Tuesday, March 12, 2013

House Appropriations Committee whittles down Brownback’s budget plan on higher education by $16 million

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Republicans on the House budget committee on Friday approved a recommendation that would cut $16 million in higher education funding from Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal.

Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said the cuts had been “offered” by the Kansas Board of Regents as part of a reduced resources plan, but state Rep. Jerry Henry, of Atchison, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said, “I think I take offense to the word ‘offer.’”

He said the reductions proposed by the regents were simply to comply with Brownback’s directive to include a possible emergency budget cut when submitting spending proposals.

“I believe all these cuts would have tremendous pain,” Henry said.

The Appropriations Committee is expected to finish its work on the budget this week and send it to the full House for consideration.

Rhoades’ plan would reduce Brownback’s budget by approximately $30 million, with $16 million from higher education, specifically community colleges, technical education, Washburn University and the regents’ office.

Rhoades said the state budget proposal would not factor in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue gained in Brownback’s tax plan because that plan has not gained acceptance in the Legislature yet.

Brownback, a Republican, has proposed reducing individual state income tax rates over the next four years but keeping the state sales tax at 6.3 percent. Under current law, the sales tax rate is supposed to decrease to 5.7 percent on July 1.

Brownback also has proposed eliminating homeowner deductions for mortgage interest and real estate taxes.