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Archive for Sunday, January 3, 2010

State forecast gloomy for 2010

January 3, 2010

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Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories, looking ahead to 2010.

When the 2009 legislative session started last January, state officials knew the Kansas economy was falling, but they didn’t know it would tank.

Two years of declining tax revenues — an unprecedented occurrence in Kansas history — have crippled the state budget, and fiscal experts say there will be two more years of decreasing tax collections.

Now with the 2010 legislative session set to start Jan. 11, lawmakers are facing even more deficits.

“The cuts we are making now are to basic services,” Gov. Mark Parkinson said.

Another ‘devastating’ deficit

In 2009, approximately $750 million was cut from a $6 billion state budget. The result has been shuttered prison facilities, layoffs and cuts in programs for the elderly and those with disabilities.

Funding for higher education has been cut back $106 million, or 13 percent, which brings its level back to what it was in 2006. Public schools lost $300 million in state funding to negate much of what the Legislature had previously increased under a court order. The cuts have prompted a group of schools to try to sue the state again.

Even after multiple rounds of cuts, Parkinson and the Legislature must still grapple with a more than $300 million deficit for the next fiscal year, which will start July 1.

After a recent daylong briefing on budget woes facing various state agencies, state Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington, said of the 2010 session, “It’s going to be devastating.”

A gloomy forecast

According to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, “a good deal of uncertainty remains for the Kansas economy and is underlined by very little projected growth in income and the expectation that unemployment will continue to increase during 2010.”

Much of the state’s problem has been because of the drop in revenue from personal state income tax. This has been fueled in part by high unemployment rates, especially in the all-important manufacturing sector. The Kansas unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in 2008, and more than 6 percent in 2009. It is expected to stay at that level or increase a little in 2010.

Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Jim Garner has watched the state jobless rate hit generational highs. “We are going through the worst recession in modern times. This knocked me on my heels,” he said.

No more budget cuts

Parkinson has said he doesn’t want to cut any more from education and prisons. He said he is looking at a possible tax increase or repealing some tax exemptions.

Parkinson is a Democrat facing a Legislature controlled by Republicans, most of whom oppose a tax increase. He was lieutenant governor and became governor in April after former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was named by President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

He has said he will not seek election despite pleas from Democrats, who see him as their only hope to stop presumptive Republican candidate U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback from becoming the next governor.

Despite presiding over record budget cuts, Parkinson said he remains optimistic.

“All that Kansans have to do is elect people that reflect the historical value that we’ve had of supporting, in a responsible way, our education system, our safety net and public safety. I have faith in the Kansas public.”

Comments

anon1958 4 years, 11 months ago

Kansans wish to live in the 21st century but pay taxes as if it was the 18th century.

The governor claimed he was following the constitution when he balanced the budget. Simultaneously he was thumbing his nose at the constitution by cutting funds for education mandated by the courts because of a constitutional imperative to educate our children.

Obviously the court needs to send a much stronger message to the legislature the next time.

Centerville 4 years, 11 months ago

The cause of Kansas' problem is evident in the reporter's favorite story line: more concern for keeping state government in velvet than for allowing the economic well-being of the people who pay the taxes.

commuter 4 years, 11 months ago

Anon - based on your post above- how much more are money are sending to balance the budget while spending more for education?? One of these days people will start to learn, when have over 50% of the budget and there is a reduction, you will have to get less.

Maybe Parkinson should have cut off all funding for the state universities??

Maybe the governor should have went out and fired state troopers??

Fired stateworkers???

Please anon1958 what would you have done???

I am tired of a few whiney people claiming that we do not spend enough on education when it is over 50% of our state budget. if you want to spend more on education please feel free to one of the two.

  1. When you file your KS tax return, please feel free to send the state a check to fund education in addition to whatever you may owe, if any. It is putting your money where your mouth is instead of just complaining about it.

  2. Go before the Lawrence City commission and ask them to raise the sales tax (just like JOCO voters did). JOCO voters raised the sales tax to help bring additonal money for education. What did Lawrence do??? Art, roads and the T. Boy we are so progressive.

In times of crisis people who just sit around and complain are just compounding to the problem, get off your lazy butts and do something if you think Kansas needs to spend more on education. My vote would be put YOUR MONEY where your mouth is and send the state more money but from what I have seen here in Lawrence, too many people want to raise taxes on everyone else but them to fund things they want (MERRILL).

leedavid 4 years, 11 months ago

A big key is this, from the article"

"Much of the state’s problem has been because of the drop in revenue from personal state income tax. This has been fueled in part by high unemployment rates, especially in the all-important manufacturing sector. The Kansas unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in 2008, and more than 6 percent in 2009. It is expected to stay at that level or increase a little in 2010."

Yet some here want to raise taxes. So raising taxes helps how? Will it bring jobs to Kansas? Will it lower the unemployment rate? No and No! We need to put people back to work and create an environment that companies want to come here and locate. We had some opportunities to bring jobs here with the energy industries but Governor Sebelius would not work with the legislature.

