Archive for Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Statehouse Live: Senate approves budget plan that makes cuts in public school funding

March 29, 2011

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— The Kansas Senate on Tuesday approved a bipartisan budget that would make cuts to public schools and sets up a confrontation with the House, which is considering even deeper cuts.

State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, and chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the proposed $14 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 was the best that could be done.

"Let's hope for better times," McGinn said.

Senators had to bridge a $500 million revenue shortfall due to the curtailment of federal stimulus funds, increased social service needs, and the struggling economy, McGinn said. She said the budget decisions will "touch people's lives all across this state."

The measure was approved on a 36-3 vote.

The proposal would reduce base state aid to public schools by $226 per student, slightly less than the $232 per-student cut proposed in the House bill.

State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, was one of the three dissenting votes, saying the measure would lead Kansas down the path of "dismantling" public schools and pitting poor school districts against wealthier ones.

But some House Republicans are calling for bigger cuts to education and state employee pay when the full House considers its bill later this week.

During four hours of debate in the Senate, state worker pay issues and higher education funding dominated the discussion.

State Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, proposed cutting by 7.5 percent the salaries of all university employees making more than $100,000 per year.

"We're not living within our means, and we need to show the citizens of Kansas we are willing to live within our means," said Abrams.

But several senators said a pay cut to highly-sought-after researchers would jeopardize Kansas University's initiative to obtain national designation for its cancer center and other schools' attempts to lure federal funds and private grants.

"If we institute this amendment we are going to see some of our best and brightest leave," said state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

Abrams' amendment failed, 14-21.

Abrams did succeed in passing an amendment that would cut the pay of legislators by 7.5 percent. Under the bill, other state officers, such as statewide elected officials, judges, and statutory agency heads will see a 2.5 percent salary decrease.

The Senate defeated an amendment by state Sen. Chris Steineger, R-Kansas City, that would have removed funding for raising the salaries of certain workers whose salaries are significantly below market value.

A fierce battle ensued over funding of high-profile research at KU and other schools under the Kansas Board of Regents.

Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed providing $5 million each to KU, Kansas State and Wichita State in research funding. But under Brownback’s plan, the funding would not go through the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees higher education. The funding would be made by the Kansas Department of Commerce, which is led by a Cabinet secretary appointed by the governor.

The Senate committee bill would have put that funding back under the Kansas Board of Regents.

But state Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, tried to place the funding in the Commerce Department, saying that agency is better suited to develop research into money-making ventures.

"The normal, scholarly approach to funding those projects doesn't work," Bruce said.

But McGinn said KU's cancer research, Wichita State's aviation research and Kansas State's animal research are praised nationally. "I don't know why we want to break a system that is working already," she said.

Bruce's amendment failed on a 19-20 vote.

Comments

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 4 months ago

"We're not living within our means, and we need to show the citizens of Kansas we are willing to live within our means," said Abrams.

Ah yes, the value of symbolism to balancing the budget.

That's how we Kansans balance our budgets at home, too. With lots of grand, symbolic gestures like only putting air in 3 of our tires.

notanota 4 years, 4 months ago

This is true. We also never look at getting a better paying job or working a second one when our children need a vital service we can't afford at our current income level.

weeslicket 4 years, 4 months ago

from the article: State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, was one of the three dissenting votes, saying the measure would lead Kansas down the path of "dismantling" public schools and pitting poor school districts against wealthier ones.

also from the article: "If we institute this amendment we are going to see some of our best and brightest leave," said state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

and so it begins.. per aspera ad astra.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

""Let's hope for better times," McGinn said."

Until then, the rich say we're broke, so the poor must pay.

truman1902 4 years, 4 months ago

Dear Sen. McGinn::While we all wish for "better times", Koch & Boeing's "best days" are here again! To tax these and other entities LESS will shove education funding further down the drain pipe gives all this the raw stench of ONE party rule! The KC Kansas school district has already passed out pink slips just in "anticipation" of funding cuts, thus the equivalent of kicking a wounded horse while they are down. Now, if the Republican Party can JUST somehow cut the judicial branch of government from meddling with their efforts to gut public education?? Keep dreaming ladies & gentlemen..

Dave Trabert 4 years, 4 months ago

If we had lived within our means over the last decade we wouldn't be in this mess. If state spending had increased 4.5% per year between 2005 and 2010, we would have started this fiscal year with a $2.6 billion surplus. Same revenues, just realistic spending increases that would have been higher than inflation and population growth - that's real spending increase. Cuts are necessary now because we spent too much in prior years and did not prudently plan for cyclical downturns.

