A 2 percent across-the-board spending cut put forward by Senate President Susan Wagle was rejected in the Senate on Thursday as senators debated a bill to fill the current-year budget gap.
Wagle’s proposal, which would have included spending cuts for K-12 and higher education, failed on a vote of 7-33.
“This is not an amendment that targets schools. This is an amendment that says everyone takes the same cut,” Wagle said.
The bill under discussion late Thursday would eliminate the current $280 million shortfall by using a long-term investment fund and delaying a payment to the state’s pension system. A final vote could come later Thursday or Friday.
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The debate over Wagle’s amendment underscored the desire, shared by many lawmakers, to balance the budget without significant cuts. A version of the bill passed by the House also contained no cuts to state agencies.
Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said the cut would have saved a little more than $100 million in the current year. About $64 million of that would have come from schools.
She argued the cut would have helped reduce the size of tax increases needed to generate future revenue.
“My concern is that if we don’t cut, we will be forced into a very large tax increase,” Wagle told Republican senators in a meeting before the debate.
After lawmakers deal with the current-year shortfall, Kansas will still face a long-term budget shortfall of more than $1.1 billion over the next two years.
Wagle faced resistance to the cuts from her own caucus. Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican, said schools and colleges are beginning to post jobs for the coming year and have been waiting since the beginning of session to see whether they would be cut.
“There has been absolutely the most extreme rollercoaster of emotion and tension in education since January,” Baumgardner said.
Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican, lent his support to Wagle. He said the amendment wouldn’t have harmed schools, mentioning the restriction to cutting non-instructional spending.
“This is not about anything other than spreading the hurt,” Fitzgerald said.