HAYS, KS -- With Gov. Bill Graves' State of the State Address Monday night, the Kansas Legislature now has three budget proposals in front of it, and the governor's recommendations go the farthest toward maintaining the state's high economic and educational standing, said Fort Hays State University President Edward H. Hammond Tuesday.
"I think the governor was showing real leadership, conservative leadership," said Hammond. "The governor ran on a slogan of stack 'em high and tight -- from the trucking industry -- meaning that when you put a load on a truck, stack it all the way to the ceiling and stack it tight, which was his way of saying 'I'm going to be a conservative leader but we're going to do what's necessary. We're just going to be efficient.'
"I think what he told the Legislature Monday was, 'If the load can't fit on the truck after you stack it high and tight, you need to get another truck,' the truck of course being more revenue."
Graves, in his speech Monday, noted that the formal, published budget he has submitted meets the requirements of state law but that he cannot and will not support it because it leaves the state with a shortfall of $478 million. He used his address to propose his own recommendations to increase revenue and restore spending.
These recommendations include restoring $27 million that would be cut from the Board of Regents under the formal FY 2003 budget document. This would result in about $2 million in cuts for Fort Hays State. Graves' proposals Monday would reduce the FHSU shortfall to about $900,000, said Hammond.
"This budget is still going to reduce services. The new truck is a pickup, not a semi," said Hammond. "It just makes things more manageable. I think the governor is really trying to provide leadership and I'm very pleased to see that. "
A third budget proposal, advanced by two State Senate Republican leaders, would still result in about a $1.2 million dollar shortfall for FHSU in FY 2003, which begins July 1, and would also require about $400,000 in cuts in the remainder of FY 2002, which ends June 30.
That plan, put forward by Sen. Dave Kerr, Hutchinson, and Sen. Steve Morris, Hugoton, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, proposes steep cuts and would get some additional revenue by reducing the ending balance, required by law, from 7.5 percent to 5 percent.
"I thought that they were trying to be creative in response to the problem," said Hammond. "I like the idea of changing the ending balance law. We had a 5-percent ending balance law for a long time and it worked in our state. We raised it a few years ago to 7.5 percent. We can go back to 5 percent, I think, and be all right."
However, he said, "I don't think they went far enough. All they've done is take a $2 million problem for Fort Hays State University and basically moved it to a 1.2 million problem."
Part of the cuts in all three plans would be offset by an estimated $700,000 in tuition revenue, which includes a proposed tuition increase of 7.99 percent at FHSU. That would reduce the total impact from each of the plans.
With the tuition revenue, FHSU would still have to cut its FY 2003 budget -- by about $1.2 million under the state budget, by about $500,000 (in addition to a $383,415 cut in the remainder of FY 2002) under the Kerr/Morris proposal and by about $300,000 under Gov. Graves' recommendations.
Hammond also noted that Fort Hays State University had to cut $473,000 from its budget at the beginning of FY 2002, which began July 1, 2001.
"I really thought that the governor did a good job," said Hammond.
"I think he believes that there's a direct correlation between the fact that Kansas is sixth in the nation in job growth and that we're about sixth in the nation in educational access. So a lot of what he talked about last night was protecting educational quality and access because he believes our economic success is directly tied to our educational success and it's time to move forward."
mphasized that all three plans are, at this stage, only proposals. The Kansas Legislature will ultimately decide the final mix of spending, revenue and cuts.
"Hopefully, there will be consensus that we need to do something more to protect Kansas' current position in terms of its economy and quality of life," said Hammond. "We need to do more than what the state budget is. The state budget, mandating a $2 million cut in a $40 million budget at Fort Hays State University, is not in the state's best interest. I think the governor said that loud and clear."