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Kansas Senate passes budget that includes cuts to KU and student financial aid

— The Kansas Senate on Wednesday passed a preliminary budget bill that funds most state government agencies for the next two years, even though it cannot be funded without significant tax increases that neither the House nor Senate have started to address.

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Republican Sen. Julia Lynn of Olathe and Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, debate a proposed ...

The final budget lawmakers are expected to pass in May could look far different, depending on how large of and what types of tax increases the Republican-dominated Legislature is willing to pass to fill in the gaps.

The bill includes a $9.4 million cut over two years for funding of the Lawrence campus of Kansas University.

It also includes a large-scale reallocation of student financial aid money between public and private institution students that Board of Regents officials say will mean more than 3,000 students at public institutions will no longer be eligible for that aid.

But the bill is still a long way away from becoming law. It now heads to the House, where Republican leaders have been unable to find enough votes to pass their own budget bill.

The House will have a choice when it returns Monday whether to continue trying to pass its own bill or go straight to conference committee on the Senate bill.

“After the weekend we’ll know what the Senate bill looks like. I don’t know that we’ve discerned which direction we’re going,” said House Republican leader Jene Vickrey of Louisburg.

The bill passed 26-13. Sens. Marci Francisco of Lawrence, Tom Holland of Baldwin City and Anthony Hensley of Topeka, all Democrats representing portions of Douglas County, voted no.

The big picture

The Senate bill includes funding for everything in state government except K-12 public education, which both chambers approved earlier this month in a separate bill, and the judicial branch, which the Senate plans to include in a separate bill to be debated later.

All told, the Senate plan calls for spending about $6.4 billion from the state general fund each of the next two years and, according to an analysis by the Legislature’s research office, would leave the state with small but positive ending balances each year.

But those balances assume lawmakers will pass the tax increases and other measures Gov. Sam Brownback proposed as part of his budget, and they do not take into account the revenue shortfalls that have occurred this year.

Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, the ranking Democrat on the Senate budget committee, said that when those and several other factors are taken into account, the budget would exceed projected revenues by nearly $500 million next year and $960 million the following year.

“I don’t know how we vote for something like this,” Kelly said. “In the 11 years I’ve been here, we have never voted on a budget that doesn’t balance.”

But Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Augusta, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, said the bill that passed Wednesday is only a starting point in negotiations with the House and that questions about revenues will be addressed later in the session.

“The truth is, we’re going to send a budget over, and we have work to do on that,” Masterson said. “This body is not passing a budget until we pass a conference committee report at the end of the day.”

Higher education funding

The $9.4 million cut to the KU campus started out in a Ways and Means subcommittee as a swap between the Lawrence campus and the KU Medical Center’s Wichita campus.

But in a later meeting of the full committee, the swap was converted into a straight cut to the Lawrence campus.

Sen. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, who pushed for the cut, said that was meant to reflect the declining enrollment at the Lawrence campus over the past few years.

But Sen. Francisco argued that by many measures, KU has outperformed many of the other Regents institutions.

“In the last two years, the University of Kansas at Lawrence has received approximately 24.5 percent of the Regents block grant, but produced 28.5 percent of the degrees,” Francisco said. “At present, state appropriations constitute 15 percent of the budget for the University of Kansas at Lawrence, and that’s the smallest percentage of all of the Regents institutions.”

But there was no effort to amend the bill to restore the cut due to a procedural rule in the Senate known as “PAY-Go,” or “pay as you go,” which says any amendment that increases spending in one line item must be accompanied by a corresponding reduction or savings in another area.

“Where are we going to find $9.4 million?” Sen. Kelly asked.

Meanwhile, the bill also changes the way “comprehensive grant” funds are allocated between public and private institutions in Kansas.

Traditionally, those need-based awards have been split evenly between the public and private school students. But the Senate bill requires that going forward, 75 percent of the $15.4 million available be awarded to private institution students and only 25 percent to public institution students.

That provision was also pushed by Sen. Arpke of Salina, who said the grants make up less than 1 percent of the state’s total higher education budget, while the private schools produce 20 percent of all the bachelor's degrees and 24 percent of all the master's degrees awarded in Kansas.

Board of Regents officials estimated that change will result in a total loss of $5.3 million in funding for grants at public institutions, resulting in 3,521 fewer students receiving those grants.

KU would lose about $1.17 million in grants, resulting in 880 students losing funding, according to the Regents estimates.

Comments

Frank Smith

So, is the Senate punishing KU because Douglas county votes somewhat Democratic?

Can legislators not pass any increase in funding without first getting approval from their main sponsors, Charles and David Koch?

This is Brownbackistan, for sure:

The writing's on "The Wall."

"We don't need no education...:

"New boss, same as the old boss."

2 years, 8 months ago

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Mark Luttrell

It's not just towards KU. WSU gets a $1.3 million cut from last year, and KSU a $2.1 million cut. KU is definitely getting a bigger cut, but the school also has a bigger budget and higher enrollment than the other 2 schools. I can't say whether or not it's a proportional cut in comparison, but this goes beyond his mere dislike towards Democrat leaning Douglas Co.

http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-g...

