Kansas Is Running Out of Money

by | July 21, 2015

By Bryan Lowry

The state's cash balance could be even smaller next June than lawmakers realized when they approved a tax plan in June.

When lawmakers left Topeka last month, it was with the understanding the state would have $86 million in its cash reserves by the end of June 2016, which marks the end of the fiscal year, if the governor went ahead with $50 million in cuts.

But those estimates have already been lowered less than a month into the 2016 fiscal year. The state's nonpartisan Legislative Research Department now says that the state will have about $67 million in its reserves by the end of the fiscal year -- and that's assuming Gov. Sam Brownback makes a full $50 million in cuts.

So far, the governor has identified only $2 million in cuts.

That means that without further cuts, the state's ending balance would be only $19 million, even if the state hit its revenue estimates each month through June.

"We continue our focus on finding efficiencies and reducing the cost of government for Kansas taxpayers," the governor's office said in an e-mail.

Sen. Michael O'Donnell, R-Wichita, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, called it irresponsible to toss "the hot potato to the governor to make cuts."

"We have no guarantee that the governor will make the $50 million in cuts, and we don't know where that money is going to come from," O'Donnell said. "I feel like we abdicated our responsibility."

The estimates have been lowered because the state missed tax estimates by more than $30 million for the final three months of the previous fiscal year. That was partially offset by state agencies coming in $16 million under budget.

"We're not even through the first month of the fiscal year, and we're already down," said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. "It certainly doesn't bode well for fiscal year 2016. ... My guess is we're going to end up in another budget shortfall situation. Deja vu."

The Legislature struggled to resolve the state's budget gap this past session. It did not pass a tax plan until the 113th day of the record-long session after late nights.

(c)2015 The Wichita Eagle