As the group in charge of forecasting revenue for the state of Kansas acknowledged last week, this year’s budget is in serious trouble. So is next year’s.
The new consensus estimate revised the current fiscal year’s expected revenue downward by approximately $350 million — a 5.5 percent drop. The current outlook for FY 2018 is an additional 7.4 percent decrease in total revenue — or $580 million.
The good news for Kansans is in this year’s elections they replaced a sizable number of legislators who had approved Gov. Sam Brownback’s unsustainable income tax cuts. Having more moderate Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of the Statehouse should allow the hemorrhaging to stop.
The bad news is even full repeal of the individual and corporate income tax cuts during the upcoming session will not help the current fiscal year at all. And it’s quite likely the Kansas Supreme Court will rule the state’s deliberate shortchanging of public education needs to be reversed immediately.
As the governor has said he won’t present a budget until January, lawmakers will have their hands full attempting to plug gaping financial holes as soon as they show up in Topeka. It doesn’t appear there will be any gimmicks left to patch the budget such as were used during the past three years: Issuing pension obligation bonds, delaying KPERS contributions, raiding the Kansas Department of Transportation, converting highway bonds into general fund cash, diverting early childhood program money, or spending down the rainy day cushion that used to exist.
Brownback also still will wield a veto pen which, given his reluctance to accept the seemingly obvious repercussions of a self-imposed recession, he likely might use.
The sun is most assuredly not shining in Kansas right now. There is hope for the future, but we would expect the extreme darkness before the dawn is yet to come for the Sunflower State.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry