With the state of Kansas facing a budget shortfall of $550 million for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback released a recommended budget on Thursday that would close eight state agencies, eliminate more than 2,000 state jobs, cut per-pupil classroom spending in K-12 education and eliminate state support for public broadcasting.
The new governor's recommendation does not include reductions in the budgets of the Kansas Board of Regents or Fort Hays State University.
"The governor's recommendation is the first step, and maybe the most important step, in the budget process that now goes to the Legislature," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said today. "While his budget recommendation does not address the Board of Regents' request for new funding, it is the first time in three years that a governor has not recommended a reduction in the budgets of the state universities, including Fort Hays State."
Under one provision of the budget recommendation, President Hammond said FHSU would be able to compete for partial funding of its proposed new engineering degree.
He said the Regents' request for new money in fiscal year 2012 was driven by the tremendous reductions in state funding for universities since the economic collapse in fall 2008. "We have been reduced to 2006 funding levels, and under his recommendation, we would still be operating at the 2006 level of state funding," President Hammond said. "This presents considerable difficulty for two reasons. First, we are serving 12,000 students this fiscal year, an increase of about 3,000 students from 2006. Second, we have had an increase of more than 30 percent in health insurance costs since 2006."
President Hammond said that, taken in perspective, he appreciated Gov. Brownback's budget recommendation for higher education.
"I said at the beginning this would be a three-year problem," the president said. "For the first time in three years, a governor is not recommending a reduction in our budget, so I'm thankful for that, especially given the 6-percent reduction he is recommending in the overall state budget.
Gary Sherrer of Overland Park, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, also issued a statement in response to the governor's budget recommendation: "After recent and severe budget cuts, and a continued trend of state disinvestment in higher education, we're very pleased the governor is advocating for no reductions to the system's base budget. Because the details of implementation are vitally important, we're currently analyzing the details of the governor's recommendations, which the board will discuss during its meeting next week. After a careful and thorough review, we'll look forward to engaging in dialogue with the Legislature regarding the governor's recommendations as well as their own. We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature in the coming months to strengthen the system, which will boost the state's economy in the process."