ASBESTOS 4 years, 11 months ago

Anon1958 what you know about the "constitution" Kansas or United States can fill a thimble. There is nothing in the Kansas COnstitution that makes taxpayers give money to these schools. Additionally, these schools that "successflly" sued the State are the same ones that cut their property taxes to larger Corporations and give tax abatements that are ridiculous and then expect the State of the Feds to pick up the educational tab.

They are chanmeful and those Cities are : Topeka, Salina, Wiochita, and Dodge City. Consequently these are also schools and cities that cater to illegal aliens and want to include in this illegal voting block.

""""""""""""""""""""""" "After a recent daylong briefing on budget woes facing various state agencies, state Sen. Janis Lee, D-Kensington, said of the 2010 session, “It’s going to be devastating.”

According to the Kansas Legislative Research Department, “a good deal of uncertainty remains for the Kansas economy and is underlined by very little projected growth in income and the expectation that unemployment will continue to increase during 2010.”"

Even at 6% unemployment Kansas Cannot pay it's bills it come down to two things:

Civil Servants that do not deliver, and expenses being way too much.

Centerville has it right.

LogicMan 4 years, 11 months ago

Q: What specific Article and Section of the Kansas Constitution are the K-12 school districts claiming as possibly being violated?

headdoctor 4 years, 11 months ago

leedavid (Anonymous) says… Yet some here want to raise taxes. So raising taxes helps how? Will it bring jobs to Kansas? Will it lower the unemployment rate? No and No! We need to put people back to work and create an environment that companies want to come here and locate. We had some opportunities to bring jobs here with the energy industries but Governor Sebelius would not work with the legislature.


Of course. They ignore the fact that no government on the face of the planet has ever taxed their way into prosperity. The typical answer is cut money to the things that count or that will irritate the tax payers the most instead of cutting the pork. If that fails raise taxes.

StrangerCreek 4 years, 11 months ago

I guarantee I could go to Topeka and finds lots of waste to eliminate.

skinny 4 years, 11 months ago

Guess we better get those casino’s built so we can be like Missouri and not have any finical problems!

wastewatcher 4 years, 11 months ago

Gov. Parkinson is exactly correct in his comment regarding electing people who reflect traditional Kansas values. We went wrong when we elected the Eastern liberal - Sebelius (Ohio) and her Liberal lap dogs, Kelly (New York) etc. to office. It will take years to clean up the mess created by their overspending.

keith manies 4 years, 11 months ago

What a joke! It was the bone headed conservative Republicans in the state legislature who cut taxes, over and over again, during the state's more prosperous period in the last 20 years that has helped lead us to this financial crisis. Why didn't they save some money in a rainy day fund so there would be some extra funding for education, the poor, and the disabled?! Instead, we cut taxes, handed out corporate tax abatements, and followed the disasterous policies of the gNOp party. This state has been ill served by the idiotic policies of right. It may be easy to attack Sebelius and her supporters at this point, but the Republicans controlled both chambers in the State House and therefore the purse strings. It is their policies that have lead to this horrible situation! Yes, it will take years to recover from their near sighted tax policies!!

Frank Smith 4 years, 11 months ago

There is a sacrosanct tax exemption on oil stripper wells, passed decades ago when it was selling for $7 a barrel.

The price is ten times that now (and was 20x as high two years ago) but they are still pumping millions of barrels of our resources out of the ground with no severance taxes, which are levied in virtually every other state!

Hopefully, the Republicans will get a clue at last about this one!

Jonathan Becker 4 years, 11 months ago

In reply to LogicMan, Article 6, Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution mandates the Legislature to provide for public schools. Article 6, Section 6(b) in first sentence contains the relevant section that requires the legislature to provide for financing of education. This is the section that gave rise to the litigation where the Kansas Supreme Court found the legislature had to provide for financing for public schools. The constitutional crisis was avoided by the Court giving the Legislature time to legislate more money for schools. It does not matter whether it is 10% or over 50% of the state budget. The Constitution requires the legislature to provide money for a suitable education. Now we can argue about the phrase 'suitable education'. Some neanderthal will say readin', 'ritin' and 'rithmetic, is a suitable education. The problem is the query: Is that constitutional? Again, the language of Article 6, Section 1, tells us what is the purpose of public schools -- "intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement." Fulfilling that constitutional phrase won't be met by just funding the three R's.

Article 6 could be read to require the legislature to provide all the funding for public schools, rather than the ragtag formula we now have -- some from fed, some from state, some from local taxes (primarily taxes), some from fees. A strict constructionist could read the plain language of Article 6 to require no less.

anon1958 4 years, 11 months ago

Thank you slowponder for the explicit and succinct statement that explains the state constitutional basis for funding schools at an appropriate level.

Your statement should be repeated ad nauseum until all the right wing anti-education cretins reform or die from apoplexy.

ASBESTOS 4 years, 11 months ago

What about the school districts located in large cities that give tax abatements?

That is not addressed in the constitution. Here are some sections and article 5 could give them a little bit of problems:

5: Local public schools. Local public schools under the general supervision of the state board of education shall be maintained, developed and operated by locally elected boards. When authorized by law, such boards may make and carry out agreements for cooperative operation and administration of educational programs under the general supervision of the state board of education, but such agreements shall be subject to limitation, change or termination by the legislature.

