Gov. Brownback talks to KSN about taxes, budget shortfalls

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

WICHITA, Kansas – Kansas Governor Sam Brownback unveiled his proposed budget changes Wednesday. And, once again, it involves cutting funding to some agencies and moving money from the Kansas Department of Transportation to make ends meet.

The governor’s plan would take $25 million from K-DOT. Another $50 million in the Children’s Initiative Fund, a fund that promotes the health and welfare of kids in Kansas, would be moved in an administrative change. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan says the CIF would still be fully funded.

And, as Sullivan announced changes to the budget, The Governor talked with KSN.

“I think we really need to be at a constant effort of looking at how can we make government more efficient,” said Brownback.”More effective, because that’s what most people complain about. They just think there’s so much waste. And that’s what we’ve really got to focus on and that’s what we’ve really tried to do.”

With tax revenues, the state is expected to have an overall budget shortfall of an estimated $14 million this year and a $170 million shortfall next year.

The governor talked about revenues being down.

“We had disappointing revenues last month,” Governor Brownback told KSN. “The month before was good. So we thought we were on a good trajectory. We had disappointing revenues we had to deal with that in this fiscal year. And then we will make proposals for next fiscal year. We’ll see here within the next month or two where it all stabilizes, and our big problem has been sales tax.”

He told KSN even though the state is behind on revenue again he has no interest in changing course on the big tax breaks he led the way in establishing in 2012.

Some Republican and Democratic lawmakers say those tax breaks are largely to blame for Kansas being short of money.

“What we’ve done on income taxes is we sent to zero taxes on small business pass-through and then we took everybody’s tax rate from 6.45% to 4.6%,” said Governor Brownback. “OK, so that’s the big picture of what we did.”

The Governor does admit his new budget proposal sweeps money out of state agencies to help make it balance.He said he will be talking to state lawmakers to keep the tax breaks in place because he believes the concept just needs more time to work, blaming a sluggish national and regional economy for the state’s revenue shortfalls.

There was a growing group of lawmakers last year who said they want to go in a different direction with the state’s tax policy.  But the governor says his plan is the right one.

Asked about school finance, the Governor says that will be up to lawmakers.

“I can’t tell you on that, the legislature is really just now digging into it. I do think they are going to incent getting more money into the classroom,” said Governor Brownback. “And try to incent better outcomes, better reading scores, better graduation rates so that you put money on the things you want. That’s going to be a key piece.”

Some lawmakers tell KSN it could be tough to come up with the votes to change the policy this year because it’s an election year.  That means some may want to stay away from the controversy of dealing with tax changes.

Sullivan says the $50 Million in the Children’s Initiative Fund is not a cut, but a move to consolidate.

“Every existing childhood program funded by CIF continues to be fully funded in this budget,” said Sullivan. “In a series of meetings with KSDE and the Children’s Cabinet, the Governor asked them for recommendations on how we can better align and coordinate early childhood education across the state. We are implementing their recommendations.”



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