- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Legislative researchers are predicting that Kansas will end the fiscal year next June with nearly $20 million less than lawmakers anticipated when they raised sales and tobacco taxes to fill a projected $400 million budget gap last month.

When lawmakers left Topeka, they understood that the state would have $86 million in its cash reserves by the end of June 2016 if Gov. Sam Brownback went ahead with $50 million in cuts.

But that estimate already has been lowered, with the nonpartisan Legislative Research Department now saying the state will have about $67 million in its reserves - if Brownback makes the cuts. So far he has identified only $2 million in cuts, The Wichita Eagle (https://bit.ly/1MFbC2j ) reported.

“We’re not even through the first month of the fiscal year, and we’re already down,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. “It certainly doesn’t bode well for fiscal year 2016. . My guess is we’re going to end up in another budget shortfall situation. Deja vu.”

The estimates have been lowered because the state missed tax estimates by more than $30 million for the final three months of the previous fiscal year. State agencies came in $16 million under budget, partially offsetting the shortage.

The state’s budget problems arose after lawmakers cut personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging in an effort to stimulate the economy. The governor and many GOP legislators pushed to preserve as much of those tax cuts as possible by boosting sales and cigarette taxes.

The Legislature did not pass a tax plan until the 113th day of the session, the longest in state history. The plan included raising taxes by $384 million to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but lawmakers said Brownback may have to trim spending up to $50 million.

Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, called it irresponsible to toss “the hot potato to the governor to make cuts.”

“We have no guarantee that the governor will make the $50 million in cuts, and we don’t know where that money is going to come from,” O’Donnell said. “I feel like we abdicated our responsibility.”


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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