Topeka Republican House leaders on Friday said higher education could handle a 4 percent cut and dismissed any opinion to the contrary.
"The sky is falling is so much rhetoric," said House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell. He said the argument from post-secondary officials that such a cut would hurt "has no merit."
Both the House and Senate have approved separate budget bills and will start the process of negotiating those differences next week.
Under the House plan, higher education would face a 4 percent cut, which would total $29.2 million. The reduction would mean nearly $10 million less to Kansas University.
Meanwhile, the Senate plan would cut higher education by 2 percent.
Asked if there was room for compromise, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said he was comfortable with the 4 percent cut.
Higher education has been reduced by 15 percent in state funding during the past five years.
Earlier this week, officials from regents universities, community colleges and technical colleges said a 4 percent cut would reduce the number of classes offered, increase class size and end some technical course offerings.
Tim Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs, said such a cut, "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.
Legislative leaders have expressed concern over rising tuition rates, but school officials say the amount of state funding has a direct impact on tuition.
"There is an absolute relationship between a level of state support and tuition increases," said Caboni, noting that state funding per student has decreased 40 percent since 1999.