Topeka Kansas Board of Regents Chair Jill Docking on Friday urged Gov. Mark Parkinson and lawmakers to avoid cutting higher education as the state grapples with a $460 million budget shortfall.
“Additional cuts will produce severe consequences, and there’s no doubt that qualified Kansans will be denied access to programs that are vitally important to the future health of the state’s economy,” Docking said in a prepared statement.
Falling tax collections prompted state budget experts on Thursday to revise downward the revenue estimate for the current fiscal year.
Parkinson has vowed to balance the budget “within our existing means” by the time the legislative session starts in January, but he hasn’t said how.
“These deficit numbers are challenging, but they are manageable,” Parkinson said.
Docking said the regents appreciated the difficult decisions facing state policymakers, but noted that the higher education system has already been cut $100 million, or 12 percent, this year.
Further cuts could jeopardize federal stimulus funding, which requires states to maintain minimum funding levels, she said.
In September, the regents requested a $17 million budget increase for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2010, and then $50 million for each of the two fiscal years after that.
The $17 million would help the schools cover the costs of increased health insurance and student enrollment, officials said. The proposed increases for the subsequent years would make up for recent cuts.