House approves budget cuts

By The Mercury

The Kansas House gave final approval Wednesday to the chamber’s version of a $14 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, including cuts to higher education.

Wednesday’s 68-55 vote sends the bill to the Senate, which was scheduled to debate its own version later Wednesday.

The House budget plan spends about $6 billion in general state revenues in the fiscal year that begins July 1. It also makes a 4 percent cut to higher education, a reduction of close to $30 million for state universities and community colleges.

However, it exempted the state’s six Board of Regents universities from a salary cap that it would apply to other state workers.

Both chambers closely follow a budget presented by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback for spending on K-12 education, social services and public safety.

The House is debating a tax package that diverts money from the state transportation program to fund programs.

Among area representatives, Ron Highland, R-Wamego, voted for the bill while Sydney Carlin, D-Manhattan, Tom Phillips, R-Manhattan, and Vern Swanson, R-Clay Center, voted against it.

Carlin, Phillips and Swanson all said they opposed the four percent cut to higher education. Prior to casting his vote, Highland indicated he would have to weigh the effects on higher education versus the financial realities of the state.

Kansas State University stands to lose $6.7 million with the cuts as well as $225,508 for a statutory $40 longevity payment, which would now be self-funded. Manhattan Area Technical College would be reduced by more than $100,000.

The Senate budget to be debated Wednesday afternoon includes a two percent cut to higher education. The varying versions will have to be reconciled by lawmakers from both bodies, an effort that is expected to occur before the start of a month-long break at the end of March.

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