Through five rounds of budget cuts, the Kansas State Legislature continues to fight an uphill battle trying to balance the state budget without damaging education or eliminating beneficial state-funded programs.

“Total cuts come to about $1 billion,” House Minority Leader Paul Davis said. “That’s a pretty substantial amount of money when the whole state general fund budget is a little over $6 billion.”

Davis said there shouldn’t be more cuts for the rest of the fiscal year, ending on July 1, but more cuts are on the horizon.

“When looking at the 2011 budget, which starts on July 1, 2010, we’re probably facing about a $300 million shortfall to balance that budget,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see how legislators react to what is a growing public sentiment that, maybe we’ve cut a lot of these programs and agencies to the point where we can’t cut them anymore.”

Davis said one of his main concerns is with cuts to social services and the Medicaid program, which experienced a 10 percent cut across the board in two allotments.

The cuts to Medicaid have gotten the attention of a lot of community leaders, who are seeing cuts to nursing homes and mental-health facilities. Davis said the health policy authority also has a backlog of about 11,000 Medicaid applications.

“One of the poignant moments in the last session was when the director of the health policy authority came over to the legislative leadership and said, ‘We are getting about 1,000 more Medicaid applications per month,’” Davis said. “This is one of those situations, where you’re in a recession and revenues decline, yet the workload of a lot of agencies grows.”

Looking ahead to the projected fiscal year budgets for 2011 and 2012, the projected two-year reduction for social services is 13 percent, or $180.1 million.

“I just don’t believe that social services can absorb any more cuts than we have,” Davis said. “We have now seen the waiting lists of the people with developmental disabilities and physical disabilities grow into the thousands. Those are just heartbreaking stories, when you hear about people who have severe disabilities and just can’t get any help.”

Davis also expressed concerns with cuts to the department of corrections, which he said is “one of the greatest success stories in state government.”

A lot of the treatment and re-entry programs Davis said were successful are gone.

Davis said he’s hopeful funding can be restored to eliminate court furloughs. He said one of the ways to make up some of the deficit in the courts is to increase docket fees.

“I think that there’s an agreement between the legislative leadership and the governor that that is something we need to do,” Davis said. “We can’t allow for courthouses to close for 12 days and the business of the court systems be completely halted.”

One of the areas least capable of “halting business,” is education. Davis said he understands the position of administrators, teachers and parents who are frustrated with cuts to education, but would like the state school district to hold off on a potential lawsuit.

“I understand where all these school districts are coming from. I appreciate the fact that they’re banding together to encourage the legislature to uphold its commitment to school funding,” Davis said. “ I would like to see the schools for fair funding hold off on going back to court for a little while longer. I know that they’ve said they intend to go back to the Supreme Court. I would like see them give us an opportunity to get through this next budget year and then attempt to put some money back into schools.”

Davis said he believes we will start to see economic recovery in the next year and the legislature will be able to reverse the cuts to schools.

The projected two-year reduction total for all education in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years is 10.1 percent, or $421.6 million. The projected reduction for the department of education is 11.6 percent, or $355.1 million.

Davis said legislators will be gun shy on raising taxes in tough economic times to make up for the cuts. He recommended cutting out a heavy load of tax exemptions.

Whatever happens, Davis said there needs to be a change somewhere to keep state agencies and programs from being decimated.

“My feeling is that people are going to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” he said.