- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Latest on the debate over balancing the state budget (all times local):

9:15 p.m.

The Kansas Senate has approved a bill for balancing balance the next state budget.

The vote Thursday night was 24-15. The measure eliminates a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state’s $16.1 billion spending blueprint for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The action came hours after the House approved its own budget-balancing plan, 68-56. Legislative leaders expect to appoint negotiators from each chamber to draft the final version.

The bill from each Republican-dominated chamber contains most of GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposals for juggling funds and capturing unanticipated savings. Both also accept Brownback’s proposal to raise $25 million from selling off the assets of state economic development agency.

Democrats in both chambers said the measures represented poor fiscal management.

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7:50 p.m.

A proposal to make it harder for the state to sell or turn over the operation of its two mental hospitals to private companies has been approved by the Kansas Senate.

On a voice vote Thursday evening, senators added the measure as an amendment to budget legislation. It says the state can’t spend any money on privatizing the hospitals in Larned and Osawatomie unless the Legislature approves the idea first.

A critical survey in November prompted the federal government to decertify the Osawatomie hospital about 45 miles southwest of the Kansas City area. The state is losing between $500,000 and $1 million a month in federal funds.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has said privatizing the hospital is an option, but area legislators oppose the idea.

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7 p.m.

The Kansas Senate has approved a proposal to prevent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback from balancing the budget through June 2017 by reducing or delaying payments to the state’s public pension system.

Senators approved the measure on a voice vote Thursday evening as an amendment to a bill eliminating a projected budget deficit of nearly $200 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Senate hoped to vote on the full bill Thursday night.

The bill plan initially would have allowed the governor to delay up to $100 million worth of contributions to the public pension system to bolster the budget. The state would have had up to two years to make up for the delayed contributions but would have paid 8 percent interest.

But that idea drew bipartisan criticism.

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6:30 p.m.

The Kansas Senate has rejected an attempt by its top Democrat to delay a debate on a bill that balances the next state budget.

Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said the debate Thursday should be postponed in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling invalidating a state law that distributes aid to public school districts.

But the GOP-dominated Senate voted 30-8 against sending the budget-balancing bill back to its Ways and Means Committee. The debate went forward Thursday evening.

Lawmakers must eliminate a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state’s $16.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The House approved its own budget-balancing plan Thursday on a 68-56 vote after Democrats unsuccessfully sought to postpone action because of the Supreme Court ruling.

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12:15 p.m.

The Kansas House has approved a bill that would erase a shortfall in the next state budget, and the Senate is preparing to debate its own budget-balancing plan.

The House vote on its bill Thursday was 68-56. It came after Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita sought unsuccessfully to delay action because of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on education funding.

Lawmakers must eliminate a projected deficit of nearly $200 million in the state’s $16.1 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The Senate was debating its plan later Thursday.

The Senate’s plan would give the governor greater authority than the House bill to delay the state’s contributions to its public pension system.

After both chambers pass their bills, they’ll appoint negotiators to draft a final plan.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the chamber corrected its vote count on its budget bill, making it 24-15 instead of 23-16.

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