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Archive for Monday, October 29, 2001

Pessimism pervades state’s budget forecast

October 29, 2001

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— Legislators and other state officials have heard plenty of bad news about the Kansas economy and the state budget in recent weeks.

Some of those officials and university economists will take all of the bad news and translate it this week into numbers for legislators to use in drafting the next state budget.

The numbers will represent the first predictions about how much revenue the state can expect to collect during its 2003 fiscal year, which begins July 1. They're likely to become the source of many a headache.

Graves, his staff and legislators anticipated a tough year even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The 2002 Legislature is certain to face painful choices.

"Following Sept. 11, we fully believe our state revenues will be less," Budget Director Duane Goossen said during a recent public meeting on social services.

The Consensus Estimating Group is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Friday to draft revise revenue estimates for fiscal 2002 and make the first predictions for fiscal 2003. The group is Goossen, members of his staff, legislative staff and university economists.

The estimators will have to factor in how layoffs in aircraft manufacturing and telecommunications are likely to affect Kansans' income and the taxes derived from it or the purchases Kansans make.

They'll face similar calculations involving corporate profits, gains from investments and farm income.

Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said the 2002 session looks to be the most difficult in his nearly two decades in the Legislature.

In April, after state officials and economists made new revenue estimates, legislators found themselves with a $206 million gap between spending they'd already approved for fiscal 2002 and expected tax collections. They approved a package of spending decreases, small tax increases and accounting maneuvers.

The current budget assumes that $4.48 billion in taxes and other revenues will flow into the state general fund during fiscal 2002. The general fund is the largest source of money for Kansas government programs and where the state deposits most of its tax dollars.

Graves' budget staff made assumptions about revenue growth so that they could start work on his budget proposals for fiscal 2003. They assumed the state would collect between $100 million and $130 million more in revenues in fiscal 2003 than in fiscal 2002.

That's a significant amount of money, but it's not enough to cover promises legislators and Graves made in previous years.

For example, the 1999 Legislature approved a 10-year transportation program and reorganized the higher education system. Both came with promises to funnel more tax dollars to highway projects and universities and community colleges. Keeping those promises would cost $91 million more in fiscal 2003.

When extra spending on state employee pensions, pay and health insurance coverage are factored in, the total commitments come to $140 million.

None of those figures take into account the single biggest item in the state budget, $2.3 billion in aid to public schools.

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