TOPEKA — KU and K-State don’t start playing in the NCAA basketball tournament until Friday, but both schools got a first-round win for their budgets in the state Senate on Wednesday.
By Dion Lefler
Eagle Topeka bureau
Senators voted to restore $5 million in state grants for the Cancer Center at the University of Kansas and the Animal Health Program at Kansas State University.
Each of the schools will get $2.5 million as a result of an amendment offered during debate on the Senate’s $14.5 billion spending plan for 2014.
The amendment by Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, brings the state grants to the programs to $5 million each, the same amount the Senate had earmarked for the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University.
Denning said he tried to get the funding for KU and K-State into the budget during a Ways and Means Committee meeting earlier this week, and brought it as a floor amendment because it’s crucial to maintain the funding for cancer and animal-health research.
“The Cancer Center is important to Kansas and the United States,” he said. “It’s a flagship hospital and a flagship employer.”
Of K-State, he said “It’s the same logic. Animal health is a growing industry with a lot of potential – very important to the food chain and homeland security.”
Denning’s amendment was opposed by Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, who objected to Denning’s proposed funding source, a gas depletion fund established to benefit rural Kansas.
“The oil companies in their area put money in a fund to offset the depletion of the natural gas to those counties,” McGinn said. “My question is why are we as a body taking money from 40 counties in western Kansas, that that money does not belong to us?"
Denning’s amendment was approved 30-10.
All in all, it was a difficult day for McGinn, who lost her position as chair of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee after more conservative Republicans took control of the Senate in the 2012 elections.
McGinn tried but failed to add $750,000 in funding for the Judge James Ridell Boys Ranch, an intensive Sedgwick County correctional program for juvenile offenders.
In addition to incarceration, the ranch “also teaches life skills to turn their lives around,” McGinn said. “Juveniles can be turned around if given a second chance.”
The amendment never came to a vote because the Rules Committee decided it didn’t meet the Senate’s new pay-go rule.
Under that rule, a senator who wants to increase the recommended funding for a program has to take the money from another appropriation in the proposed budget.
The committee ruled that McGinn’s amendment was out of order because she tried to shift the money for the ranch from a “fund,” not an “appropriation.”
McGinn also lost on amendments to increase funding for community mental health centers, the Creative Arts Industries Commission, and a program to help rural communities design septic systems and sewage lagoons that won’t pollute groundwater.
“I think I’m going to go back to playing basketball,” said McGinn, who played in high school. “My odds at 54 are probably better than playing this (pay-go) game.”