Kansas legislators are working at warp speed in hopes of wrapping up the bulk of their work in the next seven days. With an eye toward first adjournment April 5, conference committees are meeting to negotiate differences between measures passed in both chambers.
The major issue of concern to the University of Kansas is the budget. Both House and Senate negotiators are struggling to find revenue to fund state spending for the next two fiscal years. The Senate has passed a revenue package relying mostly on retaining the current sales tax rate. The House, however, has not adopted the sales tax proposal, which has led that chamber to cut budgets more severely.
Legislators are looking at spending reductions for higher education in the range of $21.5 million to a staggering $60 million. If enacted, cuts of this magnitude would set the university back nearly a decade.
Advocacy is also at warp speed, with KU and other higher education supporters throughout the state becoming increasingly aware of the budget proposals and how they would damage our universities. Eroding the investments that have been made at KU, Kansas State University and other state institutions is not supported by most Kansans and that message is starting to reach elected lawmakers in Topeka.
Higher education is vital to the state's pro-growth strategy. Governor Brownback has been extremely clear that his budget, which holds university funding nearly level and includes some enhancements such as the KU Medical Center's health education initiative, is vital to economic prosperity for Kansas.
A great "thank you" is extended to our Douglas County legislators and their colleagues who have KU ties. They're always supportive of university funding needs, but this week they found another way to be helpful. Teaming up with their colleagues from Emporia, the House members were able to get HB 2071 adopted in the Kansas House. This measure will allow us to swap university property with the KU Endowment Association and pave theway for further development in Lawrence.
Thank you and Rock Chalk!
Director of State Relations