendation that would cut higher education funding 13 percent.
The move came despite warnings over the past few weeks from Kansas University and other schools that a cut like that would mean layoffs, the elimination of some programs and course offerings, and crowded classes.
Reggie Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, said budget cuts deeper than the 7 percent reduction recommended by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius “would have pretty traumatic implications and effects.”
The Senate Ways and Means Committee plan would reduce funding to higher education by $120 million, regents officials said.
“The numbers that I hear coming out of Ways and Means have me concerned,” Robinson said.
Earlier this week, KU officials said significant budget cuts would prevent the school from helping produce the doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals that the state needs.
“The burden on higher education must not be so severe that we cannot continue to educate and train the very work force we must have to recover from this economic recession,” said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center and executive dean of the KU School of Medicine.
A cut of that size could also jeopardize a portion of federal stimulus money for Kansas.
Robinson said that under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Kansas higher education institutions can access $82 million in stimulus funds if state funding is maintained at a minimum of 2006 levels.
In Kansas, higher education received $747 million in state general funds in 2006.
A 13 percent cut, on top of a 4.25 percent cut already approved in the current fiscal year, would sink higher education funding below that 2006 amount.
But the committee recommendation would have to be approved by the full Senate and House and signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius before it would take effect.
Sebelius has said state officials need to reset their budget targets in light of the federal stimulus package. She said she would propose budget amendments today that will take into account the newly approved federal legislation.