Hornet Statehouse Buzz April 28, 2022
Omnibus Addition—April 21-28, 2022
“Everyday, I get in the queue/Too much, the omnibus!”
“I get on the bus/ for ESU/ Too much, the omnibus”
(With apologies to the Who)
What a fantastic week for ESU and for higher education in Kansas. After the main session ended on April 1, there were some unresolved issues left for higher education going into the omnibus budget session, which began Wednesday, April 20 (with the new consensus revenue estimate being presented) and lasted until the two committees conferenced on the omnibus budget a week later Wednesday, April 27. The omnibus budget passed both houses late in the evening on Thursday, April 28 and is expected to be signed by Governor Kelly.
The two budget committees met on Thursday, April 21 with the Senate maintaining their commitment to the $25 million (out of $45.7 million proposed by Governor Kelly) in the operating grant for higher ed. The House read through their conference memo, but postponed action until Tuesday, April 26th. On that day, I approached Senate President Ty Masterson about getting some additional federal money which had been given to every state university in the system but ESU, Pitt State and Fort Hays appropriated for the last sessions on Tuesday, April 26 and he agreed. Over the weekend others worked to do similar things with several people pushing to get us in the budget as well. The result? The Senate proposed $6 million for ESU to use for relocating the nursing program to campus and rehabilitating Central Morse Hall. But they held firm to the $25 million with no ability to raise tuition.
The House next met on Tuesday and said nothing about the federal money. Rep. Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) motioned to put the full amount ($45 million) back into the budget but was voted down by a 12-10 vote. But after Rep. Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita) proposed $25 million for the state fairgrounds, Ballard reiterated that she would continue to seek money for higher ed and that she supported the fairgrounds bill, but something had to be done to help universities. After a short break, Ballard made a motion to add $15 million which passed with Republican support by a 12-10 vote!
The next day was the penultimate meeting of the conference committees. The Senate held firm to its operating grant position, initially (and late in the day), agreeing to $7.5 million before a consensus emerged to make it $12.5 (or a total of $37.5 million permanent funding out of $45 requested). Not too shabby! The House then proposed changes to the federal funding for the regional’s projects, reducing it from $6 million to $5 million without a matching grant. Fantastic news! Later the next day, this was the omnibus budget which passed the chambers.
What a whirlwind session! And what an ending. My next report in several weeks will recap the session with results for higher education. Clearly, with budgets up and stimulus money from the federal government still available, there was more money floating around than usual in Topeka. But higher education hasn’t had a year like this in recent memory, or maybe ever.
As usual, if I may be of assistance, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s the omnibus buzz this week!