Archive for Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Amid budget woes, Kansas proposes ending monthly tax reports

Sam Williams, right, who chaired a task force to review the state's revenue estimating process, outlines the group's recommendations for changes with Budget Director Shawn Sullivan, center, and Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan.

Sam Williams, right, who chaired a task force to review the state's revenue estimating process, outlines the group's recommendations for changes with Budget Director Shawn Sullivan, center, and Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan.

October 4, 2016, 11:09 a.m. Updated October 4, 2016, 4:29 p.m.


— A task force that Gov. Sam Brownback appointed in June is recommending sweeping changes to the way state officials forecast how much revenue the state will take in each year, including how much of that information is disclosed to the public.

That would include stopping the current practice of issuing reports comparing how much the state actually collects each month with official estimates of how much the state was expected to collect, reports that in recent months have exposed significant shortfalls that are likely to lead to large spending cuts later in the fiscal year.

Instead, the group called for issuing monthly reports that compare only actual collections each month with actual collections from the same month the prior year.

The report was released Tuesday, one day after the Department of Revenue reported that tax collections in September came in nearly $45 million short of projections and that the state now faces a potential $62 million shortfall for the current fiscal year.

It was the fifth consecutive month in which revenues failed to meet projections, and the 10th month out of the last 12. In fact, revenues have fallen short of projections more often than not since 2013, when the large-scale tax cuts that Brownback championed during his first term went into effect.

That has prompted many people in state government to debate whether the tax cuts had a more profound impact on revenues than forecasters predicted at the time or whether the forecasting process itself is flawed.

“This is not just a response to the environment that we’re in,” said Sam Williams, a retired Wichita businessman who led the task force. “Our responsibility was to get above the environment we’re in and say, ‘What would be best practices?’”

But Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, the ranking Democrat on the Senate tax committee, questioned the idea of halting the monthly comparisons between actual and projected tax collections.

“For the life of me, I cannot figure out why we would take away from policymakers information they need to make state policy,” he said. “It sounds to me like someone who doesn’t want to be held accountable for past policy decisions.”

Since 1975, Kansas has relied on what is called the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, which is made up of budget analysts from the governor’s office and the Legislature, as well as economists from each of the state’s three research universities. They meet in secret twice a year to examine trends in the state and national economy that could affect revenues as well as recent trends in state tax collections.

They issue a report each November, which the governor uses in preparing the budget proposal that he or she submits to the Legislature, and an updated report in April, which the Legislature uses in preparing the final budget.

For most of the time that process has been used, past budget officials have said the estimates proved to be highly accurate, except in times when there were sudden and unexpected upward or downward trends in the national economy, or when there have been major changes in tax policy.

But Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said that for the last two years, two factors have come into play which he said have thrown the estimating process off.

“What we’ve had over the last two years is kind of a storm of tax policy changes and the economy lagging behind,” Jordan said. “That’s not just Kansas. That’s nationally. That’s the states surrounding us.”

The task force made several other recommendations that Wilson said would improve the accuracy of revenue forecasts, as well as the “fiscal notes” that are prepared for tax bills in the Legislature estimating how much revenue would be lost or gained through different policy changes. Those recommendations included:

• Using outside reports about national and global economic trends such as the ones prepared by Moody’s Investor Services, a major bond rating company.

• Including more industry experts from various sectors of the Kansas economy when preparing economic outlook statements about the Kansas economy.

• Purchasing more sophisticated software for economic and revenue modeling.

• Performing separate estimates of capital gains taxes, which are part of individual income taxes, because capital gains fluctuate more directly with ups and downs in the stock market and real estate sector.

• And changing the makeup of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group to include only one economist, selected through a request for proposals, who would work on both economic and revenue forecasts.

Jordan and Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said the administration planned to move forward with as many recommendations as it can on its own. But other recommendations, including the one to stop reporting monthly comparisons between actual and estimated tax collections, would also need approval from the Legislature’s nonpartisan research staff. And still others would require changes in state law.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka, meanwhile, said he questioned the need for changing the estimating process as well.

“Changing the estimating process is like moving the goal post instead of replacing the kicker who can’t make the goal,” he said. “Despite what Sam Brownback believes, the problem is not the estimating process. The problem is his reckless tax experiment.”


