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New Revenue Numbers Grow The Kansas Budget Deficit

Stephen Koranda
Budget Director Shawn Sullivan describes the budget situation at a media briefing.

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, Kansas Gov. 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," Sullivan said at a news briefing Thursday. "Then we will work with the Legislature on the best way to close the gap."

Sullivan said sagging energy and agriculture industries are hurting Kansas tax collections. He said all options are on the table for filling the budget hole. The AP reports legislative researchers projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019, based on current legal requirements for spending. The state's annual spending is $15.5 billion.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly squarely blames tax cuts passed in recent years for the shortfall. She’s also doesn’t like that Brownback is leaving it up to the Legislature 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,” Kelly said.

Kelly suspects closing the gap could mean layoffs as well as cuts to higher education and other services.

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.