Parkinson, Senate leaders predict mix of tax increases to solve budget crisis

Gov. Mark Parkinson speaks Wednesday at news conference following first adjournment of the 2010 legislative session. Parkinson says a majority of legislators oppose any more budget cuts and that a consensus is forming on the need to increase taxes.

? After six rounds of state budget cuts, the appetite to cut more just isn’t there, state leaders said Wednesday.

That means the prospect of raising taxes gains prominence as legislators adjourned the regular session and headed home for a nearly one-month break.

“There is a clear majority for no more cuts,” Gov. Mark Parkinson said. “I also believe there is a majority to raise revenue.”

Parkinson said a final tax increase would need to be approximately $400 million to bridge the revenue gap for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The Legislature adjourned without producing a budget plan — an unprecedented occurrence, longtime state officials said.

Over the past year, the state budget has been cut at different times for a total of nearly $1 billion from what was once a $6.4 billion budget.

Leading legislators said they want to get a revised revenue estimate on April 16 before tackling the next budget in the wrap-up session, which starts April 28.

They got a glimmer of hope Wednesday when they learned that tax collections for March were $12 million more than expected, although for the current fiscal year, revenue estimates trail collections by $93 million.

Parkinson has proposed a three-year, 1-cent increase in the state sales tax of 5.3 cents per dollar. He has also pushed for a 55-cent per pack cigarette tax increase. But he said he is willing to consider other options.

Earlier Wednesday, Senate Republican leaders sounded in agreement with Parkinson, who is a Democrat, on the need for taxes.

“We’ve made as deep of cuts as we can in the current budget,” said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

Morris said he didn’t know what increases the Legislature would agree on, but a package could include increases in the state sales and tobacco taxes.

“We will end up with a mix. We don’t know exactly what the mix will be,” he said.

State Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said factions of legislators are forming.

“Lines have been drawn in the sand,” he said.

Some refuse to cut education any more, some are working against any further cuts in social services, and others, including Emler, are against cuts to prisons and public safety. The Ways and Means Committee will start meeting April 19 to put a budget and tax package together.