Kansas agencies seek $274 million in new funding next year

Posted at 8:02 AM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 09:08:01-05

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Only months after Gov. Sam Brownback called the Kansas budget bloated, state agencies have asked for more than $274 million in new funding.

The agencies are collectively seeking a 4.1 percent increase in spending in next year's general fund budget, Wichita Eagle reported. The preliminary budget requests for the next fiscal year became public when the agencies presented them to a legislative committee last week.

One agency seeks money to restore earlier cuts to universities. Another wants money to eliminate waiting lists for people with disabilities. A third wants more money for social workers. Those requests do not include additional spending for schools.

The agency requests come just months after Brownback complained about excessive spending when he signed the current budget into law.

"These types of budget enhancement requests happen annually, but agencies typically don't look at the whole of the budget and take into account the limitations of state resources and those requests should not be mistaken for the Governor's budget proposal," Brownback spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said in a statement.

Legislative leaders have created a committee in the wake the Kansas Supreme Court decision last month that struck down the state's education funding formula as unconstitutional.

Attorneys for the school districts who are suing say more than $600 million in additional spending may be needed.

An increase that large would potentially require a tax increase or significant cuts in other government spending.

The budgeting process comes as Brownback awaits U.S. Senate confirmation as an ambassador, leaving Lt. Jeff Colyer waiting to become governor.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward said agencies may feel freer to ask for funding increases because of the prolonged transition in the governor's office. Colyer will not talk about policy while Brownback remains governor.

"They see an opportunity to kind of put forward some ideas that they may have been doing internally, or backroom, but were getting shot down," Ward said.

Agencies have seen rounds of cuts over the past few years as Kansas revenue collections fell short of projections. But the budget situation is improving after the Legislature approved income tax increases over Brownback's veto that are expected to raise $1.2 billion in additional revenue over two years.