Lawmakers came to an agreement Thursday on a bill that would close the 2017 budget shortfall of roughly $290 million and voted to send the legislation to Gov. Sam Brownback.
The revised 2017 budget changes passed by the House and Senate pulls money from a long term investment fund.
The decision to take $291 million from the fund is more than what some earlier plans had sought. The decision to use more of the fund may affect budget and tax discussions going forward.
“It’s a short term fix,” Rep. Troy Waymaster, the Bunker Hill Republican who leads the House budget committee said. “It’s not a long term solution.”
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Under the approved plan, lawmakers will have less one-time revenue to use when crafting a budget for the next two years, adding another challenge to efforts to strike a deal on tax increases.
Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said using the one-time revenue source will encourage lawmakers to develop a more robust tax plan.
“I happen to believe that’s a good thing because I want to get a tax plan that’s going to fund KPERS long term,” Wolfe Moore said, referring to the state’s pension system. The legislation includes additional funding for the program.
By taking the money from the long term investment fund, lawmakers expect to finish the fiscal year with an ending balance of roughly $50 million. The state faces projected budget shortfalls of more than $1 billion through June 2019.
The Kansas Legislature had been grappling with the shortfall since last November when state officials revised revenue estimates that showed the state was facing a shortfall of roughly $346 million. The state beat revenue estimates for the next four months to help whittle the shortfall down, but the budget gap jumped again after tax collections fell short of benchmarks in March.
The Senate passed the plan 30-10. The House approved the bill 108-15.
Several conservative Republicans, including Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, voted against the budget solution.
“We’re definitely borrowing money to cover short term,” Masterson said. “We’re using tactics in this budget year that we’re saying we can’t use in the next budget year. We’re doing exactly what we condemned the governor for doing in ’18 and ’19.”
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said she wanted to have the 2017 shortfall settled before lawmakers take a break Friday and return to Topeka in May.
“We laid some other options out there,” Wagle said. “I carried a cut, the caucus didn’t want it. So this was the best we could get.”
The bill may solve the state’s shortfall this year, but lawmakers still have yet to find consensus on a new revenue plan to help the state avoid the hundreds of millions in shortfalls that are set to follow in the next two years.
“One small task completed,” Wagle said with a laugh after the Senate adjourned for the day.