Advertisement

Archive for Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kansas’ projected budget shortfall rises to $550 million

January 5, 2011, 11:25 a.m. Updated January 5, 2011, 1:38 p.m.

Advertisement

Kansas Rep. Ann Mah talks about challenges facing the state budget

State Rep. Ann Mah talks with LJWorld.com reporter Scott Rothschild at the Legislative Priorities Breakfast at Macelli's, 1031 N. H., on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Mah says the budget will be the main issue for 2011. Enlarge video

Kansas Rep. TerriLois Gregory talks about budget challenges for the state

Kansas Rep. TerriLois Gregory talks with LJWorld.com reporter Scott Rothschild at the Legislative Priorities Breakfast at Macelli's, 1031 N. H., on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Gregory says the budget will be the main issue for 2011. Enlarge video

— Kansas officials learned Wednesday that the state's projected budget shortfall has grown to $550 million, as the state Supreme Court announced that it has appointed a commission to hunt for ways to make the judicial branch more efficient.

The timing of the two events was a coincidence, but they underscored the state's ongoing financial struggles. The projected budget gap grew because the state's revenues in December fell short of expectations, and the new commission is largely a response to budget problems that forced court offices to close four extra days earlier this year.

The projected shortfall represents the gap between projected revenues and current spending commitments for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and it now represents about 9 percent of those commitments. Gov.-elect Sam Brownback and the Legislature will have to eliminate the gap once he takes office and lawmakers open their annual session, both Monday. Before December's revenues were tallied, the projected shortfall was shy of $500 million.

The new figure was contained in an internal Kansas Legislative Research Department report obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, before the information began circulating to lawmakers and other officials.

"It's reflective of when you have an economy that's not going in the right direction," said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag. "There won't be any good choices, but we're hopeful that folks in Kansas who care about issues like education and social services help the governor-elect get the state's economy growing again."

The Supreme Court's announcement about its commission followed its decision in August to examine caseloads throughout the state's judicial branch, generating information that takes into account which courts handle the largest number of complex cases. It's the first time the court system has undertaken such a detailed study.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said the commission can consider issues such as the number of court offices, their hours of operation, the use of technology to lower costs and increasing the system's flexibility in using its staff. He said the goals are to preserve Kansans' access to justice while delivering services as cost-effectively as possible.

The commission has 24 members from across the state, led by Court of Appeals Judge Patrick McAnany and includes members appointed by Brownback, outgoing Gov. Mark Parkinson and legislative leaders. It includes trial judges, attorneys, business owners and state officials.

Nuss said in an interview that the Supreme Court's members decided last summer to initiate a review of the court system's workload and its operations.

"We're tired of just reacting to events and having knee-jerk reactions," Nuss said. "We spend a lot of time on this, and it just goes from event to event. Let's do some long-range planning here, particularly concerning the financial situation."

The bulk of the judicial branch's $121 million is financed with state tax dollars, and most of its costs are associated with its payroll — leaving it relatively little flexibility when funds grow short. That's what led the Supreme Court to order unpaid days off for the court system's employees earlier this year.

Nuss said he's hoping the commission's work can serve as an example to other parts of state government. Brownback has already promised to look for efficiencies throughout the executive branch.

Kansas went through multiple rounds of belt-tightening in 2009, after the start of the Great Recession, but Parkinson pushed successfully last year for an increase in the state sales tax to prevent further budget cuts.

The state still has a projected shortfall largely because it has been using federal economic stimulus funds to prop up aid to public schools and social services, and those funds won't be available in the next fiscal year. Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature's leaders have ruled out another tax increase this year.

Before December's revenues were tallied, the projected deficit was approaching $500 million.

"The hole continues to grow because of the December receipts," said Alan Conroy, the Legislative Research Department's director.

Comments

LogicMan 3 years, 9 months ago

Time, yet again, to tighten belts.

To start:

A slightly flexible State hiring freeze. Suspension of all capital purchases and construction projects.

0

gccs14r 3 years, 9 months ago

How about no more new roads? We have plenty to take care of already. We can also stop with the tax giveaways to the corporatists.

0

kcregalman 3 years, 9 months ago

Kansas wouldnt be in suck a financial hole if they hadnt "screwed" up the casinos at the dog tracks in kc and wichita

0

KEITHMILES05 3 years, 9 months ago

For all the talk Brownie has been doing he's going to have to solve this. Time for the talk to finally be reality and dumb cliches and politics hub bub to cease.

0

Fossick 3 years, 9 months ago

Yup, put up or shut up time. Time to make some popcorn and watch the show.

Ought to be better than The Bachelor even.

0

Orwell 3 years, 9 months ago

Safe bet: the cuts won't be in any of the various forms of corporate welfare. We'll continue to subsidize the "free market."

0

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

Where do you think he'll cut, given his promise to protect education and social services?

0

Clark Coan 3 years, 9 months ago

"There won't be any good choices, but we're hopeful that folks in Kansas who care about issues like education and social services help the governor-elect get the state's economy growing again."

This means BIG cuts in education and social services. They certainly are not going to cut highways or prisons.

0

gccs14r 3 years, 9 months ago

Sure, just get every kid to bring a pound of coal to school each day. Five kids can share one textbook, too, with each one getting it for one day per week. Have all the students meet in the gym, rather than individual classrooms, and have one teacher for 1,000 students. Yep, that'll work. Gotta have priorities, don'tcha know.

0

Shardwurm 3 years, 9 months ago

Technically there is only one teacher per 1000 students now.

One good one that is.

0

Shardwurm 3 years, 9 months ago

Alright folks, the day of reckoning is nigh.

Just as a favor, can you teachers and KU zealots shut up about pay increase for just a week or two?

There is no money. There is no money. There is no money.

Write that on your chalkboard 1,000 times.

KU's Chancellor continues to cry about losing top researchers to other institutions. Guess what? There's no money in ANY state right now. Go ahead and research that if you want something worthwhile to study. We're not in danger of losing any public teachers or blood-sucking KU professors right now.

There are no jobs. There is no money...anywhere. So please...give your lamentations about how bad you have it a rest. Those of us struggling to keep our jobs and pay the taxes that create your paychecks are tired of hearing you whine. We don't have guaranteed positions, tenure, and 3 months off every year.

0

jafs 3 years, 9 months ago

The legislature determined the correct amount to adequately fund our educational system, and the Supreme Court ruled that they must live up to their constitutional obligation to do so.

Structuring tax policies so that there's not enough revenue to meet that obligation, and then saying teachers should just shut up and make do is clearly incorrect.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 9 months ago

"There is no money. There is no money. There is no money."

That's not true. There's plenty of money available if it's used to cover the priorities, and I'd include education right at the top of that list.

But we're in the middle of a class war, and "austerity" is the latest weapon now that our economic overlords have trashed the economy with their greed, corruption and outright incompetence. But they don't intend to be hit with any of the costs of that, preferring instead a race to the bottom for everyone else.

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.