Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lawmakers wrap up regular session without new budget

April 1, 2010

— Despite an unprecedented delay in forming a budget, Kansas leaders on Wednesday said a consensus was forming around the need to increase taxes to solve the state budget crisis.

“There is a clear majority for no more cuts,” said Gov. Mark Parkinson. “I also believe there is a majority to raise revenue.”

Now, legislators must decide what taxes to raise, he said. Parkinson said he believed a final tax increase will be about $400 million to bridge the revenue gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The Legislature adjourned its regular session early Wednesday without a budget plan. Longtime state officials say that has never happened previously.

Leading legislators said they wanted to get a revised revenue estimate on April 16 before tackling the budget in the wrap up session, which starts April 28.

In the past year, the state budget has been cut by nearly $1 billion from $6.4 billion.

Parkinson has proposed a three-year, 1-cent increase in the state sales tax of 5.3 cents per dollar. He has also pushed for a 55-cent per pack cigarette tax increase. But he said he was willing to consider other options.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Republican leaders sounded in agreement with Parkinson, who is a Democrat.

“We’ve made as deep of cuts as we can in the current budget,” said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

Morris said he didn’t know what increases the Legislature would agree on, but a package could include increases in the state sales and tobacco taxes.

“We will end up with a mix. We don’t know exactly what the mix will be,” he said.

Adjournment of the session came at 12:50 a.m. Wednesday.

In one of its final actions Tuesday, the Legislature passed a bill to strengthen state laws restricting abortion procedures — but not by veto-proof margins.

The Republican-controlled Senate approved the bill, 24-15. Hours later, the GOP-led House passed it, 83-36, sending it to Parkinson, a Democrat and an abortion-rights supporter.

The measure would allow patients or family members to sue doctors if they have evidence an abortion violated state law. Doctors would be required to report more details to the state about abortions performed after the 21st week of pregnancy and involving fetuses considered viable, or able to survive outside the womb.

Parkinson hasn’t said whether he’ll reject the bill.

The slaying last year of Dr. George Tiller, of Wichita, shut down the only clinic in Kansas known for doing abortions late in women’s pregnancies.

The bill’s supporters and opponents agreed the goal was to stop someone else from opening such a clinic.

“They want to dissuade another physician like George Tiller from setting up camp here,” said Kari Ann Rinker, a lobbyist for the National Organization for Women’s state chapter.

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