Kansas legislative committee rejects deeper cuts to school aid

? Two attempts by several House Republicans on Monday to make deeper cuts to the state budget were rejected by a group of Democrats and other Republicans.

“The governor has continued to say, ‘make cuts, make cuts,’ and that is what I’m attempting to do,” said Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee.

The first plan offered by Donohoe and Reps. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, and Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas, would have cut further base state aid to schools.

Base state aid is $4,012 per pupil. But an earlier position approved by the House would drop that to $3,762 per pupil.

Initially, the Donohoe-Brown-Kelley amendment would have cut that to $3,602 per pupil. But the three legislators softened the proposal before the Appropriations Committee on Monday by reducing base state aid schools by $98 per pupil to $3,664.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, however, said combined with earlier school cuts approved by the House, that was just too large a chunk to take from schools.

“That is just too heavy a cut for me,” Ballard said.

Several committee members also complained that the amendment was made too late in the session and without knowledge of the effect the cuts would have. Key House and Senate members already are negotiating a budget plan, and the session is expected to end this week or next.

“I oppose making cuts without the understanding of how they will impact programs,” said Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington.

Ranking Democrat Bill Feuerborn of Garnett said that in his 15 years on the Appropriations Committee, “I’ve never seen a proposal this late that would have such a devastating effect on the budget. It’s mind-boggling.”

The amendment failed 4-14.

Then Rep. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, proposed a 2-percent across-the-board cut, excluding public schools, human service caseloads, prisons and several other areas. But it would have sliced higher education another $14.3 million, including $2.6 million at Kansas University, and $2 million at KU Medical Center, and it would have cut some disability services.

That proposal failed on a closer vote, 9-11.

Supporters of the deeper cuts argued they were needed to build up the state’s ending balance in case projected tax revenues fall short. Gov. Brownback, a Republican, has urged legislators to increase the ending balance.

“All we’re trying to do is get in a better position in the out years,” said Brown.