Government & Politics

Kansas beats revenue estimates by $24 million, but shortfall remains unsolved

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An uptick in Kansas tax revenue has made another dent in the state’s now roughly $320 million budget shortfall.

The state took in $24 million more than expected in January, according to figures released Wednesday by the Kansas Department of Revenue.

That marks the the third straight month that the state has met tax estimates.

“It looks like our estimates are now stable, and that’s the important thing,” Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said. “I wouldn’t read too much into $24 (million) up or $24 (million) down here. Let’s make sure that we’re in a stable range, give it time.”

The state lowered revenue estimates last November and detailed the projected future shortfalls.

Kansas is facing roughly $1 billion in shortfalls through the end of fiscal year 2019.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said having three months in a row when the revenues have topped the estimates is a positive sign that will help the state balance its books.

“Every bit helps, and $24 million will be welcome,” Ryckman said.

Kansas took in almost $544 million in the month of January, according to the state.

Better-than-expected gains from retail sales tax and corporate income taxes helped the state top projections.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said he was glad to see a positive number but still urged caution about the report.

“I think it helps a little bit, but hopefully the governor and his supporters don’t over inflate,” Ward said. “What we’ve done is reduced the expectation so low that it makes it hard not to meet them.”

The figures were released before noon Wednesday in a break from recent announcements that often came later in the day.

Many lawmakers were either in committee meetings or the session when the new numbers were released.

“In January, Kansas saw a holiday sale bump in line with growth seen at the national level,” acting revenue secretary Sam Williams said in a statement. “Coupled with individual income tax receipts beating expectations for the month, I’m looking forward to seeing continued improvement in the economic health of Kansans.”

Lawmakers still have to mend the 2017 budget with only five months left in the fiscal year.

Gov. Sam Brownback challenged lawmakers to get a bill to his desk by the end of January to solve the budget shortfall.

Brownback made that challenge after declining to make budget cuts himself after the shortfall was announced.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw