The Garden City Telegram
5/8/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

College plan

Governor's higher ed tour spotlights budget crunch.

As Gov. Sam Brownback traveled Kansas professing his desire to avoid cuts to higher education, he was preaching to the choir.

Folks on the front line of higher education already know how detrimental funding cuts would be in possibly triggering job losses and hikes in tuition at a time it's already difficult for many students to make ends meet.

During his tour, Brownback told educators he wants to keep funding for the state's universities, community colleges and technical schools stable in the 2014 budget.

Legislators, however, have been headed in another direction, with the House seeking a 4-percent cut and the Senate a 2-percent cut to higher education.

Brownback said lawmakers should protect the funding because he wants colleges and universities to do more, and said they will need adequate resources to do so.

For example, he wants the schools to produce more engineers.

While that sounds terrific — education, after all, is a cornerstone of economic development — it's odd to hear the governor claim he's an advocate of as much considering his recent tax-cut initiatives meant far less revenue for the state, and essentially guaranteed that education at every level would be the loser.

Unless, of course, you see how the governor's higher education tour actually was more of a way to generate support for another of his goals: cancelling a planned July decrease in the statewide sales tax from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent.

The extra income is needed as a way to help stabilize the budget. Brownback knows it.

Lawmakers, many of whom were so eager to slash the personal income tax as desired by the governor, should have known they'd face a severe budget crunch because of the sharp drop in revenue to the state.

Keep in mind Brownback's tax-cut plan is to eventually erase the personal income tax revenue stream in its entirety. It's difficult to grasp how higher education wouldn't be vulnerable now or later.

And if the governor truly believes colleges and universities should be exempt from funding cuts, he should be prepared to veto anything otherwise that crosses his desk.

We'll see.