(KCPW News) Lawmakers passed a smaller state budget Friday afternoon, exhausted but smiling after the two-day special session to fix the budget shortfall. Senate President John Valentine says he's pleased the search to cut $350 million dollars left the state's rainy day fund and a $100 million education reserve untouched without going into debt with new bonds.
"This really does go back to why we're the best-managed state in the nation. It's because we take it seriously. We try to remember the human element. And we try to do responsible things for the future," Valentine says.
The budget effectively gives most state agencies a three percent cut now and a four percent cut next year. But the Legislature kept the governor's promise to hold public education harmless, despite grumbling from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who wanted to reclaim unallocated funds and eliminate obsolete programs. But that process would have opened a Pandora's box in such a brief special session, says Executive Appropriations Co-Chairman, Senator Lyle Hillyard.
"We cannot have a special session unless the governor calls one. And he came out early on and said, ‘I do not want any impact on public ed.' Now I sense that had we not had that parameter as a condition in calling it, you probably would have opened up, and not just new programs, but old programs," Hillyard says. "And so, you wouldn't have gotten the session done in two days."
If the economy continues to slump, the education budget will likely get a thorough reworking next session as lawmakers consider how to shrink the budget by 3 percent. But if it gets better, Senate leadership feels confident some programs cut on Friday might be restored.