Amelia Arvesen
June 4, 2015

Kansas lawmakers are shaking the couch cushions for spare change as they breach further into legislative overtime, Duane Goossen, keynote speaker for the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce’s 12th annual Eggs & Issues event, said Wednesday.

Over a buffet breakfast at Ransom Memorial Hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, the senior fellow for the Kansas Center for Economic Growth enlightened community leaders of the budget situation in Topeka. In the 105th day of the legislative session, 15 days past deadline, lawmakers are struggling to agree on a budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1.

“Income and expense over time have to at least be equal and that’s the trouble we have in Kansas right now,” Goossen said. “Kansas has adopted tax policies which have caused our state revenue to drop very sharply. Now we have expenses that are about $800 million higher than our revenue coming in.”

Goossen provided a breakdown of the revenue and expenditures that make up $15 billion running through the state treasury. He said the inevitable increase of expenses, such as public education, postsecondary education and Medicaid, far outweighs the revenue coming from income tax and sales tax, two of the major sources for the state.

Tax cuts that lowered income tax and exempt business profits left a hole that lawmakers are struggling to fill, Goossen said. They have decided to resolve $400 million by transferring funds from the state’s highway fund. The remaining half, Goossen said, must be resolved either by raising revenue or cutting spending.

So far, Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposal to raise sales tax, the other major revenue source, from 6.15 percent to 6.65 percent has been received unfavorably. Goossen said this has been the most conservative Legislature to consider spending.

“We’re going to end fiscal year 2015 with basically nothing in the bank account,” Goossen said.

The verdict of the budget gap looms. Before heading out to Topeka to work on lingering policy issues, Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, said there’s a sense of urgency to finish but what must be accomplished requires careful review.

“I think it’s going to take some time,” Finch said. “I think to talk pragmatically, we’re probably going to be working several more days as we adjust the mechanics of putting a plan together.”

In order to emerge from what Goossen called a “deep jam,” he said a balance between funding quality services and taxing a fair amount must be resolved.

“It’s not clear how we’re coming out,” Goossen said.

Goossen served seven terms as a representative in the Kansas House. He was a budget director for 12 years under three governors: Republican Bill Graves and Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. Most recently he worked at the Kansas Health Institute in Topeka as the vice president for fiscal and health policy.

At the end of the discussion, Mayor Mike Skidmore presented Goossen with a key to the city.

Read more from the Ottawa Herald here.

KendraOTTAWA HERALD: Budget expert calls for fiscal balance in Kansas legislature