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Archive for Thursday, May 7, 2009

House votes for 2.75 percent across-the-board state budget cut; bill goes to Gov. Parkinson

May 7, 2009, 12:10 p.m. Updated May 8, 2009, 8:09 a.m.

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Governor's statement on the budget bill ( .DOC )

How they voted

Area House Republicans voting yes on the budget bill: Tom Sloan, Lawrence.

Area House Republicans voting no: Anthony Brown, Eudora; Connie O’Brien, Tonganoxie.

Area House Democrats voting yes: Barbara Ballard, Lawrence; Tony Brown, Baldwin City; Paul Davis, Lawrence; Ann Mah, Topeka.

No area Democrats voted no.

— A bipartisan plan to cut the state budget by 2.75 percent across the board was approved in the House on Thursday, but the question is, will the group of Democrats and moderate Republicans stick together?

The coalition is caught in the middle of House GOP leaders who want deeper cuts, and advocates for Kansans with disabilities who say the 2.75 percent cut is too much and would have a devastating impact on thousands of people.

But at least one fan of the bipartisan plan, which passed in the House on a 64-60 vote, was Gov. Mark Parkinson.

“This shared approach is the right approach, and this budget reflects the sacrifice all Kansans must make in this difficult economic time,” Parkinson said. “While this budget contains modest cuts to most state programs, the cuts are more responsible than earlier proposals,” he said.

When lawmakers return today, anyone on the winning side of the House vote could ask for a reconsideration of the vote, which keeps the issue alive for more lobbying and arm-twisting.

Lawmakers are in a wrap-up session to address a $328 million deficit in the $13 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Deeper cuts

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee had approved a bill based on a 4.8 percent across-the-board cut.

But opponents of that measure called on the House to agree to an earlier-passed Senate bill that relied on the 2.75 percent across-the-board cut.

“We will not get anything better,” said Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka.

Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Atchison, read a long list of social service programs that would be cut under the 4.8 percent reduction. That proposal, he said, “would bring so much pain we probably couldn’t stand it.”

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, was one of the Republicans who joined the Democrats.

“The cuts to K through 12 and persons with disabilities were lower” than the House leadership plan, he said.

Harm to social services

Advocates for social services and health care, however, decried the budget cuts.

State health officials have warned lawmakers that administrative cuts to the state’s Medicaid program will mean that tens of thousands of applicants for health care will not be processed in a timely manner. The cuts also will reduce funding to several programs that serve Kansans with developmental disabilities and their families.

InterHab, a resource network for Kansans with disabilities, issued a statement, saying: “For a (developmentally disabled) system that has been underfunded for more than 15 years, and that has waiting lists now totaling 3,963 Kansans, these cuts are deeply disappointing to those who need the most help and those who are asked to provide such help.”

Revenue issues considered

House GOP leaders argued that by not approving deeper cuts, lawmakers ensured there will be a tax increase to make up for a $70 million difference between expected revenue and spending.

Others, however, said the gap can be bridged without a tax increase. On a 25-14 vote Thursday night, the Senate approved a bill to enact a tax “amnesty” proposal, reduce income tax credits for businesses and others and to give Kansans less time to seek income and sales tax refunds.

The “amnesty” proposal has broad support, including Parkinson’s. It would give the Department of Revenue more power to waive penalties to get Kansans to pay back taxes, and it’s expected to raise $35 million in fiscal 2010.

But the tax bill drew opposition from conservative Republican senators, who argued that only additional spending cuts would solve the state’s budget problems, rather than push them into the future.

“We’re leaving the problem on the table,” said Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican. “My people did not elect me to come up here and plug the hole in the dike with a piece of bubble gum.”

Effect of cuts

If enacted, the cuts would be on top of two rounds of earlier cuts as the Legislature has grappled all year with decreasing revenue, a recession and increasing unemployment.

Public schools have already been cut $33 million, and this bill would whack another $83 million in state funding. Higher education would see an additional cut of $22 million. The bill also diverts state funds from cities and counties.

Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, praised the bipartisan group’s support, noting that earlier plans offered by House GOP leaders would have led to state employee pay cuts and furloughs.

— The Associated Press contributed information to this report.

Comments

Shardwurm 5 years, 7 months ago

I agree....what they really should do is raise everyone's taxes another 10 percent. 20 percent on businesses. Oh, and triple the auto registration taxes.

That should cover it don't you think?

rhd99 5 years, 7 months ago

Screw tax increases, haven't we had enough of them from D.C. already? I know, let's cut government pensions from government employees who don't do their jobs. That's a novel idea! Hahahahahaha!

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

This is a nice article but may be a bit premature.

What Mr. Rothchild doesn't mention is that anytime within 24 hours, the House can reconsider the action.

