The state’s budget problems have prompted many painful budget cuts and discussions of raising taxes, and Secretary of Revenue Joan Wagnon sought to explain how Kansas got to this point Saturday morning at Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.
Wagnon said tax cuts and exemptions, coupled with unemployment in Kansas, have left the state in its current $500 million hole, even after more than $1 billion has been cut from the budget over the past year.
“We’ve narrowed our tax base to a point where we’re not meeting our needs,” Wagnon told a crowd of about 40 at the event sponsored by the Douglas County Democratic Committee. “Now we can’t balance the budget.”
Wagnon walked the crowd through some of the state’s tax exemptions for the past decade, highlighting tax cuts that have contributed to the budget problems.
Wagnon described the myriad tax breaks over the years — including car and residential remodeling sales tax cuts — as little “bites.”
“When you take enough of those bites, you get a hole,” she said.
Other issues contributing to the state’s budget woes include more than $250 million in uncollected state sales tax from online purchases. Wagnon urged Congress to act on such problems to help Kansas and other states bridge their budget gaps.
Wagnon also fielded questions from a crowd that was a who’s who of local Democratic politicians, including U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore and his wife, Stephene, who will be running for her husband’s seat later this year.
Event organizer Ed Quick said that the explanation of the state’s hot-topic budget issues was greatly needed.
“I think the timing couldn’t be better,” he said.