Government & Politics

Kansas budget chief: Next year likely to be worse

TOPEKA — A day after the governor ordered a fifth round of budget cuts, the state's budget director warned that crafting next year's budget is likely to be even more difficult.

"We are in a very unprecedented situation," Budget Director Duane Goossen told a House budget committee.

Kansas is in its fourth year of declining revenue. Before this recession, it hadn't had two years of revenue downturn in a row, he said.

The 2010 budget, which began July 1, has been reduced by about $750 million through cuts by the Legislature and governor.

Meanwhile, some officials voiced concerns about the budget cuts' effects on state employees.

The cuts ordered Tuesday don't mandate layoffs or furloughs of state employees, but state agencies can do that if they choose.

The state has about 38,500 employees; about 21,000 workers are covered by Kansas' civil service system.

The union for state employees says it would be unfair to balance the budget entirely on state workers.

"We understand this is a shared responsibility for all state government, however, agencies must understand the importance of employees and the services they provide," said Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park and chairman of the House budget committee, said many states have gone to furloughs and reduced wage costs.

"Nobody enjoys that. But we can't be expected to operate at the level when unemployment was half as high," he said.

Unemployment in the state stands at 6.4 percent.

During the budget committee meeting Tuesday, some lawmakers worried that existing cuts would not be enough if monthly tax receipts continue to fall.

"I want to make sure we are being prudent," Yoder said.

Other lawmakers wondered whether state agencies had been looking for ways to run more efficiently.

Goossen said agencies are looking for ways to run more efficiently, but that wouldn't solve the current budget problems.

"We are beyond those. We are simply cutting because we don't have the resources to fund state government at the levels we are used to or would do if these were normal times," he said.

Goossen outlined transfers, reductions and other revenue shifts lawmakers will need to vote on to reflect the $259 million in cuts ordered by Gov. Mark Parkinson. That includes $50 million less for highway maintenance and operations, a $36 million cut to state aid for public schools and deep cuts to services for disabled Kansans.

Goossen said he hoped lawmakers could pass the bill in the first week of session in January. Unlike most years, no additional supplemental funding requests will be granted.