Kansas Senate panel’s budget debate part of crowded agenda

? A Kansas Senate committee is considering a proposed $15.5 billion state budget that wouldn’t balance without tax increases.

The Ways and Means Committee’s scheduled debate Thursday was part of a crowded agenda for state lawmakers. The Senate Commerce Committee expected to vote on a bill limiting collective bargaining between state agencies and public employee unions.

Lawmakers must close a projected budget deficit of nearly $600 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The shortfall arose after the Republican-dominated Legislature aggressively cut personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee’s proposed budget trims overall spending slightly for the fiscal year beginning July 1 but still would require tax increases of more than $200 million.