When Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka today to finish the 2010 Kansas Legislative session, there will still be a full plate of items left to attend to.





Not the least of which is the budget, which got a little worse during the spring recess. Lawmakers are now tasked with balancing the state’s spending and are looking down a nearly $510 million hole to do so.

When Kansas lawmakers return to Topeka today to finish the 2010 Kansas Legislative session, there will still be a full plate of items left to attend to.

Not the least of which is the budget, which got a little worse during the spring recess. Lawmakers are now tasked with balancing the state’s spending and are looking down a nearly $510 million hole to do so.

“What I’m telling people is that I don’t know what its going to take to put a budget together and fund it,” said State Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee. “It’s going to be tough.”

While on the Senate side, some feel that a compromise may not be that far away. In fact, State Sen. Chris Steineger said that a compromise has been in the works since before the break.

“We will pass a budget,” Steineger, a Kansas City Democrat, said. “There are elements for a compromise that was coming together in March.”

He said that the compromise may include more modest budget cuts, with exception to education as well as an inclusion to Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson’s proposed 1-cent sales tax increase.

Steineger said that some of the cuts may come from things like the state subsidy for Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport, which yields $5 million as well as state aid to cities that, he said, amounts to around $18 million.

He said that eliminating that aid to cities may cause a deeper look at a consolidation of cities and counties, similar to that of Wyandotte County.

One big concern has been the need for further cuts and where those cuts may come from. During the break, various lawmakers heard outcries from those in the education field to leave education funding alone.

“I don’t think we’ll see education cut,” Grant said. “Those in the Senate realize that the Governor will not accept cuts to education.”

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson has mildly threatened to veto any budget that includes further cuts to state education.

But, Sen. Tom Holland, a Baldwin City Democrat, said that there may be some small, internal cuts needed to make a budget package work.

Parkinson’s sales tax increase met with significant resistance in both the House and the Senate during the first 75 days of the Legislative session, but Holland said that was because the discussion was very preliminary.

“The opposition was in the beginning,” Holland said. “Since that time, I think people have heard from their constituents ... I know I have.”

In southeast Kansas, one measure that local lawmakers would like to see addressed is gaming. A measure passed out of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee just days prior to the break would lower the fees required to build a state-owned casino in southeast Kansas as well as increase the profits from slot machines to horse and dog track owners, a move some hope will lead to reopening Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac and The Woodlands in Wyandotte County.

“It sure would be nice to get gaming passed and have another $40 million in privilege fees,” said State Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg.

Counterparts in the Senate, like Holland, said that gaming may not be the big solution, but it can fix part of the budget problem.

“We need the revenue, I know that,” Holland said.

Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature reconvene today in Topeka.

On the Web:
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org