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Archive for Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director Steve Anderson sidesteps funding questions

February 16, 2011

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Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director Steve Anderson

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director Steve Anderson

— Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director Steve Anderson on Wednesday declined to tell the Kansas Board of Regents his personal opinion on higher education funding.

“Opinions are like belly buttons,” Anderson said. “Everyone’s got one. The only important belly button to me right now is the governor’s.”

In his first face-to-face with the regents, Anderson urged board members to meet with him and Brownback and present ideas on how to improve higher education in Kansas.

“The governor’s door is open. He is there to talk to people. When good ideas come forward, we’ll jump on them,” Anderson said.

Brownback’s choice of Anderson as state budget director raised eyebrows because of Anderson’s previous work with Americans for Prosperity, an organization founded by billionaire David Koch, which espouses cuts in taxes, regulations and the size of government.

In 2009, Anderson and the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity proposed a “model budget” for Kansas. In that document, AFP said the biggest problem with the budget is “unconstrained growth of state spending.”

The group called for a cut in the state income tax; cuts in state spending, including Medicaid; and a voucher program where tax dollars would be used to pay tuition for students to attend private schools. The plan also called for a program to allow tax credits for donations to scholarship funds for low-income children to attend private schools.

The plan also recommended higher tuition at public universities and schools. “There is no reason to tax the majority in the state who do not have children attending a state institution in order to subsidize those who do, especially when there is evidence it is the more affluent citizens who are more likely to have children enrolled in higher education,” the document said.

But when asked Wednesday by Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer about his philosophy about the government’s role in higher education, Anderson sidestepped the issue.

He told the regents that current state spending practices were unsustainable. And Anderson said a recent budget problem over special education funding may be worse than what has been reported.

After two years of budget cuts, and imposition of a 1-cent state sale tax increase, the state still faces an estimated $492 million budget deficit.

That hole may have deepened after federal education officials recently told the state that it needs to increase its share of special education funding to meet “maintenance of effort” requirements under federal law.

Officials have said the state needs to come up with $25 million or risk losing a similar amount in federal funds, but Anderson said the required amount of state spending could be as high as $61 million.

Anderson said because of increased demands for education, Medicaid and pension funding, the state is looking at a revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion in five years.

He said that is why it is necessary to control spending now. “This is not an acceptable position to get to,” he said. “This is a train wreck that we can avoid if we do the right thing.”

Higher education has been cut approximately $100 million over the past two years as state revenues tanked during the recession.

Brownback’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year keeps higher ed funding at the current level despite the projected revenue shortfalls elsewhere in the budget.

But a budget projection that Anderson showed the regents had higher education gaining only slightly in funding over the next few years.

Sherrer asked Anderson how could the state advance with such restrictions on higher education resources.

Anderson said the administration would welcome suggestions from stakeholders on how to confront the revenue problems. And he vowed that he wasn’t going to surprise people.

“Budget by ambush is not going to happen in this administration,” he said.

Comments

Keith 3 years, 10 months ago

Oh no, that means 6 more weeks of winter.

nobody1793 3 years, 10 months ago

I hope I never hear about Sam Brownback's belly button again. Ever.

notanota 3 years, 10 months ago

I was thinking that opinions were like something else, and it was a word I'd use to describe both Anderson and Brownback.

Steve Bunch 3 years, 10 months ago

How many dim bulbs does it take to illuminate the capitol dome?

plainspeaking 3 years, 10 months ago

“Budget by ambush is not going to happen in this administration,” he said.

Mr. Anderson needs to make sure his actions follow his words.

onceinawhile 3 years, 10 months ago

"Kanass" governor? In the headline? Seriously???

wmathews 3 years, 10 months ago

I've fixed the error headline. Sorry about that — and thanks for letting us know!

Whitney Mathews Assistant Community Editor for Online

Kontum1972 3 years, 10 months ago

no dear u had it correct the first time...LoL

overthemoon 3 years, 10 months ago

darn...I missed it. THAT would have been worth a screen grab!!

