Stimulus money can keep school funding level

As a parting gift before she takes off for Washington, D.C., Gov. Kathleen Sebelius sent state lawmakers a revised budget that makes good use of the $1.7 billion the state expects to receive from the federal stimulus package.
She would use $909 million of the windfall to hold funding of the public schools level this year, plus fiscal 2010 and 2011.
She also would freeze the estate tax and the business franchise tax at current levels rather than allow them to expire in 2011, as Republicans have proposed.
House and Senate Republicans had planned to cut spending in fiscal 2010 by $625 million, or about 10 percent. Those draconian reductions will not be necessary if the stimulus money is used as Gov. Sebelius proposes.
More important, spending the money for essential state services will inject it into the economy as it is received and make it unnecessary to shrink state spending. It will, in other words, do exactly what a fiscal stimulation program is designed to accomplish.
If, on the other hand, the money is squirreled away, or — worse yet — turned down, the state’s schools and other agencies would be forced to spend less.
Kansas would make the recession worse by following that path.
As previously announced, Kansas will get an additional $404 million in Medicaid funds and $81 million in budget “stabilization” funds which will free up general fund money that can be used to make other reductions unnecessary.
While the governor did not propose diverting stimulus money into higher education budgets, she did suggest spending about $90 million of the stimulus money on one-time maintenance projects on state university campuses, which would reduce pressure on those budgets. Such spending would, of course, create or preserve jobs and bolster the economies of the six communities involved.

THE LEGISLATURE should be guided by three principles as it considers Gov. Sebelius’ revised budget: (1) In order for the stimulus plan to give the U.S. economy a desperately needed boost, the money sent to the states must be spent when received; (2) The states have the responsibility to spend it wisely; (3) keeping state aid to public schools level would be the wisest way to use the money.
Gov. Sebelius has followed these imperatives precisely.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.