Topeka The Kansas Senate on Tuesday approved a 2.75 percent across-the-board cut in the state budget, which will require “revenue enhancements” to become balanced.
The measure was approved 21-17 by a coalition of mostly moderate Republicans and all Senate Democrats, who said the proposal was a responsible way to close a projected $328 million budget deficit without doing permanent harm to government programs, and to end the wrap-up session that has been going on for a week. Earlier, the coalition fought off a larger proposed cut.
But conservative Republicans said the revenue enhancements that will be needed to balance the plan translate into tax increases on Kansans already hurting in the current recession.
“The reality is it is going to be more money out of the pockets of Kansans,” said state Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita.
But state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said the proposals being discussed are not tax increases.
What is under consideration is a tax amnesty program that is expected to bring in $35 million; delay on the phase-out of the corporate franchise tax; and a reduction in state tax credits. A plan to “decouple” the state’s income tax code from the federal stimulus tax breaks, which would affect mostly businesses, has been rejected by Republicans under pressure from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
Much of the Senate debate was taken up with a proposal by state Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, which would have instituted a 3.75 percent across-the-board cut. His plan would have required no tax adjustments, he said.
But opponents said the larger cut would have been too painful for agencies that have already been whacked once earlier in the session. And they said Gov. Mark Parkinson indicated he would veto such a level of cuts.
Masterson’s amendment failed to pass on a 16-22 vote.
The 2.75 percent cut that was approved would slice funding to public schools by about $83 million, and higher education, which has already been cut 7 percent, would sustain another $22 million hit. The measure would also stop a $25 million state payment to local governments that was scheduled for June.
With the Senate action, attention now turns to the Senate Tax Committee and the House.
Earlier in the day, the tax committee chairman, Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, went to the hospital because of chest pains. He was expected to remain hospitalized overnight.
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, directed the House budget-writing and tax committees “to produce a budget solution that garners broad support in our body.”