TOPEKA — With state revenue shortfalls looming, Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday said there was little chance of an overall spending increase for higher education.
But in a talk with the Kansas Board of Regents, Brownback said the possibility existed to provide additional dollars for specific projects at the schools.
“I really don’t think the time is appropriate with the Legislature or with me to ask for base funding” increases, Brownback said.
Brownback, however, said he and the Legislature are focused on trying to target funding for specific projects or programs, such as technical education.
Regents Chairman Tim Emert said Brownback has delivered that message before and the board has adjusted its “ask” downward.
“We’ve kind of reached the point that we just hope that we can hold our own and keep funding where it is in this very difficult economic time,” Emert said.
In September, the board sent Brownback a recommended $47.1 million in additional funding, which would be an increase of about 6.2 percent.
Brownback will work on a state budget later this month to present to the Legislature when the 2013 session starts in January.
Brownback’s administration has told state agencies to prepare for tight budgets and has directed them to include a 10 percent cut in their spending requests for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
And the most recent revenue estimates show the state faces a $327 million revenue shortfall, mostly because of tax cuts Brownback signed into law.
The state is decreasing its individual income tax rates for 2013, with the top rate dropping to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent. Also, the state will exempt the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes.
Included in the proposed $47.1 million increase in higher education funding is $2.8 million to improve the Wichita campus of the Kansas University School of Medicine, and $1 million as part of a proposed $30 million in state funds to pay for a new health education building at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Also part of the higher ed wish list is a 1 percent pay increase for the 18,000 employees working on university campuses.
KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Brownback made it clear that any increase in the base funding for higher education was probably not going to happen.
But Gray-Little said she was encouraged Brownback reiterated his belief in the importance of higher education and “the value and ability of higher education to make a contribution, specifically to job creation, training highly skilled workers, and providing the intellectual energy for the kinds of things that need to happen here in Kansas.”
In his comments, Brownback also said he sees opportunities for the state to benefit from the federal government’s fiscal problems.
With the federal government’s lack of resources, Brownback said, the state is negotiating with the feds on Kansas taking a more active role in securing ownership in intellectual properties that spin off the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan.
He also said the state is negotiating to purchase water storage in federal reservoirs. And he said the state should also investigate whether it could offer to take over some of the prison and military training services at Fort Leavenworth.
“The feds are in a negotiating mood. They need to be because they are out of money,” he said.
Asked later where the state, which is projected to see tax revenues drop sharply because of the tax cuts, would come up with the money to do this, Brownback said, “You got to prioritize.”
He also said Kansas should become the intellectual center to develop policies to combat human trafficking.
And he called on higher education institutions to produce more entrepreneurs.
“We don’t have enough startups in Kansas,” he said. “We are toying with the idea of how can you pay the system to encourage more startups.”