Lawmakers finalize state budget as they prepare to wrap-up session

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA (KSNT) —- The Senate voted to pass a state budget plan on Friday. The proposal now heads to the governor’s desk.

“Those were all important things that I think made the budget on a whole a very good thing, and I’m hopeful that the governor will sign it,” said Senator Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan

The Senate voted to pass the budget in a 26-12 vote. This comes after the House approved the proposal in a 98-21 vote.

A late night is expected at the statehouse, as lawmakers wrap-up session, working to reach agreements in conference committees.

Lawmakers voted to fully fund K-12 schools in a separate proposal Friday afternoon. However, the current agreement reached for higher education funding Friday evening falls short of federal guidance.

The state is required to increase spending for higher education by about $100 million to meet federal standards or it could risk losing aid.

The bill agrees to $53 million for higher education and lawmakers are hoping to receive a waiver that would exempt them from these orders as they work toward increasing spending in the future.

“The hope is it will show the state is working on it,” said Mark Tallman a lobbyist with the state’s school board association, who’s been following the debate regarding K-12 funding.

The proposal also includes more funding for judicial branch employee salaries, anticipating a higher backlog of cases due to the coronavirus pandemic. Clerks, judges and staff are expected to receive $13 million in raises. $4.3 million will be used to hire additional court service officers.

It would also include a ban on vaccine passports. Governor Laura Kelly noted last month that she has no interest in using the technology.

“There’s a strong hue and cry out there among the rank and file that our freedoms have been infringed and that there’s only so far that we need to go and this kind of puts brakes on some of that,” said Senator Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed.

A big decision lies ahead in the House as lawmakers are expected to pass a bill, which would solidify the state’s education spending for K-12.

Watch the debate, below:

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