Kansas Lawmakers Narrowly Pass Budget Fix, Adjourn

 

Kansas lawmakers approved a budget early Monday that will require more cuts by Gov. Sam Brownback to balance.

 

The House debate on the bill started a minute after midnight on Monday – after lawmakers worked through the weekend to cobble together a partial budget fix. About an hour later, the bill passed 63-59, the bare minimum for passage in the House.

 

The Senate passed the bill a little after 3 a.m. by a vote of 22-18 after several lawmakers who initially voted against the bill were persuaded to change their votes and send the bill to Brownback, who has agreed to sign it.

 

SB 249 enables the state to delay a $96 million payment to the state’s pension fund until June 2018, giving the state more flexibility to get through the current budget year, which ends in June.

 

Lawmakers are counting on Brownback to do the rest to ensure the state maintains a balanced budget and can pay its bills on time.

 

The bill includes a provision that safeguards K-12 education from cuts, a piece that was heavily touted by House leaders.

 

“We continued our commitment to K-12 schools,” said Rep. Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, the House budget chairman. “When we passed the block grant bill last session one of the things we stated was this is stable and secure funding in unsecure times. And tonight was a continuation of that commitment.”

 

Opponents of the bill accused lawmakers of shirking their constitutional as appropriators by leaving the bulk of the cutting to the governor.

 

“We as a body are just handing that to him without any knowledge of the impact to our districts,” said Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Atchison.

 

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said that she had “never seen us turn the lights off” without a balanced budget.

 

House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, brushed off this type of criticism.

 

“Some people said, well, you’re making him to do some stuff. Well, yeah, we are making him do some stuff…I think it’s only fair that we get him involved and he has to do some stuff,” Merrick said.

 

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The Wichita Eagle      Published on May 1, 2016

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