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Kansas Lawmakers Consider Plan to Liquidate State Investments to Fix Budget Woes

The Kansas Statehouse. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Lawmakers in a Kansas House committee are considering Governor Sam Brownback’s plan to liquidate state investments to help fill a budget hole. The proposal would basically drain the investment fund of more than $300 million and pay that back over seven years, with interest.

Governor Brownback's budget director, Shawn Sullivan, told the House Appropriations Committee that the choices may be the governor's plan or budget cuts. That's because the state is already half way through the fiscal year and lawmakers faces a budget deficit approaching $350 million.

"Reasons to do it would be: this is a bad alternative, but it's better than worse alternatives," says  Sullivan. "You'd have to do $300 to $400 million in cuts to get above zero in this fiscal year."

Republican Troy Waymaster is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He's one of the Lawmakers who may not very enthusiastic about the idea but see it as the least bad option. 

“Because there’s nothing that we can put in place as far as a revenue stream for the remaining months of 2017, so we’re going to have to do something. Even though this appears to be a one-time fix, it does appear to be the best option,” says Waymaster.

It wasn't just Republicans on the committee admitting that they don't have good choices for the current fiscal year.

“This may be the best of a very bad set of alternatives. We have bad and we have worse,” says Democratic Representative Kathy Wolfe Moore.

Some lawmakers are expressing frustration with the state’s finances and the plan. Democratic Representative Henry Helgerson blames tax cuts and says this move amounts to a loan as a short-term budget fix.
 
“We are now borrowing money to pay for operating costs. That’s a real dangerous precedent. And that’s because we don’t have enough revenue to support the programs that we have,” says Helgerson
 
The House committee is slated to take up the plan next week.

Stephen Koranda has more:


 

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