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Kansas Lawmakers Consider Plan To Liquidate State Investments To Fix Budget Woes

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo

Lawmakers in a Kansas House committee are considering Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to liquidate state investments to fill a budget hole.

The proposal would basically drain the investment fund of more than $300 million and pay that back over seven years, with interest.

Brownback's budget director, Shawn Sullivan, told the House Appropriations Committee that the choices may be this or budget cuts.

"Reasons to do it would be: This is a bad alternative, but better than worse alternatives," Sullivan told the committee. "You'd have to do $300 to $400 million in cuts to get above zero in this fiscal year."

Lawmakers are not very enthusiastic about the idea, but some see it as the least bad option.

Republican Troy Waymaster, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he sees the governor's plan as the best choice.

“Because there’s nothing that we can put in place as far as a revenue stream for the remaining months of 2017, so we’re going to have to do something," Waymaster said. "Even though this appears to be a one-time fix, it does appear to be the best option."

Some other lawmakers are expressing frustration with the state’s finances and the plan. Democratic Rep. Henry Helgerson blames tax cuts and says this move amounts to a loan to fix the situation.

“We are now borrowing money to pay for operating costs. That’s a real dangerous precedent. And that’s because we don’t have enough revenue to support the programs that we have,” Helgerson said.

The House committee is slated to take up the plan next week.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.