Topeka A House committee and the full Senate approved plans Tuesday designed to shrink a projected state budget deficit by using widely different amounts of spending cuts.
The Senate’s measure, approved 21-17, would trim $138 million from a $13 billion budget already approved for the state’s 2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Senators also included proposals to boost state revenues through steps such as diverting money from cities and counties.
The House expected to have a debate today on the bill endorsed by its Appropriations Committee on an 11-8 vote. The committee’s measure would cut spending by $247 million; its revenue-boosting provisions raise less than the Senate’s plan.
The Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson must eliminate a projected $328 million deficit in the fiscal 2010 budget, and neither the Senate plan nor the House measure accomplishes the goal. Senators believe their plan shrinks the shortfall to $70 million and the House committee, to
Legislators are pursuing other proposals. There’s widespread agreement on a proposal to allow the Department of Revenue to collect back taxes without charging taxpayers penalties and interest, but there’s strong, partisan disagreements over delaying scheduled tax cuts for businesses.
In the House, Democrats on the Appropriations Committee refused to support its plan, which would cut aid to public schools by $151 million and higher education funding by $37 million.
The House already has rejected one proposal relying heavily on spending cuts, and Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat who serves on the Appropriations Committee, was skeptical that the latest plan would survive.
“I don’t see how it can pass,” Sawyer said Tuesday night. “We’ll find out. Maybe there isn’t that much commitment to public schools.”
But House committee Chairman Kevin Yoder said legislators have limited options in trying to eliminate the deficit because many state agencies and programs outside education already have been through previous budget cuts.
He said legislators can consider tax proposals, reduce education funding further or cut the salaries of state government workers. And the House’s GOP leaders were forced to back away from a proposal to reduce state employees’ salaries by 5 percent.
“Any action has to have a reaction,” said Yoder, an Overland Park Republican. “If we’re not going to cut employee salaries, we have to go somewhere else.”
Legislators in both parties and Parkinson have endorsed the tax “amnesty” proposal, believing it will allow the state to collect an additional $35 million in revenues in fiscal 2010.
Republicans have so far blocked consideration of Parkinson’s proposal to “decouple” the state’s income tax code from the federal one, preventing Kansas from automatically enacting temporary federal tax breaks meant to stimulate the economy. They argue such a step will slow any economic recovery.
But the House and Senate tax committees are working on alternative proposals, including one in the Senate to reduce the size of a corporate franchise tax cut set to take effect in fiscal 2010.