TOPEKA Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday vetoed a $5 million transfer from the state's share of a national tobacco settlement that legislators sought to divert to the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
The governor announced that he had made that veto and four others while signing the remainder of the last budget bill of the 2014 session. The bulk of the spending, more than $360 million, was earmarked for the state Department of Corrections.
Brownback had vetoed the corrections budget last year when legislators sent him a two-year spending plan for state agencies. Kansas will spend $14.6 billion on state government in the fiscal year starting July 1, including more than $6 billion from state revenues.
Brownback agreed with critics of the tobacco funds transfer that the $5 million from the Kansas Endowment for Youth shouldn't be diverted to other government programs. Kansas and other states receive annual payments from tobacco companies as part of a national settlement reached in 1998. Legislators included the transfer during budget negotiations before ending the 2014 session on May 2.
"The Kansas Endowment for Youth Fund was specifically established to hold and draw interest upon excess tobacco settlement revenues so that such funds could later be used for early childhood programs. The $5.0 million in question in this section should remain available for such purposes in the future, so I therefore veto the transfer," the governor said in his veto message.
Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of the Kansas Action for Children, said in a statement that Brownback's veto reflected the wishes of educators, parents and other advocates to reject sweeping the funds. The tobacco settlement money is transferred each year to early childhood programs statewide, such as Parents as Teachers and Early Head Start.
"The governor's actions today will contribute toward his goals of reducing childhood poverty and increasing fourth-grade reading proficiency," she said.
Brownback vetoed four other line items, including duplicative spending for the State Fair Board and eliminating a full-time budget director for the Department of Administration. The position has been filled on an interim basis by Jon Hummell, a member of the governor's staff.