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Kansas Budget Cuts Coming; Governor Expands Aide's Duties

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo

Gov. Sam Brownback expects to outline spending cuts next week to help prevent Kansas from having a deficit within the next year, his top spokeswoman said Friday, as his office announced expanded duties for his top budget adviser.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley confirmed the Republican governor's plans to detail adjustments to the state's $15.4 billion budget for the fiscal year that began this month. The GOP-dominated Legislature counted on Brownback cutting $50 million, even after lawmakers raised sales and cigarette taxes last month to balance the budget.

Those tax increases came after lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging in an effort to boost the economy. Raising sales and cigarette taxes enabled GOP lawmakers and the governor to preserve past cuts in income tax rates and most of an exemption from income taxes for 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers.

Kansas collected about $16 million less in revenues than anticipated in the fiscal year that ended in June, a shortfall of 0.3 percent. Legislative researchers predict that if Brownback makes no spending cuts, the state will end its current fiscal year with only $17 million in cash reserves assuming it hits its revenue projections.

Brownback announced that he is expanding budget director Shawn Sullivan's duties to aid in the hunt for efficiencies across state government. Sullivan's work already included finding ways to trim spending when necessary, but the governor said in a statement that Sullivan also will work on "business process" improvements and developing a performance management system, without providing further details.

"This is just an expansion of his role so that he can work with other agency secretaries," Hawley said.

Brownback was expected to face questions from reporters about the budget and Sullivan's new role during a news conference Friday. Hawley said Sullivan is not getting an increase in his $130,000 salary.

The governor's moves came after legislators agreed to spend up to $3 million to hire an outside firm to identify potential efficiencies within state government. Legislators hope to begin soliciting proposals from potential contractors by the fall.

Asked about how Sullivan's new duties will mesh with lawmakers' efforts, Hawley said, "He will work with them to implement efficiency recommendations provided by the study."

Sullivan, a former Wichita nursing home administrator, served as Brownback's secretary for aging and disability services before becoming budget director in June 2014.