Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he is considering all options to fill a massive projected budget deficit that he didn’t know existed until after the election earlier this month.
The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Research Department estimates the state’s shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in June, will be $279 million, and it will grow by an additional $436 million in the following year.
Based on current spending levels, the predicted budget hole for the next year will be $715 million, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“We’re looking at all factors — everything — spending a lot of time thinking about it, talking with the agencies and others. We’re looking at it all very thoroughly,” Brownback told reporters Monday as he was leaving a meeting of the State Finance Council.
When asked if the state needed to tweak its income tax policies and possibly delay income tax cuts scheduled for the future, the governor said, “We’re looking at all of it.”
Brownback promoted and signed a bill eliminating income taxes for some business owners, reduced rates across the board and set up additional tax cuts in the future.
On the campaign trail, Brownback repeatedly dismissed concerns about the state’s finances raised by economists and his opponents.
“They’re just trying to paint a Chicken Little ‘sky is falling’ situation, which is not true. It’s a bunch of lies,” he said in October.
It wasn’t until six days after he won re-election that he was first briefed that there would a budget hole this fiscal year, Brownback said.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who lost to Brownback in the election, said the governor needs to find a solution to a problem he created. He said he did not think the state could fix its budget problem without revisiting tax policy.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat who serves on the Finance Council, questioned Brownback’s claim that he was not informed of the looming shortfall.
“I don’t believe him when he says that,” Hensley said. “They would have had to have known. (The Department of) Revenue was given the red flag over the past year basically. And Paul and I have been talking about this for the past two years.”