Topeka It seemed appropriate that storm clouds surrounded the Capitol.
As the weather deteriorated outside, the Kansas Legislature on Monday lurched toward the end of the 2010 session, a session marked by unprecedented budget shortfalls and bitter rhetoric.
With 21 votes, the bare minimum, the Senate sent a $13.6 billion budget to Gov. Mark Parkinson, who has indicated support of the package. Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, both voted for the budget.
Meanwhile, the House was dealing with the problem of how to fund the budget.
The Senate has already approved a $314 million tax increase that would raise the state sales tax one-cent, from 5.3 cents per dollar to 6.3 cents per dollar for three years.
Both the budget and tax bills had been crafted by a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans over the objections of a majority of Republicans who opposed a tax increase.
But the coalition contended that the tax increase was needed to avoid further cuts to schools, social services and public safety.
Since Kansas fell into recession, state officials have cut nearly $1 billion. Still, the state faced another $500 million shortfall.
The coalition fashioned taxes and budget maneuvers to cover that gap.
The tax increase, however, has drawn the ire of several groups, especially the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
On Saturday, Chamber President Kent Beisner criticized legislators, saying, “As of today, the Legislature has failed to address the needs and wishes of the business community. It has instead catered to the needs of those at the government trough."
That prompted a response from Parkinson, criticizing the Chamber for “fanning the flames of partisanship.”
He added, ““It is heartbreaking to think that somebody would equate the disabled, the elderly, school children, veterans, law enforcement and the poor to pigs at a trough. The hurtful words of the Chamber are not reflective of the Kansas I know and love, and they are not acceptable in a time of crisis.”
Legislative leaders on Sunday had talked about ending the session that day, but it soon became apparent there were too many issues still unresolved.
Much of Monday was spent milling around, but then around 5 p.m., House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, announced that the session would draw to an end sometime later Monday or early Tuesday.
The Senate had moments earlier concurred with the House-approved budget, and that seemed to set in motion an eventual vote in the House on the Senate-approved tax plan.
But a number of issues still had to be dealt with, including a transportation plan, increased seat belt enforcement, a nursing home bed tax, and day care regulations.