Topeka The Kansas House on Saturday approved a $14.5 billion budget despite concerns raised about cuts to higher education and the state prison system and placing those with developmental disabilities under KanCare.
The measure got the minimum required 63 votes after House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, kept the roll open for about 20 minutes and six Republicans switched from voting against the budget to voting for it. No Democrats voted for it.
Republican leaders said passage of the spending plan was needed to move the Legislature closer to ending the overtime session. They talked about working through the night to draw the 2013 session to an end.
"We do need to get out of here," Merrick said. Earlier, House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, told rank-and-file members that they needed to approve the budget or state employees would face furloughs.
"We have a Republican House, Senate and governor and we need to get our work done," Vickrey said. "If we have bad results because of delays in our process … it has effects and those can affect all of us in the next year."
But state Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, said leaders were trying to bully legislators into voting for a bad budget.
"The world will not end if we don't pass this budget today," Dillmore said.
The budget battle erupted on the 99th day of the legislative session, which was supposed to end at 90 days and Republican leaders had earlier said would be finished in 80 days.
One of the major budget disputes was over a plan by Gov. Sam Brownback to place the long-term care of those with developmental disabilities under KanCare, the state's new Medicaid program that is administered by for-profit companies
Thousands of parents of children with developmental disabilities have opposed that move, saying they believe the assistance their children receive will suffer under KanCare.
Advocates for those with developmental disabilities wanted to "carve out" long-term care services from KanCare, but leaders wouldn't allow that in the budget. A bipartisan parade of legislators called for the carve out.
On higher education, the proposed budget called for cutting higher education by nearly $50 million in state funds over two years. The plan included a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut for each of the next two years, and a cap on salary expenses.
Meanwhile, GOP leaders had agreed on a new plan to increase taxes by $777 million over five years.
Essentially, Brownback and GOP leaders want to decrease income tax rates, saying that will spur economic growth while increasing the sales tax and reducing deductions.
The proposal on Saturday would set the state sales tax at 6.15 percent. The current state sales tax rate of 6.3 percent was scheduled to fall to 5.7 percent July 1.
Over five years, the proposed measure would reduce itemized deductions by half, slash the standard deduction from $9,000 to $5,500 for head of household and $7,500 for married, filing jointly. It would reduce over five years the top income tax rate from 4.9 percent to 3.9 percent, and the bottom rate from 3 percent to 2.3 percent.