Topeka Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved a 4 percent cut in state funding to higher education. The proposed reduction would total $29.2 million, including a cut at Kansas University of nearly $10 million.
Rep. Ward Cassidy, R-St. Francis, who proposed the cut from Gov. Sam Brownback's plan, said it would help balance the state budget. "This will give us some money to work with," Cassidy said.
He said he hoped that at the end of this legislative session, lawmakers can review whether additional money is available for higher education.
"There is a lot of pain with this cut," said Rep. Jerry Henry of Atchison, who is the ranking Democrat on the committee.
He said such a cut would cause higher tuition increases, price some graduating seniors from access to post-secondary education, and hurt economic development.
When Cassidy first proposed the 4 percent cut, Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, tried to reduce it to a 2 percent cut, but her effort failed.
Republican leaders are trying to craft a state spending plan that doesn't factor in revenue in Brownback’s tax plan because that plan has not gained acceptance in the Legislature yet.
Brownback, a Republican, has proposed reducing individual state income tax rates during the next four years but keeping the state sales tax at 6.3 percent. Under current law, the sales tax rate is supposed to decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1. Brownback also has proposed eliminating homeowner deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes.
Tim Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs, said such a cut, as proposed in Appropriations, "really jeopardizes the role we play in fueling economic growth and development in the state."
A 4 percent cut would equal $5.48 million at KU and $4.28 million at the KU Medical Center for a total of $9.76 million. It would put state funding at KU below 2006 levels.
Asked whether the reduction would impact tuition rates, Caboni said, "There is an absolute relationship between a level of state support and tuition increases." He noted that state funding per student has decreased 40 percent since 1999.
Caboni said if the 4 percent cut were instituted, KU would look at ways to reduce expenses. "We have been so good at reducing our business expenses. The question is: How much more can you cut without having to cut the core functions of the institution," he said.