SRS considering steep cuts in services to Kansans

? Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration said Tuesday that a wide range of budget cuts are under consideration in the social service agency, including shutting down a state mental health hospital and one for people with developmental disabilities.

Gary Haulmark, legislative director for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, said no decisions have been made yet.

But Haulmark said looming budget cuts would force the agency to look at numerous reductions.

“We’d have to look at everything,” Haulmark told the House Appropriations Committee, which requested a report from SRS. “We’re going to have to scrub each and every budget and look for cuts where we can.”

The Legislature reconvenes April 27 to finish its budget work. Legislators have been wrestling all session with an expected $500 million revenue shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Brownback had proposed a list of cuts totaling $27 million to SRS, and a House proposal would cut another $3.7 million.

Haulmark’s list of budget-cutting options included shutting down the Rainbow Mental Health Facility, and it reiterated Brownback’s plan to close the Kansas Neurological Institute. The list also included elimination of state funding of early Head Start and cutting SRS and state hospital staff by 5 percent.

“At this point we don’t know what the cuts are going to be,” said Haulmark. “We’d have to look at everything.” He said SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki Jr. “will have very tough decisions to make.”

“Thanks for the reality check,” said Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia. “We are responding to a fiscal crisis in our state, and I’m sorry about the cuts being made to SRS.”

Haulmark’s list also included reducing funding to programs that provide in-home services for people with disabilities, cutting SRS contracts by 10 percent, and eliminating state funds for lobbying.

Haulmark said some believe the state shouldn’t provide grants to groups that then lobby the Legislature for more funding.

Earlier Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee rejected an effort by Rep. David Crum, R-Augusta, to make further cuts to public schools to take care of new social service caseload estimates.

Under various proposals, base state aid to kindergarten through 12th grade will be cut from $244 per student to $250 per student. Crum wanted to cut another $17 per student, or $11 million from base state aid.

But a group of Democrats and Republicans rejected the proposal on a voice vote.