In a Friday news conference dominated by questions on whether she'd be headed out on the campaign trail as Barack Obama's running mate, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius also fielded questions on higher education funding and gas prices.
Sebelius called the news conference to talk about her recent trip to the Farnborough International Air Show outside London. Sebelius made the trip with Commerce Department officials and representatives of various aviation businesses in Kansas.
Sebelius said the goal of the trip was to promote Kansas aviation, and sell Kansas as a place for new manufacturers to locate or expand. Sebelius says Kansas is doing well in the global market, but competition is stiff. She says she'd like to see lawmakers give the Commerce Department more tools to lure industry. Right now, she says they seem to do it as projects come up, such as a measure passed this session designed to help Cessna. However, she says, they're not in session a large part of the year and she'd hate to miss a window of opportunity.
Also of economic concern is gas prices. Sebelius says state agencies were asked to explore the impact of a four-day workweek. She says the feedback has been that it would have more negative impact than positive. Most people don't have a four-day workweek, so Sebelius says it would make it more difficult for Kansans to access state services because the workers they'd need to help them wouldn't be there.
The high fuel prices may be examined as part of efforts to begin work on a new Comprehensive Transportation Program. Past programs have been paid for, in part, through a fuel tax. Sebelius admits any request for a gas tax increase right now would not be viable.
With fuel costs among items straining budgets, state agencies are being asked to look at areas to cut. However, Sebelius says the perception that higher education institutions are being asked to slash seven-percent from their budgets is inaccurate. She says they are being asked to submit budget proposals at reduced levels, as is standard budgeting practice. She says she's made it clear she does not want cuts to affect students services, but she feels there are programs where many costs would be overhead that may be able to be reduced.