TOPEKA – On a narrow vote of 21-17, a budget plan cobbled together by a collation of moderate Republicans and Democrats squeaked by to passage.
The Senate on Monday afternoon voted to adopt the plan House substitute for Senate Bill 572.
“The budget we have before us is the best we can do under some extremely difficult times,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka.
Because the Senate was adopting the $13.6 billion spending plan already passed by the House on Saturday, there could be no changes. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.
Hensley said passing a budget plan would put the wheels in motion so lawmakers could conclude the 2010 session and leave Topeka.
Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, said he is encouraged by this important step, but now legislators must find the revenue needed to balance this budget, said Parkinson’s spokesman Seth Bundy.
Similar to a budget package passed last week by the Senate, the House proposal need about $300 million in additional revenue to balance. The Senate has also passed a revenue package which would raise $314 million in new tax dollars.
The money would mostly come from a three-year, 1-cent state sales tax increase that would raise the rate the state collects to 6.3 percent up from 5.3 percent. After three years, the sales tax rate would scale back to 5.7 percent with the remaining 4/10ths of a percent funding state highway projects.
As senators were debating the budget passed by its counterparts, the House Appropriations Committee was at work tinkering with yet another budget proposal. The discussion had focused on an idea that would sell off about $100 million in state property.
Sen. Karin Brownlee, R-Olathe, asked if the chamber could delay the vote to allow the House budget to finish work on what would be its fourth budget proposal of the session.
Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, said the budget should have been finished last week and noted that lawmakers were there at taxpayer expenses.
As they are struggling to fill a $500 million budget gap, lawmakers have also been running out of money allocated to pay for their 90-day session. Last Wednesday, the pot of money used to pay lawmakers and their staff ran out and since then most lawmakers have been working without a secretary. The Legislature has been drawing down other pots of Legislature money to keep working.
Wednesday is the final day in the 90 allotted for a typical session.
“This is a viable budget and theirs is not a viable budget,” Emler said.
“It’s foolish to pass a budget when we don’t have the income to fund the budget,” retorted Brownlee. “It’s not nearly as expensive to be here another day as it is to pass a $300 million tax increase.”
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The Senate is now adjourned until 7 p.m.