This measure passed with 64 votes ..... it takes 63 to pass legislation. Most likely there is arm twisting going on right now to flip a couple of votes.

Not saying this will happen .... just mentioning the possibility.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 7 months ago

In effect this is about an 11% income tax increase on state employees, assuming an average tax rate of around 25%.

The legislature lacks the resolve and conviction to do what is necessary in these times, an across-the-board tax increase on individuals and on businesses. Instead, they choose to target one segment of Kansas citizens because it is politically expedient.

Having said that, many state employees are democrats (universities, schools) so this is a way to increase taxes on the political opponents of the GOP-led house.

Joe Hyde 5 years, 7 months ago

A well-written news story about a sad subject, and the best part is Mr. Yoder's photo of the state capitol building looking broken and warped. A reflection or the real thing? Hard to tell nowadays.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 7 months ago

"The legislature lacks the resolve and conviction to do what is necessary in these times, an across-the-board tax increase on individuals and on businesses." - yourworstnightmare

That would be the absolute worst thing to do in a recession. You must have gone to public schools. Sheesh.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 7 months ago

A better headline would read:

"House votes for 27.5 percent across-the-board state budget cut"

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

yourworstnightmare (Anonymous) says…

In effect this is about an 11% income tax increase on state employees, assuming an average tax rate of around 25%.

yourworstnightmare, Please help me understand how you came to this conclusion.

Jim Williamson 5 years, 7 months ago

BigDog -- he made fun of a guy who died of cancer in another story because he was religious. My bet is he made it up.

MyName 5 years, 7 months ago

I think the assumption is that a 2.75% budget cut = a 2.75% pay cut for all employees. so 25% + 2.75% / 25% = 1.11 or an 11% increase.

Of course, the fallacy is that the cuts could be dealt with in a different way, or a combination of approaches as long as it bridges the shortfall without doing anything too weird. So a pay cut is not necessarily the only outcome.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 7 months ago

Good point, MyName. I don't think the "budget" cut is intended to be a "pay" cut, but instead a reduction in travel costs, in holding positions open longer, etc. Only reading this article, though, I don't actually know what the Legislature authorized.

jumpin_catfish 5 years, 7 months ago

The party's over folks, grab your wallet because between state budget shortfalls and the feds and obuma running wild with money they don't even have, we're screwed!

notajayhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

MyName (Anonymous) says…

"Of course, the fallacy is that the cuts could be dealt with in a different way, or a combination of approaches as long as it bridges the shortfall without doing anything too weird. So a pay cut is not necessarily the only outcome."

Not to mention an assumption of a 25% tax rate is a bit much.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 7 months ago

One normally pays a 25% income tax on one's salary. So a 2.75% salary reduction is equal to an 11% tax (2.75 x 4 = 11, or 2.75/.25 = 11).

Sad part is that the extremist GOP supported a much deeper cut, something like 6%. This 2.75% cut is a compromise worked out by democrats and moderate GOPers.

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like yourworstnightmare would agree that tax increases suck, no matter who you are or how much you earn.

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

yourworstnightmare (Anonymous) says…

One normally pays a 25% income tax on one's salary. So a 2.75% salary reduction is equal to an 11% tax (2.75 x 4 = 11, or 2.75/.25 = 11).

Sad part is that the extremist GOP supported a much deeper cut, something like 6%. This 2.75% cut is a compromise worked out by democrats and moderate GOPers.

It is a budget cut of 2.75% .... not a salary cut .... state agencies are cutting services and programs when asked where they would reduce budgets

I don't recall any agency talking about layoffs to deal with budget cuts .... and there are no salary reductions in the legislation

notajayhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

yourworstnightmare (Anonymous) says…

"One normally pays a 25% income tax on one's salary."

Really? Which "one?"

The bottom two quintiles of taxpayers in this country actually have a negative effective tax rate. Very, very few people pay 25% in income taxes. And that number includes even fewer state employees. Our governor gets paid about $106K - unless his wife has income, filing married with three kids he'll pay about 15.5% in federal income taxes on that salary (despite being in the "25%" tax bracket).

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 7 months ago

BigDog, you are obviously suffering nothing but failure with the House GOP in Topeka. Why do you have to bring your failed ideas to this board?

For what its worth, since the start of the fiscal year the state workforce has been reduced by more than 450 positions, and that doesn't include the Regents. In reality, every agency before the Legislature has talked about leaving positions open and, indeed layoffs.

In reality, since January, 2008 there have been 200 layoffs. So, BigDog, your misleading statements might make you friends with the House GOP caucus and caucus staff, but they are obviously being rejected by the rest of the Legislature. Increased payroll, too.

PS - those numbers do include the Legislature, but according to statistics that branch has actually increased the size of its workforce since the start of the fiscal year.

