You’ve done it … driven down the block and around the corner and wonder…did the garage door go down? Or did I pour water for the cat, or whatever else you let run around the house when you’re gone?
Well, legislators are now safely home and have a month to ask themselves those same questions. What did they forget … or just didn’t get done…and what’s it going to look like when they get back to the Statehouse in late April?
Chances are it isn’t going to get pretty.
The budget is, of course, the big issue. With a strictly on-paper shortfall of maybe $30 million and likely to get bigger between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30, some are wondering what to do and who will do it.
Lawmakers armed Gov. Sam Brownback with some ways to battle an unconstitutional negative General Fund Balance come June 30.
There’s that permission for delaying until after the start of the next fiscal year the roughly $100 million that is due to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. He’ll have to pay back that $100 million with interest, but it’s a short-term plan to get over the July 1 hump. Pensioners aren’t happy about it, but they’ve by now been told that it isn’t going to make their checks short.
And, then there’s the Bank of KDOT — raiding the state highway fund for spare cash that governors have done in the past…but for smaller amounts than Brownback has taken during his administration.
But the real fears: Friday — when the official tally of receipts to the State General Fund for the month March are announced — and the April 20 final report of this fiscal year by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, the CREG as it’s called in the Statehouse.
That CREG estimate will be the official estimate for the fund balance at the end of the fiscal year, and while it’s official and such, the state still has to have at least one official dollar bill in the treasury on June 30.
While legislators are enjoying Spring Break and starting up their campaign machines for the primary and general elections … there’s still that wondering whether they have actually gotten the garage door closed on this fiscal year.
If the state’s finances don’t get too much worse, they’ve given the governor enough ways to balance the budget with spending cuts announced from the second floor of the Statehouse.
If he wants to …
That’s where things get a little tricky, because the other option for the governor is to hand the Legislature a list of cuts and shuffles he wants lawmakers to make before they hit the campaign trail. But, the easy ones are about used up.
Does the governor actually shuffle money or require furloughs of state employees — that “downsizing” of state government that he has talked about for years? Or does he run out a bill for lawmakers to consider in late April to make quick cuts in budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, which tend to take the edge off this year’s final budget maneuvers?
Nobody knows until we see the numbers for March and the CREG projection for the rest of the year. But it’s one of those issues that for legislators probably is more concerning than whether the garage door went down …and as concerning as whether the cat has water …
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report