Higher education funding still at pre-recession levels; Kansas one of few states last year to keep cutting

? States are funding higher education below pre-recession levels, according to a new report.

But while 42 states last year started to restore some of those reductions, Kansas was among eight states that continued to cut, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report said.

The report said that across the nation the higher education cuts have led to reduced educational services or steep tuition increases or both.

“A higher sticker price keeps some kids away from college and that has longtime ramifications for your economy,” Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research for the center, said on Wednesday.

The Washington, D.C.-based center is a non-profit think tank that analyzes the impacts of budget policies and promotes the reduction of poverty. It is sometimes described as left-of-center politically.

Leachman was in Kansas to unveil the new report and discuss an earlier one done by the center that panned Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies.

Brownback has said his reductions in state income tax rates and elimination of income taxes for certain businesses will spur the economy. Leachman said the new tax system puts a greater tax burden on low- and middle-income Kansans through increased sales and property taxes.

Meanwhile, Brownback’s tax policies cut so much state revenue, Kansas will have trouble funding its universities, public schools and other services, he said.

“Kansas is really an outlier,” he said and one that other states should not follow.

In 2013, the Legislature passed and Brownback signed into law cuts to universities that resulted in Kansas University taking a $13.5 million cut.

This year, the Legislature and Brownback approved a budget that will restore approximately half of last year’s approved “salary cap” cuts for the current budget year, and all of those that had been cut for the next budget year. That means an additional $4.07 million for the KU Medical Center, and $163,703 for the Lawrence campus. But the bill does not restore the 1.5 percent across-the-board cuts from 2013.