Legislators Don’t Like Being Called Out for State Spending Hike

Dave TrabertTax & Spending

Governor Brownback’s statement on state spending at the close of the 2017 legislative session has leadership in both chambers up in arms.  ““This legislative session made history, but for all the wrong reasons. Passing the largest tax hike in state history, this legislature passed the biggest budget in state history—and they’ve already spent every dime.  The legislature—despite borrowing and delaying payments—chose to spend over $200 million in new spending on top of increased funding for schools. This budget pays for a legislative wish list on the backs of working Kansans.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal says “top House and Senate Republicans in the Legislature sharply challenged…the accuracy…” of the Governor’s statement.  ‘Spent every dime’ is subject to interpretation and the accurate portrayal of the spending increase could have been more clearly explained, but the essence of Governor Brownback’s point is accurate:

  • The budget sets new spending records.
  • Legislators didn’t produce a structurally-balanced budget.
  • The budget is already out of balance in FY 2020.
  • Legislators did pass the largest tax hike in history and, if I might add, without necessity; the budget could have been balanced without taking $1.2 billion from citizens over the next two years.

Legislators object to the Governor saying they ‘spent every dime’ of the unnecessary $1.2 billion tax increase because FY 2019 has a positive ending balance of $134 million.  But that ending balance is only positive because legislators continued to sweep highway funds and again delayed KPERS payments.  And as noted earlier, the budget is already out of balance for FY 2020.

The budgets approved by the Legislature for FY 2017, FY 2018 and FY 2019 increase spending by $498.3 million over FY 2016 actual spending, of which $293.8 million is for K-12 education.  The remaining increase of $204.5 million is what the Governor referenced as new spending.  Legislators may object to using FY 2016 as the base year but the $181.4 million spending hike they authorized for FY 2017 resets the base for FY 2018 so it’s appropriate to count that in the total amount approved.

House Majority Leader Don Hineman criticized the Governor’s January budget plan for being based on one-time sources of money, asset sales, delayed state payments and escalating borrowing, telling the Capital-Journal that “That’s really a sign of desperation.”  If he believes that, he must also find the budget he defends to be one of desperation, as it only balanced because of one-time sources of money, highway transfers (borrowing?) and delayed state payments.

Senator Laura Kelly called the Governor’s statement “…disrespectful at least, and certainly unbecoming the office of the governor.”  We’d like to have seen the Governor aggressively pursue cost reductions over the years instead of one-time fixes and sales tax hikes, but we concur with his statement on the 2017 legislative session and wish he’d consistently been that direct.

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