The Buzz

Topeka awash in numbers

Numbers, numbers, numbers!

That’s all lawmakers are talking about these days as they start their march toward final adjournment.

Growth rates. Ending balances. Adjusted expenditures. The governor’s tax plan. The Senate tax plan. The House tax plan.

A quick visit to the Capitol Wednesday found a sea of lawmakers swimming in numbers. Problem is, every lawmaker seems to be operating off a different set of them.

It’s precisely that confusion over financial figures and what they mean that’s prolonging the 2013 session. Lawmakers began Wednesday, the first day of their wrap-up session, hoping to adjourn by Saturday.

They ended it knowing they are destined to work next week -- and maybe longer if they can’t reach agreement on a tax plan.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his allies, eager to extend a sales-tax beyond its three-year sunset, exude confidence that the extension would place the state in solid financial position next year -- and beyond.

Conservative House members, meantime, insist the state doesn’t need the extension. At least not this year. And they flash all kinds of numbers to prove it.

Democrats and moderate Republicans sense doomsday either way. They bemoan the giant income-tax-cut package passed last year and warn that the consequences of that action could be cuts to public schools and higher ed in 2014 -- an election year, no less.

They call that a direct blow to Kansas’ proud educational heritage.

Lurking in the shadow is yet another financial wild card: A pending state Supreme Court case over the financing of public schools. A decision is expected in December or January. The betting line: The court will require the state to spend tens of millions more and threaten Brownback’s much-hyped “march to zero” on income taxes.

So many moving parts.

So much confusion over exactly how the income-tax cuts will affect revenue.

And so little time to sort it all out.