By BRYAN LOWRY
Tribune News Service
Gov. Sam Brownback plans to transfer $95 million from the state highway fund and cut the budgets of state agencies by 4 percent to help plug a budget deficit.
State agencies will see their budgets reduced by 4 percent from January through June, resulting in about $79 million in savings. The state will also transfer $201 million from dedicated funds, including the highway fund, into its general fund.
Together these moves will give the state about $280 million to plug its budget hole, which is projected to be $279 million by the end of June. Details of the changes can be found here.
"These first steps are a down payment in resolving the immediate budget issue," Brownback said in a press release. "I look forward to presenting a full budget proposal and policy recommendations to the legislature in January. Our job now is to address this situation through good fiscal governance while maintaining our investment in education, sustaining funding for public safety and allowing T-WORKS (the state's highway plan) to be completed."
On the campaign trail Brownback had repeatedly denied that allotments were a possibility for the current fiscal year.
The state will transfer $95 million from the highway fund, a dedicated fund that goes toward construction projects, and reduce the operating budget for the Department of Transportation by $7.8 million.
Secretary of Transportation Mike King promised last week that the state's transportation projections already scheduled to begin in 2015 and 2016 would proceed as planned.
A news release from the department after the governor's announcement said projects "announced under the T-WORKS transportation program will continue as planned. Projects already let under the 10-year program have cost less than planned, federal and state revenues have been higher than anticipated, and bond rates have been more favorable than expected."
The state will also sweep $55 million from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's fee fund and $14.5 million from the Kansas Endowment for Youth, a fund meant to pay for programs that benefit children in future years, into the general fund.
Christie Appelhanz, vice president for public affairs at Kansas Action for Children, noted in a statement that Brownback had vetoed a transfer of $5 million from the youth endowment earlier this year. "We're deeply distressed by the governor's change of heart," she said in a statement Tuesday. "The current budget crisis is of his own making, and it shouldn't be paid for by our state's youngest and most vulnerable children."
The Department of Children and Families will see its budget reduced by about $4 million and the Kansas Highway Patrol will see its funding cut by $1.1 million.
State funding to the Kansas Bioscience Authority, a public-private partnership that invests in the bioscience sector, will be reduced by $5 million.
The Kansas Department of Education's budget will be cut by $230,000, a reduction that will affect only the state agency and not school districts.