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Kansas Lawmakers Have Harsh Reaction to Brownback Budget Plan

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan listens to a question from a lawmaker Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposal is getting a harsh reception from Kansas lawmakers. The governor is getting an earful from all sides.
 
Some lawmakers are frustrated that Brownback fought the tax increase last year, but it’s now helping pay for his proposed $600 million boost in school spending.
 
“We just felt like it was very disingenuous for him to give us a budget with massive new spending after the way he reacted last year,” Republican Senate President Susan Wagle said.
 
Democratic Senator Laura Kelly said even with the new revenue from last year’s tax increase, the numbers in the budget don’t add up.
 
“We’re going to have to be the bad guys and come back and balance this thing,” Kelly said.
 
Some Republicans said the jump in school spending is too much, especially because the proposal only funds the first $200 million. Brownback's office said the rest can be covered in the coming years without a tax increase. The spending plan expects growth in state revenues to cover the cost.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning pointed out in a committee meeting that a big chunk of the initial $200 million school spending boost had been approved by lawmakers last year, meaning the actual growth in funding under Brownback's plan is smaller than claimed.

"We're trying to make a scenario that's not even close to being real," Denning said.
 
Brownback’s Budget director, Shawn Sullivan, said he’s not surprised by the reaction.

“We knew there would be varying opinions about that, some very negative. He and I both hope there is a constructive dialog over the next few months about what this needs to look like,” Sullivan said.

The governor responded to critics of the plan late Wednesday in a statement.

"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," Brownback said. "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."

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