Brownback Offers Plan to Fill a $190 Million Hole

AP) — Kansas can patch the $190 million hole in its next state budget by juggling state funds, capturing unexpected savings and selling off the assets of an economic development agency, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback told lawmakers Wednesday.

Brownback’s proposed changes in the $16 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 avoid cutting aid to public schools. But his recommendations did not include pay raises for corrections officers at state prisons or a plan to help the Kansas Highway Patrol fill vacant trooper positions — ideas that have bipartisan support.

The state has struggled to balance its budget since Brownback successfully pushed the GOP-dominated Legislature to slash personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 in an effort to stimulate the economy. His critics contend his tax-cutting experiment has failed while Brownback and his allies say national economic factors — including slumps in agriculture, aviation and energy production — are keeping Kansas from growing as much as hoped.

“With these challenges, we must continue to hold the line on state government expenditures while protecting core state services,” Brownback told lawmakers in a letter accompanying his proposals.

The state faced a larger budget hole last year and Republican lawmakers increased sales and cigarette taxes so they could preserve most of the income tax cuts championed by Brownback. He ruled out additional tax increases this year.

Brownback’s administration projects that his proposals would leave the state with cash reserves of $88 million at the end of June 2017. When budget director Shawn Sullivan presented the recommendations to a joint meeting of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means committees, some members questioned whether the state can meet its revenue projections.

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