Brownback’s $16.8 billion budget presented to lawmakers

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Governor Sam Brownback’s full $16.8 billion budget was presented to lawmakers Wednesday morning.

The budget invests more money in K-12  education. It’s an investment in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in October, which said the state was not adequately funding schools.

Less than 24 hours after hearing the Governor’s proposal to invest an additional $600-million into K-12 education over the next five years, lawmakers are reacting.

“I think we have a lot of work to do, but I always believe the work is do-able,” said State Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan.

Lawmakers in both houses have concerns with so much money being dedicated to K-12 education.

“We have other issues in the state whether it has to do with nursing home inspections, children and families, foster care,” explained State Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick.

“I still have concerns whether on the outlying years with the increases the Governor has made through K-12 education, whether or not we’re able to balance the budget,” added State Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill.

Brownback’s proposal includes $34 million in new spending this fiscal year which ends June 30th, and $290 million dollars for the 2019 fiscal years.

When asked if the state had the money to spend, Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the national economy has helped.

“Thankfully we have an improved economy, we have stronger revenue coming in, much higher than we’ve had the last few years thanks to a strong national economy,” explained Sullivan.

The budget proposal also includes continued pay raises for correctional officers and money to restore some of the cuts made to hospitals and nursing homes in the past.

“I think we have a starting point and I think that’s what the Governor’s budget should be,” added Hawk.

However, some lawmakers still worry this budget proposal could put the state in a tough spot down the road.

“We’re looking a little bit more long-term than the next few months out,” said State Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park.

Late Wednesday Governor Sam Brownback’s office released the following statement in response to the reaction to his budget.

“While I recognize the proposed budget has drawn criticism from legislators on both sides of the aisle, complying with the Supreme Court’s school finance decision is not optional.  I support the rule of law, and I will not stand to see schools closed because of inaction on our part. Thankfully the economy is stronger than it has been, however we recognize the additional money to schools will strain our ability to address other core government functions in future budgets. We look forward to continuing these conversations with the Legislature to find a solution that meets the Court’s demands and keeps our schools open. It is neither constructive nor wise to hold hostage other critical initiatives, due to political gamesmanship over disagreement on the school funding piece of my proposal.” 

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