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Kansas House Approves Amended State Budget

The Kansas Statehouse. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Kansas House lawmakers approved an updated $16 billion budget proposal Saturday on a 92-24 vote as they worked through part of the weekend.

The bill amends the spending plans lawmakers approved last year, and includes some targeted increases in state government funding.

It partially restores cuts to higher education from 2016, at a cost of $12 million. It also allocates $8 million to provide raises to workers in the judicial branch.

The bill funnels more money into the state’s pension plan, KPERS, to make up for a missed $194 million payment.

Those spending choices come about a year after lawmakers changed course on taxes. They raised rates by reversing the state’s 2012 tax cuts.

The chambers earlier this year approved a plan to boost spending on schools by more than $500 million over five years in response to a Supreme Court ruling that said schools are underfunded.

Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton wanted more investment in schools, but said she’s happy with the spending increases.

“Many members of the Legislature, myself included, made the tough decision to make sure that we added more revenue,” Clayton said, “specifically so that we could start fixing these budgetary issues.”

Some critics of the spending plan said it lets state government spending grow too much.

“We can better allocate our resources,” Republican Rep. Chuck Weber said after the vote. “We just don’t need to spend that much more money.”

House members removed a trigger in the budget, which would have automatically cut spending if the state Supreme Court rules that school funding levels are inadequate.

The House also rejected an effort to expand the health care program Medicaid to cover thousands of additional Kansans.

Senators are expected to debate their budget bill in the coming week. The two chambers will then need to work on a compromise between the two bills.

 

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