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Governor Brownback Unveils Details of His Kansas Tax and Budget Plans

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan outlines the governor's budget plan in a committee meeting. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Governor Sam Brownback’s administration is proposing hiking tobacco and alcohol taxes and shifting money from other parts of the budget to balance the state’s finances. The proposal would take money from the state highway fund and delay the payoff date for a deficit in the state pension plan.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says they’ve submitted a reasonable proposal.

“There are several difficult pieces of this budget, from KPERS, highways, taxes, efficiencies, etc. The problem is if you take those things away, you’re left with huge spending cuts or huge tax increases,” says Sullivan.

The proposal suggests liquidating a state investment pool to help close a budget gap in the current fiscal year. That money would be paid back over the next seven years.

Republican Representative Steven Johnson, who chairs the House tax committee, says that could be a way to find some money in the short term without hurting other services. However, Johnson doesn't want a plan that kicks the can down the road with a short-term fix.

“I am willing to consider that. I am not willing to consider it without a structural balance. If we’re not getting to something where in a year we can pay the bills, then kicking one more time would be a mistake,” says Johnson.

Democratic Representative Kathy Wolfe Moore says the proposal overhauls children’s programs and takes money from the highway fund to save tax cuts passed in recent years. She wants to rethink the state’s tax policy to help balance the budget.

“The damage that would be done with that budget is incredible, so I think he just actually helped us. He made the case for overhauling the tax plan,” says Wolfe Moore.

The proposal suggests liquidating a state investment pool to help close a budget gap in the current fiscal year. That money would be paid back over the next seven years.

Kansas lawmakers need to eliminate a shortfall of nearly $350 million in the current year. That’s nearly 6 percent of the state general fund portion of the budget. The shortfall for next fiscal year is more than $550 million.

 

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