Budget Sound Off

by Melissa Brunner

Details of Gov. Sam Brownback's first budget proposal are being made public, and I want to know what you think of them.

The Governor's goal is to reform government - downsize, prioritize, reorganize - in order to fill a $500 million budget gap without raising taxes and without harming public schools or the state's most vulnerable citizens. The overarching goal of the administration is to grow the economy.

A few items of interest:

*More than 2000 unfilled state jobs will be eliminated

*8 state agencies will be eliminated, although their functions are folding into other areas. For example, the state's Human Rights Commission would no longer be its own separate agency, but would exist within the Attorney General's office, with the change saving administration costs. The Kansas Health Policy Authority's programs and functions will land in KDHE, saving nearly $3 million. The Animal Health Office would be no more, but it will be consolidated with the Conservation Commission into a new program within the Ag Dept. The Kansas Parole Board also gets the ax, with the Corrections Dept. assuming its functions.

*Eliminate Kansas Arts Commission and transition it to a non-profit agency

*End state funding for public broadcasting. Eugene Williams at KTWU tells me this amounts to just over 10 percent of their budget

*Begin the process of closing Topeka's Kansas Neurological Institute. All of its estimated 142 residents would be moved to community placements and the facility shut down in 23 months

*Some administrative functions in the Juvenile Justice Authority and Corrections Depts. will be consolidated

*Travel & Tourism will move from the Commerce Dept. to Wildlife & Parks

Those are just a few of the many, many details we'll start to find once the various proposals begin making their way through the legislature. What's a big deal to some may not be to others. For example, the information on KNI wasn't included in the 14-page summary provided by the Governor's Policy Director.

What do you think of what you know? What hits the target and what misses the mark? And, maybe, what don't you like but believe has to be done? Here's your chance to sound off. Remember - this is just a proposal. If you feel strongly about a particular area, make sure your representatives hear from you. 

You can view the entire budget proposal at www.budget.ks.gov.



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