Daily Archives: March 11, 2011

Governor cuts $50 million from schools to pay social services shortfall

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback is cutting $50 million from schools and will ask the Legislature to transfer nearly that much to cover increased costs in health and human services caseloads, his office announced today.

The cut to base state aid to education will reduce annual school spending per pupil by $22, from $4,012 to $3,990, according to Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor’s spokeswoman.

The Wichita school district was uncertain Friday night how the cuts will play out for local schools.

“The Governor indicated in January there would be mid-year cuts and this action is consistent with his January budget message,” said a district statement released by spokeswoman Susan Arensman. “At this time there are many unanswered questions about how the cuts will be applied and what will be the actual impact on base state aid per pupil and other education programs.

The school funding reduction makes up the lion’s share of $56.5 million in overall reductions that the governor announced he would be making this morning.

The actual cuts and amounts were announced shortly after the end of the business day.

Brownback said the reductions are necessary to meet the requirements of the state Constitution that the annual budget balance when the fiscal year ends at the end of June.

Brownback said he had hoped to get a “recision” bill from the Legislature to make deeper cuts now and give the state a $35 million head start on the 2012 budget.

The House approved the additional $35 million in cuts, but the Senate approved only about $3.5 million. House and Senate confreres have been unable to reach agreement on a single bill to send to the governor.

Brownback has the authority to make the cut to education on his own, but the Legislature will have to reallocate the money to the health and human service caseloads for the plan to reach full fruition.

The state faces an unfunded liability of $49.3 million on the caseload budget, the governor’s office said. In addition, revenue has fallen $7.2 million short of projections, adding up to the $56.5 million the governor cut to get to a zero deficit.

Other budget cuts announced by the governor include:

– Colleges and universities, $2.32 million. – Social and Rehabilitation Services, $2.3 million. – State Finance Council, $1.31 million. – Department of Administration, $212,656 – Wildlife and Parks, $52,302. – Court of Tax Appeals, $40,454. – Attorney General, $38,535 – Arts Commission, $30,000

Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Wichita, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said she had thought the House and Senate were close to agreement on a recision bill that would have resulted in an ending balance of $21.5 million, but House negotiators backed away.

“We were really close and all of a sudden, we were moving away from each other,” she said.

Now, she said, the House has the worst of all worlds.

Instead of the $35 million the House originally wanted, or the $21.5 million compromise, or even the $3.5 million the Senate originally proposed, there is no ending balance at all to carry forward to next year, she said.

The process the governor used to cut the budget, called allocation, does not allow him to legally cut beyond the amount needed to reach a break-even budget.

Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said his confreres offered to let the Senate compromise go to a vote of the full House, to show that the majority there wouldn’t support an ending balance of less than $35 million. The senators declined.

“It is the House’s position that we have to get serious about capturing dollars rather than spending them,” Rhoades said. “Even with the Governor’s allotments, which had to be made, the House wants to finish with something better than a zero ending balance, otherwise 2012 is going to be even harder on everyone.”

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said Brownback can’t claim to have balanced the budget until and unless the Legislature approves the transfer from schools to social services.

He said he thinks “the Legislature should do its job and should pass a recission bill.” However, there is little the heavily outnumbered Democrats can do to affect the process.

“He (Brownback) can’t bring members of his own party together,” Hensley said. “He needs to persuade the House Republicans to agree with the Senate Republicans.”

Legislator offers ‘voter ID light’ bill

After hearing two days of arguments on the voter ID bill championed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections considered another bill characterized by its author as “voter ID light.”

Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka said she wrote Senate Bill 222 in response to what she perceives as problems with Kobach’s plan. She said the state needs a more “common sense approach.”

“Kansas voters want secure elections, but they want a voter ID policy that solves the problems without suppressing the right to vote,” she said.

Mah, the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Elections, chose to go to the Senate with her bill because the House passed Kobach’s proposal, contained in House Bill 2067, on Feb. 25.

The committee will consider Mah’s proposal on Wednesday, said Sen. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, chair of the committee.

Mah’s proposal would not grant the secretary of state’s office the power to prosecute cases of voter fraud. It instead leaves that job where it is under current law, with districyt attorneys.

Mah would require voters to show identification at the poll, but non-photo IDs, including utility bills and pay stubs, would suffice.  Kobach’s plan would have to offer free IDs to those who can’t afford them.

Mah called the Kobach plan’s heightened requirements to prove citizenship for registration “the elephant in the room.”

She wants to keep first-time registrants from having to show proof of citizenship. She said requiring a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization document would be too burdensome and would inhibit voter registration drives.

She said for the time being, a drivers license number, non-driver ID number, or last four digits of social security number would have to suffice until new integrated computer systems allow the secretary of state’s office to cross-check documents with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

– Todd Fertig

Brownback to cut $56.5 million from current budget

Brownback

Gov. Sam Brownback just announced that he will make $56.5 million in cuts to government spending to balance the budget through the end of the fiscal year.

Brownback said the cuts are necessary to balance the budget — as required by the state Constitution — by the time the fiscal year ends at the end of June.

The governor said he had hoped the Legislature would bring him a “recission” bill to make $35 million in additional cuts to get a head start on the 2012 budget year.

The House and Senate have been unable to come to terms on that bill.

Brownback said he has to take action now to have time to implement the cuts with the least possible disruption.

The governor did not provide details on what he will cut, saying that will be released by the end of the day.