6: Finance.

(a) The legislature may levy a permanent tax for the use and benefit of state institutions of higher education and apportion among and appropriate the same to the several institutions, which levy, apportionment and appropriation shall continue until changed by statute. Further appropriation and other provision for finance of institutions of higher education may be made by the legislature.

(b) The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. No tuition shall be charged for attendance at any public school to pupils required by law to attend such school, except such fees or supplemental charges as may be authorized by law. The legislature may authorize the state board of regents to establish tuition, fees and charges at institutions under its supervision.

ASBESTOS 4 years, 11 months ago

" but such agreements shall be subject to limitation, change or termination by the legislature."

That means that those agreements could include the tax abatements and can be terminated by the legislature. In the finance section:

"apportionment and appropriation shall continue until changed by statute."

All they got to do is get a simple majority.

Jonathan Becker 4 years, 11 months ago

Another out for the legislature is found in the Constitution in Article 2, Section 21 that permits the legislature to pass responsibility to locals. In section 21 it reads, "The legislature may confer powers of local legislation and administration upon political subdivisions." The phrase 'local legislation' permits the legislature to say, 'school finance is an inherently local issue so we will just let the local school boards to go to their voters and get the money they need/want.'

The bottom line is that there is not enough money in Topeka to educate, to keep the prisons locked, to provide for the needy and to make sure basic services -- national guard, road, police, fire, water and sewers -- are funded. So like our own houses, we have to cut expenses (how about reducing legislator's per diem and salaries????), or increase income.

There are two ways to increase income for governments -- tax or deficit fund programs that will produce additional taxes, such as jobs programs. The Constitution forbids deficit budgets, so we are down to one option -- tax.

Now Marion suggests the Laffer Curve solution as a viable option. Cut taxes to encourage businesses to hire more people for jobs and produce more wages to be taxed and therefore produce more income for the government. How did that work out in the Reagan Era? The federal deficit tripled in the 8 years of Reagan, government size doubled, yet wages remained stagnant.

So the options are cut expenses or increase income by tax. The reasonable answer is: do a little of both.

deskboy04 4 years, 11 months ago

Schools could do a number of things to save money...quit doing all of those expensive in-service programs, cut out of state travel for conventions/meetings, consolidate districts, etc.

finance 4 years, 11 months ago

To everyone: shoulders sagging over your aggrieved life and your oh-so-unfair crushing tax burden? Cheer up! It's 2010, not the 1980s or 1990s. Just read my earlier post (surely you missed it, or you wouldn't be complaining...chuckle). You can find it at http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/dec/18/schools-turn-supreme-court/#c1086640

To slowponder: I agree with your first post on this current page regarding avoidance of state constitutional crisis and the state education article's mandate. Good work.

I respectfully disagree, though, with your second post. I do not believe it is possible to use one article of the state constitution to override or supplant another article when the article suggested for different interpretation (override) is subordinate to the real issue at hand. Namely, Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution is a direct and undeniable assignment of responsibility for education's maintenance and well-being, and Article 2 cannot override. In constitutional matters, courts look to original framers' intent, and also to sister states' applications of the same principle. For nearly 60 years, sister states' interpretations of state education articles have solidly supported the concept that the state may not overly delegate (through a local control guise) its education funding duty. While admittedly the dispute has been batted about forever, states attempting to completely shirk the funding of public schools have been rebuffed by courts--in fact, education would be far worse off today had this not been the historical reality.

Bottom line: for those of you wishing to rewrite the state constitution, go ahead and enjoy your fantasy. Yes, the constitution can be amended: but, the courts will be there (in a checks-and-balances system) to make certain the legislature doesn't step too far out of line. Translation: if you wish to amend the state constitution to embrace inequity and neglect, a court will stop you. Proof enough that there is a God, or tyranny would reign.

Oh, commuter: you're a little late with your attempt at suggesting those of us who favor the public good should be the first to pay our taxes and to volunteer extra money. Flashback to my post in late December when I already offered to do this: or did you take your cue from my idea and try to make it into something bitter? Anyway, in case you missed my post, you can read it at your leisure at http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/dec/27/education-ace/?opinion#comments

finance 4 years, 11 months ago

Hmmm... my post at 10:20am, and nothing since and it's now 5:07pm. More than 7 hours later. Disappointing. Why do I always get the last word (see my previous posts, when I am often the last contributor)? Could it be that my comments are irrefutable and no one can respond sensibly? Or perhaps it is that I join the debate too late? Or is it something else--like I'm a pariah in a state bent on self-destruction where I can't even draw invective from a largely inarticulate but hugely angry mass of illiterates? Oh well...whatever...I am enjoying the bear-baiting game.

Actually, in real life I'd probably like some of my critics on a personal level. Go figure. :)

windex 4 years, 11 months ago

Finance says: "Could it be that my comments are irrefutable and no one can respond sensibly?"

This. Yep. Finance, you rock.

anon1958 4 years, 11 months ago

Hmmm… my post at 10:20am, and nothing since and it's now 5:07pm. More than 7 hours later. Disappointing.

Dont take it personally, there is lots to do during those hours of the day!

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