A few state lawmakers aren’t waiting until January to begin dealing with the largest looming issue of the next legislative session: the state budget.

Members of the House Interim Committee on Budget Transparency will meet the next six weeks, hearing from state department heads about programs and services offered, trying to get a grasp on where cuts might be made. First up: Medicaid.

House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, also chairs the House Interim Committee on Budget Transparency. Silvey says the fact that the committee first heard about Medicaid doesn’t mean it’s the logical target for cuts.

“Well, I think everything is a logical target this year. I don’t anything is off the table. I don’t think there are any sacred cows in the budget right now,” Silvey says. “It all needs to be looked at and the conversations that we had today focused mostly on the efficiencies within, not on reduction of services.”

Yet, Medicaid is the largest state program at nearly $8 billion. It’s where the House went in 2005 in search of budget cuts.

Silvey doesn’t want to get ahead. He wants to look at cutting the budget through improving efficiency.

“My perspective is, I want to make up as much as we possibly can, because before we start making decisions that decrease services to the citizens of our state or put fewer dollars in classrooms that we better make sure we are doing everything we can to run as efficiently as possible and not waste money on government,” according to Silvey.

Budget numbers can get a bit confusing and mind-numbing. The state continues to be in a pinch, because it is losing the vast majority of the federal budget stabilization money included in the federal economic stimulus bill. The drop in federal funding combined with lackluster state tax revenue due to the stagnant economy likely leads to a $700 million shortfall that will have to be made up in the $6.7 billion General Revenue budget.

The second largest expenditure in the state budget behind Medicaid is Kindergarten through high school funding at $5.3 billion. Medicaid and education receive much of their funding from the General Revenue budget, but not all. The overall state budget, with money from federal programs and specific taxes thrown in, totals $23 billion.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:25 MP3]