This story doesn't provide the full breakout of the budget but roughly $6 billion of the $14 billion proposed budget is general fund spending. That means general fund spending will be a few hundred million dollars HIGHER next year. General fund spending in FY 2005 was $4.7 billion, so next year's spending plan is also a 28% increase over what we spent just a few years ago.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

The mouthpiece of the rich says we're broke, so the poor must pay.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 4 months ago

Hyperbole may make you feel better but it does not change the facts. The state spent more than it took it for years and now has to face reality. If you believe the state isn't 'broke' please provide your facts.

Government revenues are down because 91,800 private sector workers have lost their jobs since employment peaked in April, 2008 and employer earnings have plummeted. Total government employment (federal, state and local) in Kansas is 0.8% HIGHER than it was in April 2008 but private employment is down 8.2%.

notanota 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm not broke and unemployed, and neither are you, and neither one of us would be broke or unemployed with an extra half percent of income tax on a bracket that would only impact those of us that weren't broke and unemployed. But yes, the rich say we're broke, so the poor must pay.

notanota 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm not broke and unemployed, and neither are you, and neither one of us would be broke or unemployed with an extra half percent of income tax on a bracket that would only impact those of us that weren't broke and unemployed. But yes, the rich say we're broke, so the poor must pay.

gudpoynt 4 years, 4 months ago

Dave, simple question. Answer yes or no please:

Are taxes continuing to go down in the middle of this budget crisis, or are they not?

notanota 4 years, 4 months ago

Good morning, paid Koch spokesperson! Perhaps you could talk to your employer about increasing revenue and run a few of those numbers. That would provide the "real picture,"b but not the shiny piece of propaganda you'd prefer us to see.

We've already cut services to the bone, and we're jeopardizing future services at this level.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 4 months ago

with all due respect, the numbers are what they are and they come from government; if there's any propoganda, it's coming from folks who refuse to consider those facts.

notanota 4 years, 4 months ago

It's not the numbers. It's how they're presented that creates the propaganda. Forgive me for finding the information from a paid propagandist to be specious. Statements like "cuts are necessary" are opinion, not fact.

Spending is not the only option available to correct the budgetary imbalance, no matter how much you're paid to state the case otherwise. We've already cut spending. It cannot go further down and still provide the services most vital to Kansans. We may be cutting education spending to the point that we lose federal money and really do dismantle the education system. The rush to cut the arts was also a rush to lose federal funding for the state.

It's time to increase revenue. Not doing so will cost us more than any imagined threats to business interests. It need not be painfully high to tide us over in the short term, and then we can talk about long term strategies for building business. A temporary hike of less than .5 percent on those earning more than $100k or $200k per year would be very minimal, especially with the recent federal tax decrease we've seen. You could even set them both to sunset at the same time.

Bob_Keeshan 4 years, 4 months ago

Put up or shut up, Trabert.

What Trabert doesn't want the public to know is the increase is due to federal mandates on Medicaid and Medicare, commonly referred to in media reports as "caseloads".

Trabert also doesn't want to suggest Kansas no longer offer Medicaid or Medicare. He just wants to post numbers and complain, because that's what his bosses pay him to do.

Solutions would be too hard, because Trabert is aware that "discretionary" spending is down to FY2006 levels and lower.

notanota 4 years, 4 months ago

But, but, but he's using "government numbers" and those can't at all be used in a misleading way to tell a lopsided story and further an agenda!

pittstatebb 4 years, 4 months ago

Dave - is it possible to determine how much of our increased spending came directly from the Montay decision?

If justice is blind to the recession, as it should be, how will the state win the next school finance lawsuit? It would seem that the fact that revenues decreased will not play into whether the state is funding a suitable education for all. Was there any element in the Montay decision that tied K-12 expenditures to a percentage of the general buget?

Would prudently planning for cyclical downturns mean placing money into reserve funds (unencumbered balances)? I am not saying schools should not use these balances to get through the downturn, but I am not sensing an increase in school appropriations once revenues increase (especially if tax policy has changed to reduce the ability to bring in revenue).

We can disagree with the Montay decision, but it is the law until a different ruling occurs.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 4 months ago

bobboerboy - see my comment posted above - the private sector has been taking a beating for three years

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