Archive for Saturday, January 17, 2009

GOP wants to slice budget across board

January 17, 2009


— Republican legislative leaders on Friday pushed for an across-the-board cut in this year’s state budget, including public school funding, but were getting pushed back by Democrats and some members of their own party.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said an across-the-board cut was the “fairest way to do what has to be done in the current year’s budget.” And he said he hoped to have such a proposal up for a vote before the full Senate by next week. Republicans hold a 31-9 advantage in the Senate.

But in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, a coalition of Democrats and Republicans were thwarting a move in that direction.

State Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, said he would propose an across-the-board cut to public schools, but didn’t say how much.

That prompted complaints from several senators who said they didn’t appreciate working on the budget without knowing how big of a cut Vratil had in mind.

“There’s definitely something cooking here,” said state Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer, during a break in the committee meeting, which ran all day.

But Ways and Means Chairman Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, said the size of an across-the-board cut couldn’t be determined until the committee had worked through the budget for the present fiscal year. The panel, however, stalled as Democrats demanded more information on the effect that proposed adjustments in public school funding would have on individual districts. The committee will resume meeting Tuesday.

Lawmakers face a $186 million budget shortfall for this fiscal year. The deficit could skyrocket to nearly $1 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, has proposed budgets for both years that rely on targeted cuts, including a 7 percent reduction for higher education, the diversion of funds that were supposed to go to local governments, and stopping the phase-out of some tax cuts.

Sebelius’ budget will cause school districts to cut back somewhat, but Republican leaders say schools, which receive 52 percent of state funding, should take a larger hit.

Some legislators have talked about cuts to schools in the 3 percent to 5 percent range.

Such a reduction in the present school year would cause great disruption, said Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman.

A 5 percent cut condensed into the last half of the fiscal year would mean the district would have to cut about $3 million, he said.

“That would be a ‘stop the presses’ kind of deal,” Weseman said.

Since most school expenditures are tied into already approved contracts with teachers, such a cut would have to be carved from funds currently spent on classified support positions, such as paraprofessionals, custodians and cooks, he said.

Sebelius has also repeatedly said an across-the-board cut would be harmful.

“Governor Sebelius has been very clear about her belief that making strategic cuts is a much more responsible approach to balancing the budget,” said her spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran.

But Schmidt, the majority leader in the Senate, said the growing size of the state deficit means schools will have to absorb a larger cut.

“It is fair and it is reasonable and it is constitutional for public schools to do their part in helping Kansas bring its budget back into balance,” he said.


63BC 9 years, 2 months ago

Derek Schmidt is telling the truth.

situveux1 9 years, 2 months ago

I love these guys who rail about the whole $13,000 a year a legislator makes and says nothing about 42% of the entire education budget going to administration.

John Hamm 9 years, 2 months ago

Derek Schmidt, R-Independence is RIGHT!That's the way to do it. No "sacred cows" no special organizations. Slash 'em all what's necessary and get done with it!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 2 months ago

This is not the sharpest group on the block. They gave away the surplus in the cookie jar a few years back because they don't believe in rainy days. These "no tax " thinkers have such narrow vision it is impossible for them to sustain or generate economic growth. Kind of reminds me of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and their developer pals....... very narrow vision.

Centerville 9 years, 2 months ago

Unless you want the session to turn into a sob-story circus, an across-the-board is the way to go. Leave it to Sibileus to oppose tax cuts, she's still trying to catch 0's eye. Sorry, but it looks like we're stuck with her.

AjiDeGallina 9 years, 2 months ago

Cross the board cuts are the cowards and idiots way out, no matter what party propses it.If we had that sort of budget, we wouldn't need any representatives in Topeka, or Washington for that matter.I need someone who can say Education is a higher priority than something else, or this program is a waste and must go.There is a reason the USA ranks far behind most western nation, and is on par with some emerging nations for education, because we do not have the cajones to make it a priority.They have all failed us, republicans and democrats alike, because there have been times dems have suggested the same thing.If they did not want a hard job, they should not have ran. ...if that is the case, get the hell out of the way and let the leaders take over.

Frank Smith 9 years, 2 months ago

Derek Schmidt has been the paid trollope for various special interests, such as the dirty coal and for-profit prison industries. He has lost all credibility as he tries to accomodate his wealthy contributors, especially Koch Industries. When and if he ever puts the interests of the taxpayers before those who would keep Kansas working people down, I'll listen to him.

Professczar 9 years, 2 months ago

AjiDeGallina,The United States spends more on education per pupil than virtually every country in the world (save, perhaps, Switzerland).The problem is not a lack of funding, but how the money is spent.

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