The budget picture for the state of Kansas includes a lot of red ink. The state’s revenue estimating group has updated its projections, which are used by lawmakers as they write the Kansas budget. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the new numbers show Kansas needs to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in the current and coming fiscal years.
The revenue estimating group has lowered its projection for Kansas tax collections. The estimate now shows the state needs to cut $279 million to balance the books for the current fiscal year, which is nearly half over.
And another $435 million will need to be chopped in the next fiscal year, starting in July of 2015.
Tax cuts are the main cause of the budget shortfall. They were pushed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback and passed by state lawmakers. Shawn Sullivan is the governor’s budget director.
“I think that Kansans expect us to live within our means and to curtail the growth of spending, just like they have to everyday when they have less revenue coming in, so that's what we're going to work on,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan wouldn't say when asked if the budget could be balanced without cutting school funding.
Governor Brownback has said a dip in state revenues would follow the tax cuts, but the state would then grow economically and revenues would rebound. Sullivan says that still will happen down the road.
“I would say the economy's growing, when you look at wages, when you look at jobs from new and expanding businesses, when you look at small business income,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan says the previous estimate of tax collections issued earlier this year didn't hit the mark. He says he hasn’t talked to the governor about raising taxes and he doesn’t plan on putting tax increases in their budget proposal.
“During the course of that process we’ll do what we need to do to come up with a proposal that aligns the structural deficit, curtails state spending, protects core services, those things,” says Sullivan.
“This is the budget crisis that was self-imposed by the Kansas Legislature and Governor Brownback,” says Anthony Hensley, the top Democrat in the Kansas Senate. He paints a dire picture of the state’s finances.
“They’re going to have to cut school funding, they’re going to have to raid the highway fund, very likely we’ll have to cut social services. There are some very difficult choices ahead for the Legislature and for this administration,” says Hensley.
Hensley even went as far as saying Governor Brownback, who just won re-election, was lying about the impact of the tax cuts on the campaign trail.
“He’s known all along that his policies are going to bankrupt the state, and he just wasn’t truthful with the people,” says Hensley.
The governor’s spokesperson, Eileen Hawley, says Hensley’s claim is over the line.
“I think it’s absurd to think that the governor would outright lie to the citizens of Kansas, he has not done that. We’ve continued to work diligently on growing the Kansas economy. There are signs that the Kansas economy is growing. I think that’s a very political statement being made,” says Hawley.
Governor Brownback has the power to single-handedly make budget cuts, known as allotments. Right now, it’s not clear if he’ll do that before lawmakers return to Topeka in January.
A new revenue forecast shows Kansas needs to cut $279 million to balance the current fiscal year’s budget. A $436 million deficit looms in the coming fiscal year. Governor Sam Brownback has said tax cuts he pushed would cause lower state tax collections in the short term, but the revenues would rebound as the state’s economy grew. The governor’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says that will happen in the future.
“Yes, growth will close the shortfall down the road. Now, for this year, for ‘16 in particular, so over the next 18 months, we’re going to need to find efficiencies, develop policy proposals to help us plug the budget shortfall,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan wouldn’t say if education cuts would be in the mix. But Democratic state Senator Anthony hensley, from Topeka, says education and other parts of government could feel the budget carving knife.
“They’ll have to cut schools, they’ll have raid the transportation plan. You can’t find enough efficiencies or enough growth to make up these devastating numbers,” says Hensley.
Governor Brownback has the power to single-handedly make budget cuts, known as allotments. It’s not yet clear if he’ll do that before lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January.