Topeka Democratic legislative leaders said Friday that after this round of budget cuts, no more.
“We’ve cut as far as we need to cut,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said.
Hensley and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said if revenues fail to meet appropriations, then the Legislature should delay the phase-out of several taxes, a proposal that was made at the start of the legislative session by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
“It’s time to look at the revenue side,” Davis said. “I don’t want to see any further cuts in education, that’s for certain.”
The Democrats’ comments came after a House-Senate conference committee reached an agreement on an approximately $13.4 billion budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. Full House and Senate votes on the measure will take place next week.
The conference committee proposal would cut state aid to public schools by $25 million, or 0.7 percent.
Davis noted that was on top of schools losing approximately $180 million that had been promised last year by the Legislature. That increase — part of a three-year plan to address a court order on school funding — was ignored by lawmakers when state revenues started sinking during the current recession.
The need for more budget adjustments is almost a certainty because state officials on April 17 will compose a new revenue estimate for the coming fiscal year. It is expected that projection will be lower than earlier ones.
If the revenue projection decreases, that will force officials to consider more budget cuts, or as the Democrats said they want, approve delays in the phase-out of the estate tax and business franchise tax. Democrats have also talked about “decoupling” the state tax code from several recent federal tax breaks.
But Republicans, who hold substantial majorities in the House and Senate, have opposed efforts to suspend the phase-out of those taxes and decouple.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, declined to get drawn into discussion on what the Legislature should do if more adjustments are needed after the April 17 revenue projection is made.
“It depends on what we find with the estimates,” Morris said.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who may soon be out of office as she approaches confirmation as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, backed up her Democratic colleagues.
She said it would be wrong for the Legislature to enact further cuts on schools while continuing to phase out taxes on corporations.