Under Gov. Sam Brownback, growing budget woes imperil Kansas’ future

Gov. Sam Brownback needs to reverse the devastating income tax cuts in Kansas.
Gov. Sam Brownback needs to reverse the devastating income tax cuts in Kansas. The Associated Press

Gov. Sam Brownback last week took a swing at dealing with the financial crisis he helped create in Kansas, proposing cuts of $280 million to the current state budget.

But just days later, an even more costly problem cropped up, emphasizing that the state’s situation is worsening, not getting better.

The Kansas Legislature’s nonpartisan research staff pointed out that Brownback’s proposal will use many one-time resources. He called for draining the highway fund of $100 million and axing tens of millions more from pension contributions, children’s programs and state agencies.

Now it appears that, starting in January, he and the Legislature may have to slash a staggering $648 million from the next budget, which begins July 1. That’s way up from the $436 million shortfall predicted just last month in a consensus revenue estimate.

And there’s more. The fiscal challenges could get worse if legislators follow Kansas law and set aside an added $400 million or so in general fund reserves.

All told, that could lead to a potential $1 billion in cuts in the next fiscal year in a budget of around $6 billion. That would put K-12 school funding, which makes up half of general fund spending, squarely on the chopping block.

All of these problems are largely caused by falling revenues that followed the costly income tax cuts that Brownback championed.

So now what?

Brownback last week said in an interview, “All options are on the table.”

That’s good to hear. For starters, the governor must provide the leadership needed to roll back the income-tax reductions that took effect in 2013. That would go a long way toward raising revenues needed to provide adequate public services to Kansans.

Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature have created this huge mess for Kansans. They can’t cut their way out of it. Revenue increases have to be part of the solution.