It didn't get the state of Kansas far in trimming the 2016 budget but higher education, the Board of Regents believes, did its part.
Gov. Sam Brownback held a news conference Tuesday to announce he has signed legislation that will raise the state's sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent. But that still leaves the state short of a balanced budget and many thought Brownback would outline cuts today.
But all he cut was $1.9 million from a Regents program called GED Accelerator. This is money that helps the state's 26 two-year institutions pay for programs that result in students receiving both a GED and an industry-recognized credential. So, a high school drop out could simultaneously finish their secondary education and, for example, earn a welding or mechanics certificate. The money goes to the institutions and not the students.
Board of Regents spokesperson Breeze Richardson says since the program's inception last summer the state's two-year schools have only drawn down $106,000 of the $1.9 million transferred into a special GED Accelerator fund. That leaves, she says, $1.8 million for the coming year. "When asked to provide items for potential veto by the governor, we suggested that the FY 2016 transfer could be vetoed only because we knew there would be no impact to institutions or students," Richardson says.
But, she says, Regents staff were a bit perplexed when they saw that Brownback only vetoed the $1.9 million offered by the board.
"We don't know why the governor chose to veto just this at this time," Richardson says. "We thought there would be cuts across all agencies so we offered this up as a good-faith effort."
At his news conference Brownback said they haven't made too serious an effort yet to identify cuts beyond the Board of Regents.
Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said additional cuts cannot come from K-12, the state pension system or debt service payments.
The Board of Regents meets Wednesday and Thursday in Topeka, a meeting delayed by the Legislature's tardiness in passing a tax bill.
Among the items on the agenda: tuition increases at the five Regents universities. Tuition hikes were capped at 3.6 percent by lawmakers this session, but how that increase will be spread out among in-state and out-of-state students hasn't been made public.