Kansas officials have lowered the forecast for future tax collections by hundreds of millions of dollars, creating a bleak budget picture. The state now faces a $350 million deficit in the current fiscal year and a nearly $600 million budget gap in the next fiscal year.
Sometimes when the revenue estimate is lowered, Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback immediately announces cuts to balance the budget. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says they aren’t doing that this time.
“He’s going to present a budget proposal in January. Then we will work with the Legislature on the best way to close the gap,” says Sullivan.
Sullivan says sagging energy and agriculture industries are hurting Kansas tax collections. He says all options are on the table for filling the budget hole.
Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly squarely blames tax cuts passed in recent years for the shortfall. She also doesn’t like that Brownback is leaving it up to lawmakers to fill the hole.
“I think it’s chicken, and I think it’s payback. He lost a lot of his allies in this last election,” says Kelly.
Kelly suspects closing the gap could mean layoffs as well as cuts to higher education and other services.
Stephen Koranda is a statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio.