With only two weeks remaining before the lawmakers adjourn for break, lots of the heavy lifting at the Statehouse was accomplished this week, and there was no shortage of issues involving the University of Kansas. Both the House and Senate debated state budgets, revenue measures, abortion restrictions, stem cell research, guns in public facilities, including university buildings, and even staged photo ops with Naismith's original rules of basketball.
First, the budget. With lawmakers unable to find majority support for the Governor's tax package to date, they turned to budget cuts in order to balance the state's budget.
For higher education, the Senate budget reduces higher education spending in the state by $20 million in FY 2014. These cuts are largely as a result of a 2 percent reduction in each institution's budget. Fortunately, funding cuts targeted at the University of Kansas Cancer Center and other projects were restored thanks to great support among senators throughout the Senate deliberations.
The budget adopted by the House is substantially worse for higher education, cutting nearly $50 million. It imposes a 4 percent reduction in each institution's budget along with cutting funds for additional salary expenditures and sweeping funds reserved to fill vacant positions. About the only positive aspect of the House budget for KU is that it contains funding for the KU Health Education Initiative as recommended by the Governor's Budget.
The differences between the two measures will be addressed in a conference committee made up of members from both chambers in a process that will take most of next week. There's about a $300 million difference between the two measures, so compromises might be hard to achieve.
The Legislature also took action this week to advance SB 199, creating an Adult Stem Cell Research Center at KUMC. The measure was approved Thursday in the House Public Health Committee.
HB 2253, the no taxpayer funding of abortion measure, passed the House and was then advanced by the Senate Public Health Committee on Friday. The measure was not amended by the Senate committee and it was noted that language agreed to by KU and lawmakers in this year's measure is drafted so as not to jeopardize the accreditation of our OB-GYN residency program. The measure is highly likely to pass the Senate next week.
The Senate also has taken action to advance an omnibus concealed carry measure which was earlier adopted by the House. Sen Sub for HB 2052 will exempt university facilities for four years from allowing concealed carry of weapons, but universities must first comply with a requirement that buildings have security plans, which would be filed with the Office of the Attorney General. There is no funding provided for that mandate.
Thanks again to the many talented staff and university leaders who joined me at the Statehouse this week and/or provided answers to numerous requests for information. Your assistance has been greatly appreciated!
Director of State Relations