Topeka — Key budget negotiators on Friday sought to cut funding to higher education, but couldn’t agree on how much.
House Republicans have recommended a 4 percent across-the-board cut for each of the next two fiscal years to universities, community colleges and technical schools.
Senate Republicans countered with a 1 percent cut for each of the next two fiscal years.
“It’s the last piece,” House budget leader Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said of the impasse over higher ed funding.
The two sides were trying to resolve budget differences in the next day or two in an effort to wrap up the 2013 legislative session.
In addition to the proposed across-the-board cuts, the House plan diverts millions of dollars in lapsed funds from universities. The total cuts to universities would be $42.1 million, or 7.4 percent, according to figures provided by the Kansas Board of Regents.
Kansas University and the KU Medical Center would take a combined hit of nearly $20 million.
In recent weeks, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has toured the state, arguing against the proposed cuts.
KU officials have repeatedly said the 4 percent budget cut proposed by the House would have a devastating impact and could put the KU Cancer Center’s National Cancer Institute designation at risk.
Last year, KU’s Cancer Center won NCI designation after several years of effort. The designation will open up more research and clinical trials, but officials said renewal of the designation will be difficult to achieve under the proposed cuts.
Sales, income taxes
House and Senate leaders were also wrangling over how to adjust taxes to prevent a budget crisis.
Income tax cuts signed into law last year by Brownback have produced a revenue crunch, and Brownback and his allies in the Senate have called on maintaining the state sales tax at 6.3 percent to balance the budget and to provide for future income tax cuts. Under current law, the sales tax is supposed to decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1.
But House leaders want to let the higher sales tax expire. On Wednesday, they offered a plan that would drop the sales tax to 6 percent on July 1 and phase in additional income tax cuts over four years. It also would reduce the standard deduction for head of household to $5,000 from $9,000, and the married-filing-jointly deduction to $6,500 from $9,000.
House and Senate leaders say that phasing out the income tax will increase economic growth. Democrats have said increasing the sales tax to replace the income tax will create more budget problems and benefit mostly the wealthy.
The Kansas Democratic Party said the proposal would increase sales tax over four years by $745 million and eliminate $1.35 billion in middle-class tax deductions.