Senators start debating across-the-board cuts to state agencies

TOPEKA – The full Senate has started debating how reduce this year’s budget by about $300 million.

The GOP proposal, substitute for Senate Bill 23, includes 3.4 percent across-the-board cuts to state agencies or $265.1 million in spending reductions. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, said Tuesday she would veto the current proposal if it came across her desk.

“This is not a common occurrence this is not a pleasant occurrence, but the state does not find itself in a pleasant situation at this time,” said Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee as he introduced the bill this morning.

The bill also orders state agencies to make cuts to administrative and operating costs before cutting services and forbids agencies from closing any programs.

That could be easier said than done for some departments. Almost 90 percent of the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services’ budget is direct services, the agency has said. The state Department of Corrections said Tuesday that the proposed cuts would mean supervision of Kansas’ 5,800 parolees would halt April 1.

The reductions are lawmakers’ answer to a projected $200 million short fall in this year’s budget, which is about half over. The deficit could grow to $1 billion in fiscal year 2010, which starts July 1, if nothing is done.

The Senate started early today to accommodate what is expected to be a long and spirited debate.

Whatever the Senate puts out likely will be quite different from the current proposal.

The 61 page budget bill is available here.

We will be posting updates on the blog as the debate progresses, so check back often.