Capitol Update: On Kansas budget, the clock is running, tick tock, tick tock

To keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we feature an update columns each Monday from one of northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Rep. Bollier submits this week’s update:

Barbara Bollier
Barbara Bollier
Today (Monday) marks the 92nd day of the targeted 90-day session for the Kansas legislature. In unprecedented fashion the House has yet to work a budget bill, and the first failed attempt to pass any kind of tax bill was late last week. It appears that there is no clear plan from our leadership, specifically House Speaker Ray Merrick, to bring 63 votes or more forward to support some semblance of a balanced budget. The ONLY requirement the legislature has constitutionally each year is to vote out a budget, and thus far we have failed in that endeavor. Time ticks by as the legislature remains stymied.

So why the difficulty? In my opinion, the income tax bill passed back in 2012 that has us on a “march to zero” is the problem. The state is short somewhere near $800 million in revenues to reach a balanced budget for 2016. One time fixes and borrowing can be done to knock that number down to approximately $400 million needed, so cutting the budget or raising taxes are the only options remaining. Those who passed the bill in 2012 did so without the “pay-fors” needed and requested by Governor Brownback. Rather than vetoing the bill passed and requiring those who cut income taxes to appropriately provide other revenue sources such as eliminating all deductions, he allowed the bill to become law, thus causing this disastrous hole that now must be filled. Even the Governor admits that his administration has cut services as far as can be considered reasonable. So the hard work of fixing what is broken remains.

Many of us who did not vote for the income tax reductions predicted this tremendous gap between revenues and expenditures. The “shot of adrenaline” was a myth and reality must now be faced. Those legislators who support the continuation of reduced income tax must step up to the plate and deal with the problem they have created. Short term fixes that have to be re-visited year after year are not a viable solution. If the march to zero is going to continue, then those who support it will have to get 63 legislators in the House and 21 in the Senate to pay for the government they want. As for the northeast Johnson County area, the vast majority of voters support a balanced tax structure that includes reasonable income tax for both individuals and businesses. People want excellent schools, quality neighborhoods and services, and a place they can be proud to call “home”. It is impossible to predict just how long it will take to get a budget bill passed. I post news articles daily to my Facebook page, and you are always welcome to e-mail me at barbarabollier@gmail.com with questions or comments.

Tick tock tick tock.