Kan. regents OK $47.1M higher ed budget request


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents approved a request Thursday to seek an additional $47.1 million in funding for higher education in 2013.

The vote comes as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's administration is telling state agencies to prepare for tight budgets in the coming year, including requesting information on how state government would implement a 10 percent cut in spending. The increase would be on top of the $763 million in state revenues appropriated to the higher education system in the current fiscal year.

Regents began working on the request this summer, originally receiving a list of priorities totaling $185 million for the 32-institution system. The request covers the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2013.

Regent Kenny Wilk, a former state legislator from Lansing, said the budget request was part of an ongoing process to narrow a list of priorities for higher education and make sure they fit with a broader vision for the state system.

"I'm satisfied. We've come a long ways and spent a lot of time," he said. "I think we've set some good priorities and we have a good product to advance to the governor's office."

The proposal includes $2.8 million to improve the Kansas University Medical Center, especially the School of Medicine campus in Wichita; and $1 million for the next fiscal year as part of a proposed $30 million in state funds to pay for a new health education building at the medical center in Kansas City, Kan.

Also part of the wish list is a 1 percent pay increase for the 18,000 employees working on university campuses. However, Regent Chairman Tim Emert said that portion of the request may be the most difficult part to sell to the administration and legislators.

"We looked at what we thought was doable," said Emert, a former Senate majority leader from Independence. "We looked at what fit in the governor's economic plan. Those that made the cut are the ones we feel can do the best for the state of Kansas."

Regents say the request is realistic given projections that the state will have reduced revenues as cuts in income tax take effect in January 2013.

"There's a lot of passion behind every one of their requests so it makes it really tough," Wilk said. "I think everyone understands the environment, the need to prioritize and really focus."

Brownback's staff will be reviewing the funding requests from all state agencies in the coming weeks as the governor prepares his budget to present to legislators in January.

The Legislature's research staff has projected that the cuts will lead to a budget shortfall in the next fiscal year and the cumulative shortfalls over the next six years will approach $2.5 billion

The tax law will cut individual income tax rates for this year and includes a drop in the top rate to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent. It exempts the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes. The cuts are worth $231 million during the current fiscal year, with the figure growing to $803 million for the next fiscal year, eventually rising to $934 million after six years.