The regular session of the 2015 Kansas legislature ended on April 2. Before adjourning, the Kansas Senate passed a budget that included a deficit of over $600 million over 2 years, based on the current year revenue shortfall and revenue forecast. I voted NO on this budget. The State of Kansas has been teetering on the brink of a self-inflicted budget deficit for too many years now and we need to work on a sustainable solution that keeps taxes low and funds public education and other core services fairly.
Since the Senate passed that unbalanced budget, the consensus revenue estimating group has estimated the revenue shortfall to have increased so that now the projected deficit is almost $800 million. That’s over 10% of the state’s entire discretionary spending budget.
So far, the Governor has suggested tax increases on cigarette and tobacco products and alcohol, in addition to some other changes that add up to a little over $200 million. He has also proposed increasing the privilege fee on the managed care companies that run the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare. Even if all of these proposals were passed, the state of Kansas would still be facing a deficit, and many of these proposals face considerable opposition in the legislature.
The legislature reconvened for “Veto Session” on April 29. Traditionally, this part of the session is set aside for the legislature to consider the Governor’s vetoes and potentially override them. As has often been the case in recent years, most of this time will be taken up trying to craft a budget and tax plan that balances. If the Governor would not have signed the 2012 tax bill, the state would have over $1 billion in reserve and finding a solution would be relatively easy. With the Governor seemingly unwilling to compromise on the 2012 tax policy, it may take a long time for the legislature to get out of Topeka, costing taxpayers more than 1 teacher’s salary for each day we don’t finish.