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Legislative panel's shifting of funds within higher ed hits Kansas State, main Kansas campus


TOPEKA, Kansas — A proposed budget for Kansas' higher education system approved by a state Senate committee Thursday would shift money away from Kansas State University and the main University of Kansas campus to other schools.

Republicans on the GOP-dominated Ways and Means Committee who supported the moves said they're trying to put limited state dollars where they'd be spent most effectively. Legislators must close a projected shortfall of nearly $600 million in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

"If they're going to expect the money, then we're going to expect that it's put to good use," said Sen. Jeff Melcher, a Leawood Republican.

The committee approved a higher education budget of $2.7 billion for both the fiscal year that begins July 1 and the following fiscal year, keeping total spending flat compared with the current budget. The proposal could be part of a single bill containing a spending blueprint for each fiscal year for all of state government.

But the committee can still reconsider its recommendations, as lawmakers learn whether tax collections meet or exceed expectations or whether their colleagues are willing to raise new revenues. The final state budget will also involve negotiations with the House.

"Budget cuts translate into fewer scholarships, higher tuition for our families and reduced research," Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz said in a statement.

The committee adopted a subcommittee's proposal to trim $4.6 million from operating funds for the main University of Kansas campus in Lawrence each year, for a total of $9.2 million.

The money would be shifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center, to help finance an expansion of its Wichita campus and provide scholarships to medical students.

Sen. Marci Francisco, a Lawrence Democrat, questioned whether it examined the expansion project thoroughly enough. She also said if the project is worthwhile, the panel should find funds throughout the higher education budget — or the rest of the state budget.

As for Kansas State University, the budget proposals would trim $3.2 million in spending a year from its operations and agricultural extension programs, when other universities would pick up funds. For example, the committee boosted spending on Pittsburg State University's transportation school by $1 million a year.


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