The 2015 legislative session is underway! Legislators gaveled in on Monday, January 12th and heard Governor Brownback’s annual State of the State address last Thursday (January 15th).
In his speech, Governor Brownback outlined his 2015 legislative priorities, including 1) overhauling the school finance formula, 2) continuing the march towards his “glide path to zero” income taxes, 3) moving local elections to November and 4) changes to the selection of Supreme Court justices. The next day, Governor Brownback released his proposal for the FY 2016 and FY 2017 budget. The proposal includes elimination of the school finance formula established in 1992 and replacing it with a block grant program. The governor also proposes more tax increases through an accelerated phase out of certain itemized deductions (including the home mortgage interest expense deduction) as well as significant increases to cigarette and liquor taxes.
In his State of the State message, the governor placed blame on the state’s self-imposed budget crisis on the “increases in K-12 spending since Fiscal Year 2014.” The fact of the matter is that the Governor’s tax policies have put us in this difficult position. The state is facing a budget shortfall of over $710 million (over one-tenth of Kansas’ SGF budget!) because of the sheer size of Governor Brownback’s income tax cuts (over $730 million a year starting in FY 2014) and the fact that they have not stimulated the economy as he promised. There’s really no avoiding the fact that the governor’s tax policies have put Kansas in a very deep financial hole. But I look forward to reaching across the aisle this session and working to restore some common-sense tax policies that will return our state to a sound fiscal footing.
I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date in the coming weeks as legislators begin to work through specific budget issues. In the meantime, to access the Governor’s Budget Report in full, visit the Kansas Division of Budget’s website at http://budget.ks.gov.