Archive for Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sebelius budget provides increase to state retirees

January 17, 2008

Topeka - Public employee retirees and higher education institutions will get some help in a "lean" budget. But kindergartners will have to wait.

That's part of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' proposed $13.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

"She is recommending a lean budget. It keeps the commitments that have been made and also targets money to some key investments, like early-childhood programs," Sebelius' budget director Duane Goossen said Tuesday.

It also depends on gambling revenue before a slot machine or casino has been approved under the state's new gambling law.

The budget provides $6.4 million annually for a 1 percent cost of living adjustment for each of the next three years for retirees under the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. If enacted, it would be the first COLA under KPERS since 1998.

Overall, higher education would receive a $35 million increase in its operating grant, which is approximately a 3 percent increase. And the Sebelius budget would increase funds to take care of renovations and repairs on university campuses by $15 million.

College-bound students would also see a $3 million increase in state scholarships under the plan.

Some of the projected new gambling revenue would be dedicated to expansion of Kansas University's Pharmacy School. KU also would receive $5 million to continue its efforts to be designated a national cancer care institution.

But phasing-in of full-day kindergarten will have to wait until the 2009-10 school year, under the plan.

Sebelius' budget does finance the final year of a three-year school finance package, but the price tag has gone up.

Once estimated at $122 million, the new figure is $167.6 million because of increases in special education costs. And she adds $23 million in grants for early childhood learning programs.

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