Bond Debt In Kansas More Than Triples Over 2 Decades
Legislative researchers have found that the bond debt in Kansas has more than tripled since the late 1990s.
A chart they created shows the debt level stands at more than $5 billion for the 2017 fiscal year, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. From fiscal year 1997 to 2017, the total amount of bond debt increased by 336.4 percent, or $3.8 billion, according to the chart.
The debt has marched upward during the administrations of Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, as well as Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. During the Sebelius and Parkinson administrations, 2003-2011, the debt load increased by about 57 percent.
The bonded indebtedness has risen by about 37 percent since Brownback's first full fiscal year in office. Brownback has a little more than two years left in office.
Bond debt for general government, which includes the Department of Administration, Commerce, Insurance and pension bonds, has risen 4,368 percent over the past 20 years.
The debt of the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the state universities, increased by 1,062 percent.
For the Kansas Department of Transportation, bond debt rose 81 percent over the same time period. Human resources, which includes the Department for Children and Families and the Department of Health and Environment, saw its debt increase by 299 percent.
Only public safety, encompassing the Department of Corrections, Adjutant General, Highway Patrol and Kansas Bureau of Investigation, saw a decrease, declining 7.2 percent.
Duane Goossen, a former budget director under Republican and Democratic administrations, said as the budget has deteriorated the state has begun relying more heavily on debt to pay its bills and meet its obligations. S&P cut the state's rating in July, the second time in two years. Moody's also downgraded Kansas in 2014, and put the state in a negative outlook in May.
"This makes it even more expensive for Kansas to issue bonds when we might really need them in the future and damages our economy as a whole," Goossen said.
But budget director Shawn Sullivan told The Associated Press in July that the S&P downgrade was unlikely to affect the cost of borrowing and that the state didn't plan any major bond issues in the near future.
"I think it has more of a perception-public opinion effect more than anything else, more than a practical effect on our ability to borrow," Sullivan said.