Topeka With only Republican support, the Kansas House on Thursday approved a budget that would roll back base state aid to schools to pre-2000 levels.
The 69-52 vote sets up negotiations with the Senate, which passed its budget plan earlier in the week. Republican supporters argued the House bill was an appropriate plan in tough economic times, while Democrats said the hits on social services, education and corrections were too much.
Both measures are in the $14 billion range, with the House plan leaving a larger cash reserve.
Originally the House plan would have cut the pay of state employees making $40,000 or more on a sliding scale that topped out at 7.5 percent for those making $100,000 or more. It would have also included legislators and other state officials.
But a late amendment by state Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, removed that pay cut and instead would require a 1.193 percent across-the-board cut to state agencies, including higher education. The across-the-board cut exempted public schools, human service caseloads and pension funding.
The Senate plan doesn’t cut rank-and-file state employees either but has a 7.5 percent cut to legislators’ pay and 2.5 percent cut to judges, statewide elected officials and statutory agency chiefs. The Senate plan also includes funds to raise the pay of state workers who are significantly underpaid, while the House plan doesn’t.
The 1.193 percent across-the-board reduction means an $8.8 million cut to higher education, including reductions of $1.6 million at Kansas University and $1.25 million to the KU Medical Center.
On public schools, the Republican-led House, Senate and Gov. Sam Brownback are proposing levels of base state aid to schools that go back a decade.
The House bill would cut base state aid to $3,762 per student. The Senate has approved a plan to cut it to $3,786, and Brownback’s budget had a drop to $3,780.
Whichever of these gains final approval, the Lawrence school district is looking at a cut of approximately $3 million.
Earlier Thursday, a group of House Republicans pushed for deeper budget cuts.
An amendment by state Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, would have sliced $100 million, which included a $56 million cut to higher education. But the move failed, 44-77.
The proposal would have cut from “administrative expenses,” excluding public safety, the judiciary and kindergarten through 12th grade, Kelley said.
It had the support of House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, and Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe. Kelley said the proposal was also OK with Brownback.
She and other supporters said the amendment was necessary to tame government growth and satisfy voters who were struggling with their own financial problems.
State Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, said “we were called here by my creator” to vote for the amendment, adding he was called to be “great” not “mediocre.”
But Democrats said Kelley’s amendment would have meant the loss of thousands of state jobs and would jeopardize already reduced services for those with mental and physical disabilities.
State Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, said the proposed cut would decimate agriculture and natural resource agencies, hurting rural Kansas.
“I was not elected to grow government either, but I also wasn’t sent here to cut services and the legs out from everything in rural Kansas,” she said.
Kelley’s amendment failed, 46-77.
Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback’s spokeswoman, said she couldn’t confirm Brownback supported the amendment but said he invited House members to search for ways to reduce the budget further.
Earlier, state Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, sought to freeze state spending to current levels, which would have shorted next year’s budget proposal by more than $300 million. But that amendment failed, 8-107.
The House broke from its debate for about three hours to watch Wichita State on television in the NIT men’s basketball championship. The Shockers beat Alabama, 66-57.