Hundreds rally at Kan. Statehouse to support programs for disabled as budget work resumes

By John Hanna, AP
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hundreds rally at Kan. Statehouse for disabled

TOPEKA, Kan. — Hundreds of disabled Kansas residents and their advocates rallied for social services Wednesday as legislators reconvened to debate the tax increases necessary to prevent additional budget cuts.

About 600 people gathered outside the Statehouse for the end of the monthlong “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” relay, in which people traveled thousands of miles across the state to publicize the needs of the disabled. Some tied blue ribbons to a chain-link fence that marks a construction zone for the building’s renovation.

Legislators returned to the Statehouse on Wednesday to wrap up their business for the year. Their most pressing task is closing a projected $510 million gap between anticipated revenues and spending commitments for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson and some members of the Republican-controlled Legislature want to increase taxes. But many GOP lawmakers believe doing so will hurt the state’s economy, and the state chapter of the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity was planning its own rally.

Harold Bettis of Hays said increasing taxes is better than additional cuts in services for the disabled. Bettis is a staff member at Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, and he said some of the nine clients who traveled with him to Topeka have lost state support this year.

“There’s a possibility that some people could end up on the street,” Bettis said during the InterHab event. InterHab is a network of groups that serve developmentally disabled Kansas residents.

Last week, Parkinson told Kansas City-area television station KMBC that he’ll veto any budget that closes the shortfall with budget cuts.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee met Wednesday to revise parts of its proposed, $13 billion-plus budget for the next fiscal year. Its plan would require up to $501 million in tax increases.

The House Appropriations Committee finished work on a proposed budget last week that would require no tax increase but cut education funding. The bill would leave the state with a small $10 million surplus on June 30, 2011, but relies on additional federal dollars to balance.

Associated Press Writer John Milburn contributed to this report.

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