TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Senate committee endorses a $302 million Republican plan for eliminating a deficit in the current state budget.
The plan cuts aid to public schools by about $100 million more than Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and her fellow Democrats had proposed.
The Ways and Means Committee endorsed the plan Monday on a 8-5 vote. It was drafted by committee Chairman Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican.
"There's no doubt education is extremely important but I suspect if you talk to the folks who have developmental disabilities, and they could very easily get cut, I would suspect that they say they're every bit as important as education is," Sen. Emler said.
"People need to understand we are in a very serious situation. The state cannot issue money the way the federal government can. We cannot deficit spend," Emler said. "The bottom line is we have to figure out how we're going to pay for these bills."
Democrats complained that the committee was moving too quickly. They presented an alternative that relied heavily on accounting changes to get the state through its current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The measure went to the Senate, which could debate it this week. Ways and Means Committee Democrats plan to introduce their budget plan, which resembles the governor's, for debate after Elmer's plan is introduced.
Sen. Emler's plan proposes a 3.4 percent across-the-board cut in the current state budget.
Those cuts would be on top of selected spending cuts proposed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said across-the-board cuts are not the answer. "This is an easy way, a politically expedient way, to cut the budget," Sen. Hensley said. "Where it's really hard is if you try to look into the budget agency by agency and do the cuts that way rather than just taking a meat cleaver to the budget."
Chairman Jay Emler outlined his proposal during a Monday meeting of his Ways and Means Committee. His plan would adjust the current state budget by $302 million by June 30.
"I think this is a more responsible plan because the one time funds are used, if at all, later in the process," Sen. Emler said. "The cuts that remain now rollover into the next budget year - or 2010 - and so you actually get a doubling affect so that if you save $100 million this year, you save the same $100 million next year so you don't have to come up with a billion dollars. You only have to come up with $900 million to try and balance the budget."
Senators agree the sooner a plan is voted through, the better. "The longer you wait the more it hurts the agencies because you're compressing into an even shorter period of time how much time they have to come up with the dollars that have to be cut," Sen. Emler said.
Sen. Hensley is not confident the Republicans who support Emler's plan will gain enough votes from Democrats. If they do, he's not confident Governor Sebelius will sign the bill because she has said she disagrees with across-the-board cuts. "I will be so bold as to say that this bill, if it does pass and goes to the governor, is destined for a veto," said Hensley.
Senate Committee Members
Ways and Means
R - John Vratil - Vice-Chair
R - Dwayne Umbarger - Member
R - Ty Masterson - Member
D - Laura Kelly - *R.M. Member
R - Vicki L Schmidt - Member
R - Mark Taddiken - Member
R - Jean Kurtis Schodorf - Member
R - Carolyn McGinn - Vice-Chair
R - Ruth Teichman - Member
R - Jay Scott Emler - Chair
D - Janis K Lee - Member
D - Kelly Kultala - Member
R - David Wysong - Member