KHI News Service

House advances budget bill

By KHI NEWS SERVICE | March 16, 2012

The House today advanced the first major budget bill of the 2012 legislative session.

Members, during more than five hours of debate, rejected several attempts to add money for various social service programs but agreed by wide margin to shift $29 million from road spending to K-12 education.

The school funding amendment was offered by Rep. Sheryl Spalding, an Overland Park Republican, and was approved 116-1.

Rep. Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican, also succeeded with an amendment that shifted $5 million from the oil and gas depletion trust fund to mental health programs. Money from the oil and gas fund generally is distributed to county governments.

Colloton said she expected the mental health funding would come from another source by the time the Legislature agrees to a final budget plan later in the session.

Rep. Bob Bethell, an Alden Republican, offered an amendment that would have added about $5 million aimed at reducing the state's waiting lists for social services, a backlog of about 8,000 people, some of whom have been waiting for services for more than two years.

Bethell's amendment wasn't voted upon, however, because it didn't conform to House rules that any proposal for additional spending be offset but cuts in other programs.

Bethell said additional dollars to reduce the waiting lists could maybe help the state avoid more costly sanctions from the the federal government, which has been investigating claims that the state's long and growing waitlists are in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Once again we are hurting the state of Kansas by not allowing people to be served," Bethell said. "Folks, I'm going to tell you honestly, you will see a findings letter from the federal government."

Rep. Owen Donohoe, a Shawnee Republican, offered an amendment that would have required the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to reverse its recent policy dealing with food stamp benefits for children living in homes headed by non-U.S. citizens. The policy, enacted in October 2011, has resulted in more than 2,000 children losing federal nutrition assistance.

Only seven members voted for the amendment, 113 against.

Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, offered an amendment barring the state from spending any money to implement the federal Affordable Care Act and rejecting federal dollars being used to upgrade the state's Medicaid eligibility system. Rubin said the upgrade could be used to help implement a health insurance exchange, which are required under the Affordable Care Act.

His amendment was rejected 97 to 21. Opponents, including some conservative Republicans, said had the amendment passed the state would have had to return more than $3 million to the federal government.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat, failed with an amendment that would have added about $1.3 million to the state's foster care programs.

Rep. Joe Patton, a Topeka Republican, succeeded on a voice vote in adding an amendment that would prohibit the use of state dollars or state employees to perform an abortion except when necessary to safe the life of the mother.

Supporters said the amendment was intended to restrict residents or faculty at the University of Kansas Medical Center from performing abortions.

The budget bill would authorize about $14.2 billion in combined state and federal spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Final budget decisions won't be made until later in the session when the House and Senate resolve differences in their respective spending priorities.

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