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.
Topeka — 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.
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.