Topeka As the state’s budget crisis continued to brew, Kansas higher education leaders Wednesday stated their support of Gov. Mark Parkinson’s proposed tax increase.
Speaking on behalf of the System Council of Presidents, Fort Hays State University President Ed Hammond said the universities oppose any more cuts to higher education. Over the past year, state funding to higher education has been cut by more than $100 million or 13 percent.
Further cuts, Hammond said, “are not in the state’s best interest.” He added, “We really support the governor’s solution.”
Parkinson has proposed a temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar. After three years, the state sales tax rate would go back to 5.5 cents per dollar with the additional 0.2 of a cent dedicated to funding a new highway program. He has also called for 79-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax.
After nearly $1 billion in cuts to what was once a $6.4 billion state budget, state government still faces a revenue shortfall in excess of $400 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Legislators return April 28 for the 2010 wrapup session to address the problem.
Hammond described Parkinson’s tax increase proposal as “tempered and reasonable.” His remarks were made during the monthly Kansas Board of Regents meeting. The System Council of Presidents consists of the six presidents of state universities, four presidents selected by the 19 community colleges, one president selected by the 10 technical institutions, and the president of Washburn University.
Higher education officials said much of what the Legislature does to fix the budget hole will depend on updated tax revenue projections that will be released Friday.
Regents Chairwoman Jill Docking said the board supports Parkinson too. “The governor is going to have to cobble together some kind of compromise,” she said.
Joseph Glassman, chairman of the Kansas Postsecondary Technical Education Authority and owner of an electrical services company in Hays, told the regents that many business owners have a general anti-tax attitude when it comes to the federal government but that many business owners also recognize the need for increased state taxes if that can produce a more skilled workforce.
“You have to measure outputs,” Glassman said.