Jonathan Shorman
September 27, 2016

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration acknowledged on Tuesday – just two months into the fiscal year – that the state’s current budget will have to be altered.

The administration made the disclosure after disappointing monthly revenue collections show Kansas is already in a budgetary hole of about $20 million with 10 months left to go in the fiscal year.

In an email to cabinet secretaries sent Tuesday morning, budget director Shawn Sullivan revealed changes will have to be made. The governor’s office released the email to reporters.

“Similar to the 19 other states projected to have budget gaps in fiscal year 2017, we will have to make adjustments to our approved budget and will work diligently with the Legislature during the next session on budgets for fiscal year 2018 and 2019. My staff and I will continue to work with you over the next few months on proposals that include administrative efficiencies,” Sullivan wrote.

Brownback will not propose across-the-board cuts in his budget proposal in January, Sullivan said. State agencies had been asked last month to submit budget requests that included a 5 percent spending reduction.

Sullivan wrote that Kansas is in a “challenging budget situation” and thanked the secretaries for their work on the proposals.

“The governor will not be proposing a budget to the Legislature in January that includes an across-the-board reduction. Some of your reduced resources proposals included reductions to services that would have been harmful to the mission of your agency and the citizens you serve,” Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan also noted the interest from reporters in the agency budget proposals and defended the administration’s decision to withhold the proposals from public through an exemption offered under the state’s open records law. He suggested the media hadn’t taken a similar interest in the 10 years prior to the Brownback administration – a period dominated by Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.

Duane Goossen, a former budget director under Republican Gov. Bill Graves, Sebelius and Parkinson, has said agency requests were open to the public during his time as director.

The intense interest in budget planning comes amid frequent monthly revenue misses and just months before an election that has become in large measure a referendum on the budget and Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts. Voters effectively swept a number of moderate Republicans into power in the August primary on the promise of altering state tax policy.

Last week, a memo from legislative researchers showed the state had a projected ending balance of $5 million. Combined with revenue misses in July and August, Kansas is already about $20 million in the red.

“Proponents of this tax experiment assert that the tax plan works because it created 20,000 first-time small business filers to Kansas. If that is true, why is our economic forecast still so gloomy? Why was our credit downgraded for a third time last summer?” Heidi Holliday, director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, said in a statement.

“And why are we still living paycheck-to-paycheck, unable to invest in our future?”

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal here.

Lisa OwenTOPEKA CAPITAL JOURNAL: Brownback official acknowledges budget will have to be changed