Kansas House panel approves budget bill

(KSNT Photo/Brian Dulle)
(KSNT Photo/Brian Dulle)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee approved a budget bill Wednesday that includes Gov. Sam Brownback’s request to use savings from the state’s health care system to provide additional funding for social services.

The vote by the House Appropriations Committee sends the measure to the full chamber for debate. The Senate already has approved its version of the budget. Both versions would spend about $14.6 billion in 2015, including more than $6 billion in state general revenues.

As legislators returned from a three-week recess, House Speaker Ray Merrick said he hoped progress on resolving the budget with the Senate would be swift.

“I don’t see any hang ups,” said Merrick, a Stilwell Republican.

The House panel met to review revenue forecasts and to discuss budget issues for the remainder of the current fiscal year and the year that starts July 1. Legislative staff briefed the committee on revenue projections that were revised upward by $177 million earlier in April. New monthly revenue totals were scheduled to be released later Wednesday from the Kansas Department of Revenue.

“While things are continuing to move forward, certainly it’s not a huge increase,” said J.G. Scott, a legislative budget analyst.

Brownback has asked legislators to increase spending by $5 million in state revenues for health care services for more than 200 people currently on state waiting lists. Those individuals receive assistance through the state’s KanCare Medicaid system managed by three private insurance companies.

The Republican governor has already signed a $129 million education bill to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court decision on state aid to school districts. A lower court is scheduled to review the bill July 11 to determine if it complies with the high court’s ruling.

The increases would reduce the waiting lists for those developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities.

The administration has projected a $30 million savings in KanCare expenditures as the state tries to curb the growth in health care costs.

Rep. Jerry Henry, a Cummins Democrat, said legislators should take a closer look at the savings and see if more of the money could be reinvested to further assist the more than 2,000 people waiting for services.

The House committee excluded Brownback’s request to give state civil service employees a 1.5 percent pay increase. The matter could still be included during House debate or negotiations with the Senate.

 

 

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