Proposed cuts to K-12 education brings vote on balancing Kansas budget to an abrupt halt

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- The debate over how to balance the Kansas budget came to a screeching halt in the Senate on Thursday, as lawmakers could not agree on two bills that would fill an approximate $350 Million budget deficit for fiscal year 2017, which ends June 30.

One bill proposes $154 million in cuts, $128 million of that coming from K-12 education.

Another bill would raise approximately $196 million by raising individual income taxes and reinstating business taxes previously cut as part of Governor Sam Brownback’s plan in 2012.

Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine says in committee, they had the 21 votes necessary to pass the two bills. When the bills moved to the floor for debate, public backlash against cutting the education budget caused some of those 21 senators to change their minds.

There was a big change in the Senate after the 2016 election, with voters replacing many incumbents. For the most part, the new crop of elected officials voted into office because of their commitment to protect K-12 education.

What some legislators are calling “Brownback’s failed experiment” in 2012 is largely blamed for the Kansas Legislatures continuing struggle to balance the budget.

"We probably cut taxes way too fast and way too quick back in 2012, and that has certainly contributed to our problems on the revenues side," said Sen. Longbine.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, who has always opposed the tax cuts made in 2012, sees hope for a more moderate legislature with the new crop of senators recently elected.

“You have new senators that want to fix the structural problems that we have within the budget that have been caused by the Brownback income tax cuts,” said Hensley.

The Senate will resume on Monday. The futures of the budget bills are up in the air.

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