Billion dollar question in Topeka, as lawmakers start new session

Kansas Statehouse (KSN News)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Monday marked the first day of the 2017 legislative session in Topeka, and everything is shiny and new.

“Yes, we are all optimistic,” said House Minority Leader and Wichita Democrat Jim Ward. “It’s a new year for us.”

But, along with the optimism, comes a projected budget deficit of about $1 billion.

So, how does that get fixed?

“I’m opposed to tax increases for anyone,” said Rep. Chuck Weber, Wichita Republican. “I think the people in my district want a balanced budget. And how we go about that is of course the big question. And I think generally speaking people say we need to tighten our belts.”

Aside from belt-tightening, some say a big source of revenue could be putting a business tax back into play in Kansas. In 2012, state lawmakers gave tax breaks to about $330,000 businesses, none of which now pays taxes.

“If you look at the budget over the past five years, it’s a structural problem caused by the tax loopholes that we need to fix,” said Ward. “Kansans, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives (and) Moderates are fiscally responsible, and it drives them nuts that the state can’t pay their bills.”

Governor Sam Brownback will offer his thoughts on fixing the Kansas budget in his State of the State speech Tuesday afternoon in Topeka.

KSN will be there to bring it to you and will get responses from lawmakers on more specifically how they plan to fix the Kansas budget.