Topeka The new "pay-go" budget rule pushed by House Republicans has forced legislators to perform appropriations acrobatics to try to get funding for projects and services that they think are crucial.
That was never more apparent than on Thursday during debate on the $14 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The "pay-go" rule says that if a legislator wants to add money to the budget bill that has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee, then that legislator must make a corresponding cut somewhere else in the bill.
State Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, tried two times to cut the transportation fund to increase the budget for parole supervision. "I'd rather have bumpy roads than high-level sex offenders without supervision," she said.
Both attempts failed.
She finally was able to win approval of a $1.5 million increase by taking funds from the early childhood development budget, funneling them through the Juvenile Justice Authority, and vowing that the early childhood budget hole will be filled with federal funds.
Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, succeeded in increasing the budget for the Kansas Neurological Institute, a state hospital for those with severe developmental disabilities, by taking $277,000 in state funds that he said were being spent on bottled water and office supplies.
"You don't want to go on record voting against the disabled in favor of bottled water and paper clips," he said.
Rep. Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, tried to remove from the budget a Republican plan to cut the pay of state employees making more than $40,000 per year. Under her amendment, she would have gotten the $19 million by lowering the budget's ending balance from $79 million to $60 million.
But Rep. Clark Shultz, R-Lindsborg, and chair of the House Rules Committee, said under "pay-go" the cut must come from an actual appropriation and not the bill's ending balance.
When Republicans adopted the "pay-go" rule earlier this year, Democrats complained that it would give too much power to the 23-member House Appropriations Committee because it would essentially cap spending by whatever bill the committee produced.
State Rep. Annie Kuether, D-Topeka, said her constituents have been hurt by the rule. The Appropriations Committee approved cutting Washburn University's state grant by $5 million or 50 percent.
Kuether said it was impossible to try to restore that funding before the full House.
"This is grossly unjust," she said.