‘Tough, hard’ cuts on way for higher ed

Duane Goossen, Director of the Budget for the State of Kansas told the Kansas Board of Regents about some possible cuts to higher education funding.

? Preparing for another round of budget cuts, the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday started to tamp down expectations.

“We’re in survival mode,” Regent Donna Shank said after Gov. Mark Parkinson’s budget director Duane Goossen telegraphed another cut to higher education.

The system has already sustained a 12 percent, $100 million cut this year because of dropping tax revenues.

Another downward revision in tax receipts will result in Gov. Mark Parkinson cutting $260 million more from the state budget next week, and higher education is expected to be hit again.

“Those are going to be some really tough, hard cuts,” said Goossen, who described the state’s revenue dip as the worst since the Great Depression.

Regent Gary Sherrer said perhaps the regents should give universities permission to do whatever it takes to weather the revenue shortfall.

“Maybe we should authorize our regents institutions to make whatever policies are necessary in terms of rationing or restricting, even to the point of enrollments,” he said.

In September, the regents requested a $117 million budget increase over the next three years to make up for cuts already enacted.

After Goossen’s presentation of the revenue picture on Wednesday, enactment of such a proposal seemed unlikely.

Goossen said the state economy may not recover until late next year, and even then the state budget will continue to suffer when federal stimulus funds start tapering off.

The state Division of the Budget recommended flat funding for higher education, and the regents decided not to appeal that, saying a flat budget at this point would be a victory.

And the regents voted against including revenue enhancements in its legislative package for three projects: a math and science academy at Fort Hays State University, establishment of a school of construction at Pittsburg State University and an aviation research project at Wichita State University.

Several regents said the Legislature needs to consider repealing some tax exemptions to produce more revenue and a more fair tax system.

“A lot of areas are getting tax breaks and the people who are suffering don’t seem to be getting these tax breaks,” Regent Dan Lykins said.