With Missouri revenues down and special-interest tax breaks looming, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is responsibly playing the fiscal conservative.
He recently vetoed or froze almost $800 million of state spending, challenging Republican lawmakers to sustain his vetoes of the costly tax breaks they awarded this year to selected companies and industries. If that happens, Nixon will restore much of the frozen funds.
Meanwhile, Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback appears far less worried about that state’s fiscal situation — even though it’s far more dire than Missouri’s.
Kansas general fund revenues were $338 million below projections for the fiscal year that ended June 30, or 6 percent under estimates. (Missouri fell 3 percent short of its expectations.)
Yet Brownback isn’t announcing any budget reductions, the reasonable thing to do now. He also intends to hold to scheduled income tax reductions, even though the first cuts already have damaged the state’s budget.
As he battles for re-election, Brownback is quite willing to drain down about half of the state’s $700 million rainy day fund to make things balance out. That’s not conservative or wise.
Brownback and the Legislature have passed a budget for the new fiscal year — which started Tuesday — that spends $300 million more than the state expects to take in. That could almost wipe out what’s left of the state’s savings by this time next year.
To make matters worse, given this year’s shortfall, there’s no certainty that Kansas will even reach its predicted revenues for the next fiscal year.
In this somewhat odd switching of roles, the Democratic governor is holding a tight rein on spending while the conservative Kansas governor is allowing fiscal recklessness to reign.