John Pearson 3 years, 10 months ago

By this logic, we should not be paving roads in western Kansas since very few of us use them and we should close I-70 since it is mostly used by out of state trucks. Brownback is on his way to wrecking a fine educational system over ideology.

notanota 3 years, 10 months ago

His buddies want to make money off of for-profit education and corporate welfare.

parrothead8 3 years, 10 months ago

Great. The state of Kansas's budget director would rather resort to lame witticisms than give an opinion about the very thing he's supposed to be directing. Glad to see he's so dedicated to keeping secrets, er, doing his job.

overthemoon 3 years, 10 months ago

So education is to blame for the economic woes of the state? One might have thought it was lack of revenue. And continual, unconstitutional efforts by right wing congresses to de-emphasize public education in favor of parochial brainwashing and segregated 'college prep' schools. And of course to prioritize tax breaks for little small main street businesses like Koch Industries.

notanota 3 years, 10 months ago

He claims they're welcome to suggestions from stakeholders. Here's a suggestion: Raise taxes.

getreal 3 years, 10 months ago

Why is providing education and vital services "unsustainable?" I'm sick of this mentality that the only way out is to destroy public schools. How about declaring that all these tax breaks and exemptions that are supposed to spur economic development are unsustainable! Why is there no expectation that we should demand accountability for these so called economic stimulators? If you are receiving exemptions and tax credits then you should HAVE to prove that you are actually creating jobs and not just lining your pocket with them. When they don't pay their fair share it is put on the backs of working class families. When are we going to wake up and take our state back from these billionaires, the Kochs?

notanota 3 years, 10 months ago

Wisconsin is finally waking up. Maybe Kansas can too.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

Exactly. If they are going to roll back the funding of schools to the 1996 level, then they need to roll back the tax rates to that level.

Jim Williamson 3 years, 10 months ago

This boob is a good company man, which is how he got to where he is. And now, we have to live with it.

George Lippencott 3 years, 10 months ago

Interesting take Mr. Rothschild. Last I looked the decision about the content of the governors budget is left to the governor. I am sure a number of people assisted. In the end game however, we all know that a subordinate is expected to support the decision of the group as expressed by the leader. What did you expect in asking such a question and why frame the obvious answer as if it is an effort at concealment?

Adrienne Sanders 3 years, 10 months ago

I am baffled as to how the problem can be out of control spending. The state has lost a ton of money in the past few years and many agencies have taken lots of cuts. Yes I said CUTS, which means spending less. How can we possibly be having out of control spending?

George Lippencott 3 years, 10 months ago

Because our revenue is less than our proposed spending by about $400 M. Part of that is the result of tax cutting for special interets in the past when we were flush. Part is due to the ending of the stimulus stream. Part is due to reduced income for many of us. Remember we raised the states component of sales tax by 20% last year and we are still in the hole!

irvan moore 3 years, 10 months ago

i think an awfull lot of the people they are screwing will vote for them again, Kansans vote against their own best interests a lot of the time. it sure don't speak well for the future of our children.

George Lippencott 3 years, 10 months ago

Well maybe there is still a majority of Kansans who do not perceive as you apparently do that the money the state spends on K-12, Regents Universities and Medicaid benefit them directly and are therefore not inclined to want to pay more. They may see that in their interests

plainspeaking 3 years, 10 months ago

This is a story, Consumer1, because the job of the Budget Director is to present the facts about the budget, not opinions or policy. The political affiliation or philosophy of the Budget Director is irrelevant - he or she must offer the Legislature and other groups - such as the Regents - specific information about the budget and its impact on state agencies. Mr. Anderson hasn't done that and he confuses policy with numbers.

3 years, 10 months ago

"The only important belly button to me right now is the governor’s.”

Log Cabin Republicans! Who knew?

Majestic42 3 years, 10 months ago

Inappropriate head, LJW. Opinionating on the front page. Tsk tsk.

slowplay 3 years, 10 months ago

"it is the more affluent citizens who are more likely to have children enrolled in higher education" Wow, do you think it's because the less affluent cannot afford higher education? And we wonder why companies look overseas when it comes to qualified engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technical expertise. Not only are we dumbing down America we are creating an aristocracy.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

“Opinions are like belly buttons,” Anderson said. “Everyone’s got one. The only important belly button to me right now is the governor’s.”

We don't have a dictatorship, Mr. Anderson. You work for the state, so you work for us. Don't you forget it. He needs to be knocked down a few pegs if you ask me.

George Lippencott 3 years, 10 months ago

The Arizona monster may be coming here - ulp!

oldbaldguy 3 years, 10 months ago

sam is priming for the presidency. he is hoping his experiment here will get him there. ask Linn County what they think about sam.

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