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Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Regents Retreat Live: Regents trying to deal with new political landscape

August 15, 2012

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— Higher education officials on Wednesday tried to figure out a strategy to deal with the new political reality — massive tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback and a more conservative Legislature elected with help from the governor.

During the Kansas Board of Regents' annual retreat, board member Ed McKechnie of Arcadia said if higher education officials try to lobby for their needs as they have before, "the folks who have been elected just see that as growing government."

Regent Chairman Tim Emert of Independence said, "We have a monumental task in an environment where everybody wants cuts." Higher education institutions have requested several high-dollar items, and the board is working to trim that down.

The regents budget request will then go to Brownback who will consider what to recommend to the Legislature when the 2013 session starts in January.

In the Republican Party primary last week, a group of moderate Republican state senators targeted by Brownback, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the billionaire Koch brothers was defeated. Many of those defeated legislative leaders had been strong supporters of higher education.

And earlier this year, Brownback pushed through reductions in the state income tax and elimination of income taxes on non-wage income for 191,000 business owners. Brownback says the tax cuts will fuel economic growth, but critics say it will short the state treasury billions of dollars in tax revenue, which in turn will lead to cuts to schools, social services and public safety.

Mary Jane Stankiewicz, director of government relations and communications for the regents, said the Brownback administration is telling agencies to be as conservative as possible in budget requests.

Given the election results and the phenomenal turnover of legislators in 2010 and now, "It's a brand new ballgame as we well know," Stankiewicz said.

But Regent Vice Chair Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood said Brownback has supported key higher education initiatives if they are linked to growing the economy. "You cannot have a pro-growth strategy in Kansas without higher education playing a key part, period end of story. That would be my message," Logan said.

Board members said the key to any success in budget requests winning legislative approval is to gain Brownback's approval and have him recommend the spending.

Emert said if Brownback doesn't propose a spending item in the budget, it will have no chance of passing the Legislature. "We need to tackle the elephant in the room," Emert said. "The list is too long, the numbers are too high," he said of the various proposals requested by the schools.

Kansas University is seeking $30 million in state funds to build a new medical education building at the KU School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan. The debt service on the bond issue would be $3.9 million per year, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said.

KU has also requested an annual appropriation of $2.5 million to support a Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology, which would be used in a developing new prescription drugs and medicines.

Other big-ticket funding requests before the regents include:

• $16 million in additional funding for technical colleges.

• $15 million for expansion of the Kansas Technology Center at Pittsburg State University.

• $5 million annual appropriation to expand agricultural research at Kansas State University.

• $5 million annual appropriation to improve the College of Architecture, Planning and Design at KSU.

• $5 million annual appropriation for a research synergy center at KSU.

• $8 million for community colleges.

• $5.25 million funding increase for the College of Health Professions at Wichita State.

Comments

57chevy 1 year, 8 months ago

It is going to be an interesting time to live in Kansas. Despite his fundamentalist roots, the Gov is actually engaged in science. He (and we) are doing an experiment. Most economists would argue that budget cuts during a recession are equivalent to tax increases, both of which stall growth. This is the so-called "austerity" approach to fiscal responsibility: you cut the budget and spend less resulting in a smaller economy so you have to cut again, etc. It is a reasonable plan, but it is currently failing in several European countries, noteably Greece. They now have 25% unemployment, a much smaller government with few services and many pension programs that have gone bust. It is not a good time to be Greek. It could be though, that at the state level, where budget balancing is required, it will work out. I doubt it, but I applaud the Gov for risking his entire state's economy to answer this question. I am damn glad I don't have state job though. All of you with fixed incomes, on KPERS or who work for the state and voted for Brownback just bet it all on black. Good Luck.

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autie 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe the legislature can meet by phone instead of paying the per diem...boy howdy that would save some money. I'm guessing Flint Oaks...that is a pretty nice place.

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LogicMan 1 year, 8 months ago

Unless it's going to directly create or fill lasting, high paying jobs in Kansas, don't bother to ask for more money. That is my advice until the economy improves a bunch.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 8 months ago

Holding a meeting at a resort, when it could have been done by phone, is like complaining about farmers with your mouth full.

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