Senate Democrats suggest $35 million more adjustments and the debate is off

The Democratic answer to Senate Republican budget cuts for this year just showed up – and it cuts about $35 million deeper.

The alternate budget, sponsored by Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, would cut state spending $65 million less than the Republican’s proposal for fiscal year 2009 but includes $134.3 million in revenue adjustments, or $99.3 million more than the bill approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The Senate today has been debating the budget reductions in substitute for Senate Bill 23 in a stop and go fashion, in part because they’ve been waiting for the Democratic proposal to be ready.

Democrats suggested the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch both take additional 1 percent cut and 1.5 percent across-the-board cuts for all state agencies except kindergarten through 12th grade education. The latter move cuts about $46.5 million from state spending.

Kindergarten through 12th grade doesn’t escape touched however. Per student state aid would be reduced an additional $11 from the governor’s proposal which decreased the amount by $22.

Democrats also proposed that the state take $37 million out of an education “lock box” in the current fiscal year instead of in fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1.

Senate GOP leaders have said they want to find about $300 million from the current budget to fill the anticipated budget gap. While that number is more than the $200 million deficit currently projected, some lawmakers are starting to worry the neither amount will be enough.

While both sides have generally agreed on the $300 million target, the argument has centered on how to get there.

Now that they have the Democrats’ proposal, the debate is picking up. For most of the day, Senators have been standing at ease as they waited for amendments to be ready to discuss. There were only a handful of amendments proposed.