The Kansas Legislature passed yet another fiscally irresponsible budget. I voted against it because it does not adequately fund K-12 education, higher education and other vital programs (in large part due to the Governor’s disastrous 2012 income tax cuts). It also leaves a $290 million hole to fill at the Governor’s discretion.
Specifically, the budget relies on the governor to delay a $96 million payment to the state employees’ pension system (KPERS) for the remainder of the fiscal year. This payment would then have to be made next year. If we can’t afford to make one payment this year, how can we expect to be able to make two payments next year? Additionally, the budget depends on a transfer of $185 million from the highway fund. This further depletes the fund and guarantees delayed projects, including US Highway 69 in Southeast Kansas – a project specifically promised during the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign. This also sacrifices jobs and hinders economic development. Finally, the governor would need to cut nearly $92 million from the budgets of Executive Branch agencies. This includes agencies such as the Department of Children and Families and the Department on Aging and Disability Services.
The only good thing about the budget is that it spared the Children’s Initiative Fund, commonly discussed in the media as the tobacco settlement fund. The money allocated to the CIF is used for early childhood education programs. One of the governor’s initial proposals would have gutted this fund to help fill the budget hole. Even after the delayed payment, the highway fund transfer, and the cuts, the state is left with a meager ending balance. A few months of revenue shortfalls would wipe it out, and the state would be facing even more cuts. This is no way to run our state!