No Winners in Kansas Budget
Opinion Press - June 11, 2013 10:11 am
It has been suggested by some that adjournment was the best thing to come out of the 2013 legislative session.
That assessment is premature – although legislators have finished legislating for the year they haven’t yet returned to Topeka for the official adjournment – and overlooks the fact the Legislature adopted a budget that reduces state spending.
The two-year spending plan legislators sent to Gov. Sam Brownback for his signature reduced state spending by $200 million in fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1. Expenditures are projected to increase $250 million the following year under the two-year blueprint, but there is time enough to address that issue.
The most important thing governments at all levels can do is reduce their spending. Increased government spending at all levels takes a toll on taxpayers that cannot be sustained over the long haul if the goal is an economy with a thriving private sector.
That said, it should be noted a 1-cent increase in the state’s sales tax that had been scheduled to sunset at the end of this month has been dimmed somewhat but still shines brightly. The increase, adopted under a previous administration, raised the state’s sales tax to 6.3 percent. It was to fall to 5.7 percent at the end of the current fiscal year.
After a prolonged tussle – Gov. Sam Brownback wanted to hold the tax at 6.3 percent, many legislators wanted to go to 5.7 percent as scheduled and others sought a compromise somewhere in between – majorities in the Senate and House finally agreed on setting the sales tax rate at 6.15 percent.
That was a deal that many would say should have been made during the 90-day regular session, but an overtime period that stretched into its second week was necessary before enough legislators realized compromise was necessary.
Brownback noted, correctly, late in the session that nobody gets everything they want.
That is especially true for those government agencies and functions that will take the hardest hits – among them are higher education and the Kansas Department of Corrections – as spending falls for the state’s 2014 fiscal year.
It’s too late now to debate whether those were the best places to economize. Someone is always unhappy when budget allocations fall short of expectations.
Those who are unhappy should note that the Kansas Department of Transportation’s highway funds were raided for another $300 million to support the state general fund, a practice that has to stop soon.