Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday that he’s reviewing “all options” for lessening cuts in higher education spending approved by Kansas legislators, but his choices appear to be limited.
Brownback acknowledged that he is not sure that he can use the governor’s power to veto individual line-items in budget legislation to eliminate just the reductions in state funding from lawmakers for public universities, community colleges and technical colleges. Brownback had wanted to maintain current funding for each of the next two fiscal years, starting in July.
A bill containing a budget of more than $14 billion for each of the next two fiscal years was delivered to the governor Thursday by legislators, and Brownback has until June 16 to decide whether to sign it, veto the entire measure or veto individual items.
“We’re going to be looking at what all options are (available),” Brownback said. “That’s what we’re analyzing, what’s available for line item vetoes and what impact that has, if there is a line item veto.”
Legislators approved a 1.5 percent cut in state operating funds for the universities for each of the next two fiscal years, as well as a 1.5 percent reduction in funding for community and technical colleges for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.
But state Board of Regents members have said the cuts are deeper than they appear because lawmakers also reduced the state funds available for salaries. They said the higher education system is losing a total of nearly $33 million in state funds over the next two fiscal years.
But the Legislature’s nonpartisan research staff said Friday that the budget is written so that the reductions aren’t separated from other spending for each university or for the Board of Regents.
That means if Brownback wants to eliminate the cuts, he’ll have to veto an institution’s full state funding — forcing legislators to pass additional budget legislation when their only remaining business scheduled is a brief, formal adjournment ceremony June 20. Another option would be to ask lawmakers next year to pass a supplemental funding bill, though they’ve not done that for several years.
Brownback said he and his staff haven’t yet had a chance to fully review the 553-page budget measure.
“We’re really looking at it on a line-by-line basis,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can, looking at the budget.”