State rep candidates on the issues: How to deal with massive state budget shortfall?

Since the tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback in 2012, state revenues have fallen tens of millions of dollars below estimates, causing a significant budget crunch.
Since the tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback in 2012, state revenues have fallen tens of millions of dollars below estimates, causing a significant budget crunch.

Today we begin running the responses to our readers’ questions for the candidates running in two local statehouse primaries: incumbent Stephanie Clayton and challenger Jennifer Flood in District 19; and incumbent Barbara Bollier and challenger Neil Melton in District 21. We will run responses to a new question each day this week.

Here’s the first questionnaire item:

Following the tax cuts of the 2012 session of the Legislature, Kansas has faced increasingly difficult budget situations — and the issue is being compounded by the fact that actual state revenues are millions of dollars below what was projected when the cuts were made. Providing that revenues do not bounce back very soon, what solutions would you support moving forward?

Clayton_HeadshotStephanie Clayton (District 19 incumbent)
I first propose that we pause the trajectory of the tax cuts and allow time for things to stabilize. Then, we need to take a hard look at the budget and make intelligent cuts. So often, legislators will take a buzz-saw to the budget so that they can proclaim to the voting public that they made cuts…but these are irresponsible cuts that actually cost the state more money down the road. Careful budget analysis and responsible decision-making are what is needed. If necessary, I would support an increase in the tobacco tax.

Jennifer Flood (District 19 challenger)
Did not submit a response.

Bollier_225Barbara Bollier (District 21 incumbent)
I did not support the original tax plan to move us toward zero Income tax. With the results we have seen we must stop the march to zero. Then we need to evaluate our current tax policy and see what is working, what is not, and make adjustments. I support a more balanced (equal parts income, sales, and property) tax approach. We should consider other revenue sources to see if they are best for the state, including current tax exemptions, current farmland property tax, essentially all of our tax structure. By careful study we may find that taxes will not need to be raised to meet our budget requirements, but we must support good government.

Melton_225Neil Melton (District 21 challenger)
Balancing the budget is a constant struggle whether taxes are higher or lower. As we’ve observed recently with our neighbor to the east, higher income taxes aren’t necessarily part of the recipe that will produce a balanced budget. History and other states around the nation tell us, whether taxes are higher or lower, balancing revenues with expenditures is a constant struggle. There are success stories out there such as Texas, Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio, all of whom cut taxes and spending to turn red into black. When taxes are cut, it is expected that revenues may drop at the start, and this is what we’ve observed in our state. Changes in federal tax policy can also have an impact on state revenues as observed nationally for the months of April and May. Ultimately revenue and spending must be in balance, yet general fund spending has increased since the tax cuts. If we exhaust our current surplus and face a deficit, which is still a large unknown, I would suggest returning some items in the budget to prior year spending levels. With some of our most essential services, I would advocate for maintaining current spending levels such as funding for education, providing for the elderly and disabled, early childhood programs, and public safety. Undoubtedly, it’s never popular to have to cut a state budget, and there is a lot of pressure to resist doing this, but it would be better to ask some functions of government to operate more efficiently, if faced with a slight budget deficit, than to raise taxes on Kansas families and business. Raising taxes this early in the process would send the wrong signal to our business community, many of which have recently been created in part because of the favorable income tax policy and are seeing growth and creating jobs, which we wouldn’t want to stifle. I believe Kansas families and businesses are better off when they are able to keep more of the money they earn.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item two:

How long have you lived at your current residence? If you’ve lived at your current residence than five years, where did you live before and what factors led you to choose this area as your home? If you’ve lived in your current residence more than five years, what factors have led you to stay?