TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A long and contentious legislative session drew to a close as lawmakers decided on one key issue Sunday afternoon.
Members of both House and Senate chambers gave final approval for the state's budget and in doing so wrapped up the session on its 99th day.
"It's a good budget. It was a bipartisan vote," House Appropriations Chair Marc Rhoades, a Newton Republican, said.
The House voted first on the $14.3 billion budget, passing it 80 to 35. 72 Republicans and eight Democrats voted "yes."
The Senate followed suit later in the afternoon, with a 22 to 13 vote in favor of the measure. 14 of 32 Republicans and all eight Democrats voted "yes."
"We have [added] $40 million to the base state aid for schools, K-12, in that budget. We've got $8.5 million for the undermarket pay for some of our state workers." and "the House wants a 7.5 percent ending balance," Rhoades said. "That was important to us."
The budget is a compromise spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. It is now headed to Governor Sam Brownback for signature.
The proposed budget is a little more generous than the one proposed by the conservative Republican governor, but trims overall state spending about three percent.
"My feeling was that possibly we should have put more money into education. We roughly put in $60 on the base, but overall the last several years, we've taken out $600 off the base," Representative Bill Feuerborn (Garnett), Ranking Democrat of the House Appropriations Committee, said.
Both Rhoades and Feuerborn say an aggressive tax bill embraced by Brownback limited their ability to steer more funds toward schools and services.
Brownback in a statement said "I will sign a pro-growth tax reform law that reduces the tax burden on hard working Kansans and small business owners. It will leave $1.5 billion in Kansan's pockets during the next two years, create tens of thousands of jobs and make our state the best place in America to start and grow a small business."
Democrats say the bill will only lead to future spending cuts and create massive budget problems.
"It'll devastate our schools, it'll devastate our senior programs," Feuerborn said.
The legislature's research staff forecasts the bill will create a budget shortfall by July 2014.