Legislators are divided over many of Gov. Sam Brownback's proposals to close a shortfall in the Kansas budget by summer.
That could be because the state has no good options, just ones that are "less painful."
The job of closing the hole became a little easier this week when the Department of Revenue reported Kansas collected $24 million more in taxes than anticipated in January. It was the third straight month of better-than-expected tax collections. That is good news.
However, revenue still does not match expenditures. The current hole is about $320 million. Brownback's proposals to close it include scaling back contributions to public employees' pensions (something the state will have to pay later) and liquidating a state investment portfolio so that the funds can back an internal government loan over seven years.
Approving the governor's proposals would allow legislators to avoid immediate cuts in aid to public schools (estimated at as much as $1.4 million for USD 373) or other spending.
"I don't like any of it," Republican Sen. Dan Kerschen of Garden Plain told the Associated Press.
We don't like any of it, either. It is clear the state has run out of good choices.
The shortfall in the current budget is part of projected gaps in spending for existing programs totaling nearly $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has struggled to balance its budget since Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging — and did not slash spending in similar amounts. They placed a big bet on the trickle-down theory. It would appear they lost — or more accurately tax payers and residents lost.
There are no easy answers to the problem. It will require pain. That pain may be rolling back those tax breaks combined with painful cuts to services Kansans both expect to have offered and love.
— Kansan Editorial Board