2 years, 7 months ago

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Sharynne Azhar

The world from the movie "Idiocracy" seems be more and more real. Electrolytes!

2 years, 7 months ago

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Cynthia Schott

My thoughts exactly, Frank!

2 years, 7 months ago

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Bob Reinsch

"75 percent of the $15.4 million available be awarded to private institution students and only 25 percent to public institution students"

I'm curious. In Kansas, what percentage of students are private institution students versus public institution students? Personally, I don't want my tax dollars going to comprehensive grant funds for private institutions. I'd like to know more about this, especially when funds are being taken away from KU's med school programs that Tom Arpke himself said was so desperately needed educate doctors to serve in rural Kansas. Does Bethany College in Lindsborg have a med school we haven't heard about?

2 years, 7 months ago

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Mitch Montague

That hurts me.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Peter Hancock

According to the Board of Regents, students at private four-year institutions make up 17.45 percent of all students at four-year institutions. But your money isn't going to fund the institution. It's funding the Kansas students, regardless of which school in Kansas they attend.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Jim Slade

In other words they are incentivizing students to enroll in private versus public education.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Sharynne Azhar

I agree with you Bob! Wouldn't private institutions students already have a lot of money since they're all rich? Public schools are the ones who need the funds. Why don't public and especially rural schools get priority?

2 years, 7 months ago

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Bob Zimmerman

C'mon...we all know that edumacation is way overrated and you really don't need it to get a good job a meat packing plant or a telemarketing office.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Lawrence Freeman

How can they call this a budget? This is a wish list that doesn't come close to available funds.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Mitch Montague

I honestly cannot believe that this is happening. Cutting funding for 880 students... I will tell you that the ONLY reason I am currently able at ALL to go to KU is through that system... Grants make up more than half of my tuition payment and loans the other half. KU already has one of the highest acceptance rates... Why make it only for the people whose parents stayed together and planned ahead? Why make the KU population DECLINE by stopping 880 people from getting help they NEED to not work in meat packing @Bob Zimmerman!

I am very fortunate to have gone to KU and I hope to be fortunate enough to continue. We shall see.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Jim Russo

Mitch, you seem like a student who is engaged and votes. I hope you encourage your fellow students to do the same in coming elections
.

2 years, 7 months ago

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John Wilson

I think it's important for everyone to understand the process by which this two year, multi-billion dollar budget might pass. This budget bill started as a House Bill focused on claims against the state (HB 2135). It passed out of the House on March 12 with a vote of 121-0. It then went to the Senate Weighs and Means Committee where it was "gutted" and replaced with the budget for FY16 and FY17 (Senate Sub for HB 2135).

Because the House has already passed HB 2135 (again, a non-budget bill), it means that now there is a STRONG possibility that the House (125 elected Representatives) will not have the opportunity to amend the budget. Why? Because the House, led by conservative Republicans, can simply vote to "concur" with Senate Amendments or vote to "nonconcur", which means a Conference Committee would be appointed.

A Conference Committee is made up of only SIX elected officials: 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats. During the Conference Committee, these folks can add or remove items from the budget. However, when the "Conference Committee Report" is passed out of the committee and sent to the Senate and House floors, all we're allowed to do is vote "Yes" or "No" on the Conference Committee Report (i.e. the two-year, multi-billion dollar budget). As the State Representative for portions of Lawrence, I WILL NOT have the opportunity to offer amendments to restore funding to KU's main campus, offer amendments to fund programs for children, or offer amendments to protect highway projects. I will only be able to vote "yes" or "no". This process means that SIX people are controlling what our budget looks like. Democracy in action....

...and this will be the SECOND TIME this has happened in the past three years. The budget was passed the same way in 2012.

Furthermore, by passing the budget first, rather than the tax plan (i.e. the revenue), it means that the conservative leadership of the House and Senate will have more leverage to force members into supporting regressive forms of taxes, like higher sales tax in general, higher sales tax on cigarettes and alcohol, and even the removal of deductions that many average Kansans utilize.

We deserve better leadership.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Cille King

Thank you for explaining the process.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Sharynne Azhar

I don't understand politicians. Of all the things they could have cut, education always seems to go down first.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Cille King

It's the working policy of the current administration and most of the legislature - to underfund education, highways, prisons, healthcare - then privatize it all so that the 1% can make even more money.

Thank our current local representatives and senators: John Wilson, Boog Highberger, Tom Sloan, Marci Francisco, and Tom Holland for representing the interests of the citizens, unlike most of the group.

2 years, 7 months ago

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Mo Meza

We have the opportunity to change the direction this state is taking by voting for those that support education, renewable energy, tax break for middle class and make decisions on what is right for the state and the citizens. People that put first what is right and not what is good for politics. You do this by participating and motivating others to go out and vote. Do it for your children, your family and future of Kansas. VOTE!!

2 years, 7 months ago

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