Topeka Senate Republican leaders said Friday they will propose an across-the-board budget cut as part of a $300 million deficit reduction plan.
“We think this is necessary,” said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.
He said details of the plan would be worked out over the weekend and that he hoped to have the package up for debate next week before the full Senate.
But Democrats said they will propose their own plan, which will rely more heavily on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ targeted spending cuts.
House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence described an across-the-board cut as the “lazy way to cut the budget.”
Morris responded to that comment, saying, “In this atmosphere there is no such thing as lazy budgeting.”
Because of falling tax revenue, lawmakers face an immediate budget shortfall of $186 million. Republicans say that the deficit is growing because the economy continues to struggle.
And they contend some of Sebelius’ budget plans, such as diverting funds that were supposed to go to local governments, push the problem away but don’t solve it.
Democrats say the plan being constructed by the GOP amounts to a 3.5 percent across-the-board cut. With only five months remaining in the current fiscal year, such a cut, they argued, could have devastating consequences.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said it could result in shutting down operations at three state correctional facilities and terminating offender treatment and intervention programs.
And an additional across-the-board cut would hit public schools harder than Sebelius’ proposal.
Democrats contended that some Republicans are pushing for larger cuts to public schools because they are still angry over Kansas Supreme Court rulings in recent years that required the Legislature to increase school funding.
“Some (GOP legislators) are literally salivating to cut into school budgets,” Davis said.
Morris conceded that may be the case. “There may be some that feel that way,” he said.
But, he said, most lawmakers are not “wild” about cutting schools. “But the choices are very limited.”