Hammond says statesmanship needed to solve state budget crisis

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, warned this morning that the budget crisis facing the state of Kansas will be devastating for the future of the people of Kansas unless the Legislature acts to avert the crisis.

"The budget passed by the Legislature was not a good budget, but in these tough times we could make it work," President Hammond said.

The Kansas Legislature passed a $4.4 billion budget but has been unable to come up with a funding strategy for that budget. To make it work, the Legislature needs to find an additional $300 million in revenue.

Because of the shortfall, Kansas Gov. Bill Graves has given notice that higher education will need to cut $56 million. Of that amount, the Regents universities will lose $45 million, the community colleges will lose $6.7 million, the technical colleges will lose $1.6 million, Washburn University will lose $800,000 and the Kansas Board of Regents office will lose $1.5 million.

In addition, Hammond said the state universities are still liable for another $11 million in unfunded mandates and $3 million to $4 million in global cuts.

"At Fort Hays State, that translates to a loss of $3.5 million from our budget for the coming fiscal year," he said. "To solve the problem, we have two choices. We must raise tuition by 36 percent, which is 30 percent more than we are proposing, or we must eliminate about 70 positions if we cut equally between classified and unclassified staff -- or we could do a combination of those two alternatives."

Hammond said it was time for the Legislature to act.

"This crisis has now reached monumental proportions," he said. "It is my hope that politicians in Topeka will put aside their political agendas and become statesmen."

Hammond warned that cuts of this magnitude would put the state of Kansas well back into the last century and place a particular hardship on the western half of the state.

"With these cuts to higher education, together with the K-12 cuts, Kansas citizens would not be able to pursue the quality of life that they want for their children and their grandchildren," he warned. "We would turn the state of Kansas from an educational leader to an intellectual wasteland."

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