By JUDY SHERARD
WaKEENEY -- Kansas lawmakers have to make cuts when the Legislature convenes in January.
That's what Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton, told a group of KNEA members Wednesday evening when he and Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, attended a KNEA SuperPac fundraiser and question-and-answer session.
Gov. Sam Brownback announced allotment cuts this week "because we've got a hole in the budget. It's a pretty good sized hole -- $280 million for this fiscal year which ends June 30," Hineman said.
The governor can make approximately $65 million in cuts right now, Hineman said.
"The rest of it is going to depend on the legislative approval, and that'll take some time," he said.
Since the state can't run a deficit like the federal government, it has two choices -- cut spending or raise revenue.
"There are those of us that think the tax cut of 2012 was too much too soon," Hineman said. "It went too far, and that's part of the reason, if not primarily the reason, we've got this shortfall."
It takes time for a tax bill to make its way through the Legislature, "so you've got to do it with cuts or fund transfers," Hineman said.
The state also faces a $400 million shortfall in fiscal year 2016, when legislators will have more flexibility.
"If we wanted to, we could raise the revenues some way," Hineman said. "We could change the tax structure. We could say, 'Hey, we went too far in 2012. Let's back off a little bit.' We could look at other revenue sources, and I hope we do. A $400 million hole for 2016, and if we do it all with budget cuts, it's really gonna affect the citizens of Kansas. I don't think we can responsibly do it all with cuts."
"I think we're going to have to raise (taxes)," Boldra said. "I don't think we can glide any more for certain. I think we're going to have to do something. It's going to be a hard two years."
"Whenever there's a cut to the budget, rural Kansas feels it more than urban Kansas," Hineman said.
The governor's plan calls for reducing the state's contribution to KPERS, the state retirement fund, by $40.7 million.
Hays teacher Kim Schneweis asked how that would affect teachers.
It might delay the fund's target dates, but it won't affect teachers, said Boldra, who retired from teaching high school social science 10 years ago.
"Certainly all of us who are in it, we won't feel anything at all," she said.
Hineman said he expects state lawmakers to revisit the issues of due process for teachers and common core standards in schools.
"I don't understand why we're still fighting it," Boldra said of common core.
"People (who are) against it think that it's a curriculum," said Nancy McFarland, a librarian in the Goodland school district. "These are standards by which we teach our own curriculum. These are good things."
"I think public education in general is under attack in Kansas," Hineman said. "It's under attack from those who are free-market oriented and believe that competition is good in every aspect of life. And there's some truth to that. But how do you have competition in Grainfield or Weskan?"