As I wrote to you last month, we have been closely monitoring the budget deliberations in Topeka. One of the key dates in those deliberations has now passed and legislators are set to return to Topeka this Wednesday, so I wanted to update you on the current status of the state budget.
Legislators, for the first time in recent memory, did not pass an initial budget bill prior to going on recess at the end of March. This was largely because policymakers were waiting for updated revenue projections.
On April 16, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, which includes KU Department of Economics Chair Joseph Sicilian, met and issued its projections for the rest of the current fiscal year and FY 2011.
Because of the continued recession, the group projected a $70 million state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and a shortfall in excess of $450 million for the coming year. This poses an incredibly difficult challenge for legislators who have cut $1 billion out of a $6 billion State General Fund.
There are currently two approaches to closing this shortfall. The approach being taken by the House Appropriations Committee majority is to continue to rely entirely on budget cuts and shifts.
The alternative approach recognizes the damage that has already been caused by cuts, and as a result includes plans for a revenue increase to close the shortfall. This is the approach favored by Governor Parkinson and the Senate Ways and Means Committee, and KU fully supports this approach.
Throughout this session, KU has joined with its fellow universities to communicate the seriousness of the cuts taken thus far and the importance of avoiding further cuts to higher education if Kansas is to be ready for the recovery. For example, I have joined President Schulz from K-State and President Scott from Pittsburg State at events to tell local leaders and media about the opportunities that are being lost for our students, faculty, staff and communities as a result of budget cuts.
We have also been fortunate to have the assistance of many friends and allies, including the more than 1,200 members of Jayhawks for Higher Education. And I know many members of the KU community have also contacted legislators. I would remind you that any such contacts need to be done on your own time and should not use state resources, including KU e-mail accounts.
During challenging times like these, it is important that we engage in civil discussions about the future of our state. I believe KU and its fellow universities are critical to ensuring that future is bright, not only for our students and their families, but also for the residents and businesses that rely on us for educated workers, new discoveries and the countless other benefits higher education brings.
KU has benefited greatly from the respect that its students, faculty and staff have earned around the state as a result of their excellence in teaching, research and service. So in addition to staying informed about the issues, I would ask that you continue to maintain that standard of excellence, as it is our greatest asset when we advocate for KU.