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

Bob,

Not suffering from a "GOP thing" just giving folks a little reality. I preferred the smaller cut that the House group passed.

Why do state employees feel that there doesn't need to be a reduction in state work force when social service agencies who actually provide the services and companies like Boeing, Goodyear, Cessna, Sprint, Hallmark, and others are laying off hundreds and sometimes thousands of employees across the state.

How much of a reduction in jobs is it in state government compared to the growth of state jobs over the last 10 years?

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 7 months ago

BigDog, according to the data supplied when I e-mailed my legislator (and anybody can call or e-mail their lawmaker and ask), there are almost 200 fewer state employees today than there were in January of 2003.

.

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

does that list also include those who are contracted?

trinity 5 years, 7 months ago

right there is a point to be considered, bigdog-if people really realized how much $$$ is spent on the private agencies to handle a host of social services, their hair would curl.

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

well and there are contract employees also (including consultants)

notajayhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

Bob_Keeshan;

So what's your solution, Bob? Make the cuts in services instead of personnel? Keep everybody working but give them less work to do?

Or maybe you think we should just raise taxes to keep the bloated budget where it is. Maybe you haven't heard, but the economy sucks right now (it's been in all the papers). With less coming in from sources like sales and business taxes, the difference would have to be made up in income taxes - from the same people who are losing their jobs. Just so we can keep a couple of hundred (out of what, over 40,000) state employees in their jobs.

No thanks.

meggers 5 years, 7 months ago

These across the board cuts seem politically cowardly to me, as they allow lawmakers to make morally repugnant decisions without actually taking reponsibility for them.

Consider a household in which a child has an illness that requires expensive, life-saving medication. In an effort to balance their budget, would the parents choose to make an across-the-board cut in expenditures, even if it meant that little Johnny had to miss his medication a couple of days a week? I think not.

How we treat the least among us is a reflection of our values as a society. If the actions by the Kansas Legislature reflect our overall values as a state, I'm, quite frankly, ashamed to be a Kansan.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

My wife works in human services for the developmentally disabled.

Most of the people she works with are quite good, and generally underpaid.

The agency has a constant struggle for government funding, and is generally underfunded, and has to make that up with private fundraising.

In addition, the state and federal government seem to overscrutinize and over-regulate them, and change the requirements from year to year, creating lots of work just to keep up with the changes, which often don't make sense and are designed by people with no knowledge or understanding of the population served.

The work they do is valuable in an obvious way, helping people be more independent and live richer lives.

At the same time, if you are a large bank which has made stupid decisions, you seem to qualify for tens of billions of dollars in aid without much oversight.

Hmmm.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 7 months ago

Ok, let's say the average tax rate is 15%. This makes it even worse.

2.75/.15=18%!

So this is in effect an 18% tax increase if the average income tax is 15%.

This would raise the average income tax rate from 15% to 17.7%, a 2.7 percentile increase in the income tax rate for state employees.

In the words of Johnny Rotten, "Did you ever feel cheated...?"

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 7 months ago

This is indeed a way for the GOP-led legislature to effectively increase taxes on those who are often their political opponents and on those who work in state agencies with which the GOP disagree.

This tax will apply in large part to university and K12 employees. These are programs that many in the GOP-led legislature want to see cut anyway, and most of these employees vote democratic.

Its a win-win for the extremist GOP in Kansas

BigDog 5 years, 7 months ago

Before this gets into just being a political attack one one party or the other ..... you may want to know the majority of the votes for this bill were from Democrats

48 Democrats 16 Republicans

And the budget bill which came over from the Senate was developed by both Republicans and Democrats.

notajayhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

yourworstnightmare (Anonymous) says…

"This is indeed a way for the GOP-led legislature to effectively increase taxes on those who are often their political opponents and on those who work in state agencies with which the GOP disagree."

Only a liberal can call cutting expenses 'a tax increase,' and treat it as a bad thing on top.

Don't suppose this has occurred to you, nightmare: If their pay is cut, the'll pay less in taxes, too. Income taxes are not fixed amounts, they're collected according to a percentage.

So if their salary is $40K and they pay 15% or $6,000 in income tax, if their pay was cut by 2.75% to $38,900, they'll only be paying $5,835 in tax (give or take a dollar or two for bracket creep). Getting through there, nightmare?


jafs (Anonymous) says…

"My wife works in human services for the developmentally disabled.

"Most of the people she works with are quite good, and generally underpaid."

I understand the difficulties involved for the social services side of government spending. Been there, done that. And believe me when I say I have nothing but respect and admiration for those workers, despite what I may have opined about some other state employees.

But if you ask your wife whether she'd rather lose her own position or else have a program or service cut that would leave a dozen or so of her clients with no help at all, which do you think she'd pick?

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