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Legislative update

House budget puts cuts in hands of agency supervisors

Rep., District 70

We passed a budget out of the House on Friday. When the House budget was finally adopted, it had changed the 7.5 percent wage decrease to a 1.193 percent cut to all agencies except schools — they had already been hit with an additional per pupil cut above the Governor’s cut — and except certain Social and Rehabilitative Services caseloads. The agency heads will have to decide how and where to cut.

Salaries could still be impacted significantly, but each department or commission will make those decisions on their cuts. Presumably, the new cut includes judiciary and all board of regent colleges and community colleges. It will also cut the Department of Corrections. For the judiciary, a small fraction of its budget was restored before this cut. I am not certain how the judiciary now fares, but I am still very concerned about possible furloughs if the House position prevails in conference.

The House budget also cuts funding to Washburn University by 50 percent, which is more than a bit troublesome to me, and the budget deletes all funding for KanEd. Talk to your schools and libraries about KanEd. (According to the Kansas Board of Regents, KanEd is a program administered by the Kansas Board of Regents that gives Kansans a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by connecting the state’s hospitals, libraries, higher education institutions, and kindergarten through 12th-grade public and private schools with high-speed bandwidth to bring members together through interactive distance learning.)

On the subject of KanEd, Tabor College President Jules Glanzer wrote two letters to me explaining its value to all Kansas small colleges and communities, as well as many other benefits. I shared the letters with all members of the House of Representatives to underscore the wide-sweeping use of the program. In the final analysis, KanEd was not funded in our budget, and the House voted to repeal the KanEd program.

The Senate budget plans to fund KanEd and has not acted toward its repealer. I opposed the KanEd repealer, but I fully understand the need to evaluate and reassess its mission, including whether to continue the program. There are problems in its administration, but with the number of Kansas schools — kindergarten through college senior, private and public, libraries and hospitals using it and depending on it, chopping off the program seems ill-conceived.

Before the vote, I related to the members of the House: I have four sons. Through the years, I’ve not always been pleased with their actions, but to date, I’ve not killed one of them. I can tell you more than once I re-assessed the direction they were headed and monitored their paths. We also had a dog, which sometimes did things I wasn’t too happy about. Sometimes ya gotta roll up a newspaper and hit ’em over the nose to get their attention and to re-direct their thinking, but you don’t just shoot the dog. So it is with KanEd.

On April 18, a conference committee of House and Senate members will meet and try to hammer out the differences between the two budgets. So far this year, revenue is below the projected estimates, and March is nearly $20 million below estimates. This affects the reconciliation work of the House and Senate. The April 15 consensus revenue estimates will be available for the committee’s consideration and use and will add definition to their deliberations, but when it is all over, this matter could tilt the Senate to increase its ending balance by making larger cuts after all.

Currently the Senate’s final end-of-year budget balance is about $8.5 million, and is “under water;” the House’s margin is about $80 million.

Recently, I had the opportunity to act as moderator in Peabody for a “meet the candidate” night. There was a healthy debate between the mayoral candidates and among the council candidates. It was quite different for me, being on the asking side of things. I’m used to answering questions, not asking them. I also taught a quick course Saturday on the workings of the legislature at Butler Community College for its free class day on the Marion campus. I hope the participants enjoyed our time together as much as I did.

We are on break until April 27, so you can best contact me through the break at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion KS 66861; or call me at (620) 382-2133.

Last modified April 7, 2011

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