KC Star – GOP holds line on spending

Posted on Fri, Mar. 16, 2007

GOP holds line on spending
House Republicans turn back more than $36 million in proposed additions to the budget.
By JIM SULLINGER
The Star’s Topeka Correspondent

TOPEKA | Rep. Lance Kinzer stood with 24 other Republican lawmakers this week and vowed to keep the state’s budget from increasing beyond $5.95 billion.

That was the total spending recommended by the House Appropriations Committee and scheduled to be debated Thursday on the House floor. It was $60 million less than Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, had recommended.

That debate began at 10:30 a.m., and by its end nine hours later, Kinzer, of Olathe, and his GOP colleagues had voted down more than $36 million in new spending sought mostly by Democrats. One successful amendment offered by a Republican eliminated $2 million to fund a presidential primary next year.

“We’re sticking very close to what the appropriations committee came out with,” Kinzer said, adding that it was time to “draw a line in the sand” on state spending.

Rep. Kasha Kelley, an Arkansas City Republican, said, “For too many years now government spending has really been eclipsing the rate of our constituents’ income, and it’s really unfair for us to keep asking them to foot an ever-growing bill for government spending when their income isn’t going up at a commensurate rate.”

When the budget debate began, more than 38 spending amendments were prepared, most of them by Democrats. Few were successful. By the end of the day, successful amendments had added only a little more than $1 million to the budget.

Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, said he was disappointed by the Republican effort to defeat the amendments.

“We’re trying to set priorities for the state and make sure the most vulnerable citizens in Kansas are taken care of – our children, our elderly,” he said. “It’s unfortunate the majority party has decided to basically vote everything down.”

Key amendments rejected by Republicans included $15 million for all-day kindergarten, $4 million to expand health coverage for low-income children, $5.4 million to reduce the waiting list for services for the developmentally and physically disabled, and an additional $2 million to expand the grandparents-as-caregivers program.

Kinzer said many of these votes were tough.

“It really comes down to trusting the appropriations process to prioritize,” he said, adding that lawmakers still have the ability to look at the failed amendments more closely and decide later whether they need to be included in the budget.

The budget debated Thursday, Kinzer said, doesn’t include more than $60 million in tax cuts that the House hopes to make. He said that money would come out of the ending balances.

Even with budget restraint, he said, spending will exceed revenue by $123 million.

Rep. Bill Feuerborn, a Garnett Democrat, said about 200 items had been left out of the budget, including $26 million for vocational education at postsecondary institutions.

After the House passes its version of the budget, the Senate will take its turn next week. The two versions will then go to a six-member negotiating committee, which will work out the differences.

Other budget highlights from the House debate:

  • Rep. Kay Wolf, a Prairie Village Republican, increased the local budget authority for school districts from the current ceiling of 31 percent to 32 percent, a move backed by Johnson County school officials. An effort to strip that provision out of the budget was defeated.
  • Democrats were unsuccessful in efforts to change the Republican plan for increasing the pay of state workers. The governor had proposed a 4 percent pay increase. Republican leaders, however, approved a 1 percent increase and a one-time bonus of $1,450
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