Topeka — There was a lot of motion in the Legislature on Thursday over the current budget crisis, but no resolution.
House Republican leaders produced a budget that would keep the lid on state taxes but cuts more from schools and recommends a 5 percent state employee pay cut.
Democrats, including Gov. Mark Parkinson, slammed the proposal and said it showed the need for increased taxes to fill a nearly $500 million revenue hole. “The cuts now proposed by House Republican leadership are, in a word, irresponsible,” Parkinson said. “They are proposing that we cut schools, cut services for the vulnerable and cut programs which directly impact public safety.”
But those thinking a tax increase was gaining traction were disappointed.
Attempts to increase the state sales tax, cigarette tax and alcohol tax all failed in the Senate tax committee. A proposed tax on sugar in soft drinks also was rejected.
House Republican leaders rallied around their budget proposal, which was approved by the Appropriations Committee on a straight party-line vote.
“The instructions were clear. The majority of legislators determined that they didn’t want a budget that relied on higher taxes,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park and chairman of Appropriations.
The plan would reduce school funding by $172 million by not replacing federal dollars that were used in the education budget this year. It also recommends a 5 percent pay cut to most state employees, which could result in state offices closing at 3 p.m. on Fridays.
Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, voted against the measure, saying that she disagreed with the majority Republicans. “There is a feeling that the school districts have a lot of money out there, and the (past) increases are great, and we need to cut them back. But that is not what I’m hearing from my constituents,” Ballard said.
Republicans argued that school districts could increase local taxes for more revenue, but Democrats said that would increase funding inequities between rich and poor districts.
The GOP plan also calls for cutting all other state agency budgets by 1 percent. The full House will debate the plan next week.