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.”