Amy Varoli Elliott 1 year, 5 months ago

So basically they want to keep the public in the dark on if the state is on track end the year in the black

Bob Forer 1 year, 5 months ago

"Government transparency is essential to government accountability.Americans need to feel they can trust their government," Sen. Brownback stated."

Brownback is a serial liar, opportunist and scoundrel just like his good buddy Trump.

Chuck Holder 1 year, 5 months ago

Since 83% of the time the budget is short I don't think we have to worry about missing any sign of it being in the "black".

Michael Kaufman 1 year, 5 months ago

What they don't know will keep these incompetent fools in office even longer.

Gary Pomeroy 1 year, 5 months ago

Just when you think the Guv and his accomplices have hit rock bottom, they whip out a shovel and start digging. if you are not going to compare the actual numbers to the projections, then what is the purpose of the projections? So when they change the procedure and compare to the prior year and the numbers still are in the toilet, then what will they do? Stop providing the information at all? Holy crap, Batman . . . .

Chuck Holder 1 year, 5 months ago

Have to keep the Kansas (R) people in the dark especially with the election next month.

Gary Pomeroy 1 year, 5 months ago

And the current projections are the same ones they downgraded last year . . . .

Tracy Rogers 1 year, 5 months ago

I can promise you this. If actual revenues were exceeding projections month after month, we'd continue to hear about it.

Paul Beyer 1 year, 5 months ago

Doe any intelligent person not see this coming from a brownie appointed committee? When they were appointed, they knew what their results had better be. In other words, they better not show how incompetent brownie is and what hie "experiment" is doing.

Joe Blackford II 1 year, 5 months ago

Kansans just can't get Sam the Sham & the SayNos' tune out of their heads, what with the monthly release of NickyJ's enigmatic figurative composition "My Numbers Don't Add Up (to nuthin' much)"

The Sham's lucrative contract with Chuck & Dave's PAYOLA RECORDS has bankrolled Brownback's Atlas of Road Maps To Nowhere, an experimental genre of undelivered promises evoking mournful wails from even the most ardent listeners.

Max Haefele 1 year, 5 months ago


The task force latest recommendation is to release the monthly projections only AFTER the actual numbers have been published. Task force chairman Sam Williams has assured us that the the projections will not be tampered with at all. When asked how he can guarantee that the projections won't be edited the former CEO of KOCH Industries ad agency said, "We promise that we will keep the numbers sealed in a mayonnaise jar on the front porch of Kris Kobach's front porch."
Watch this space for more on Brownback's negotiation to buy the Brooklyn Bridge and relocate it to ocean front property in western Kansas.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 5 months ago

We need an external audit of the Kansas finances and then some charges on the cooking of the books.

Michael Kort 1 year, 5 months ago

Well, some of Brownback's Republican cronies are up for reelection in November and the failures of Brownies' Regime to meet it's fantasy taxed income goals, which were all a scam to begin with, after their irresponsible tax cuts given to the LLCs, will definitely be on trial in Novembers' voting .

So, now the Republicans want to hide from the Kansas public, the fruits of their best thinking because they think that our memories are so short, as to only contain what we had for dinner .

Vote the bums out !

End the reign of the Republican fraud machine because you are not going to like what will continue to go on in Kansas if you don't .

Phil Minkin 1 year, 5 months ago

When faced with bad news just stop reporting. BRILLIANT!!

Michael Kort 1 year, 5 months ago

Scam Alert ! ! ! Sam Alert ! ! !...............What is the difference ?

Zoe Flowers 1 year, 5 months ago

Reminds me of that old saying, the best way to grow mushrooms is to keep them in the dark and feed them sh*t.

Bob Forer 1 year, 5 months ago

You made me snort my coffee, darn you.

Michael Kort 1 year, 5 months ago

Looks like their failed Republican Ouija Board predictions of their hand engineered great financial tax revenues, are "ratting them out" to the public .

This is the perfect yardstick of their failure to govern in the interests of all Kansans as they now rob the states reserves to continue their failed tax give alway policies for LLCs .

Where's the jobs ?...........lots for former legislators, as out sourcing lobbyists in Topeka .

Make no mistake........this move to HIDE the proof of their disasterous outcomes, is all about the coming Nov. election .......and the fact that the Republicans are doing a great job thru their predictive lies, of holding themselves up to the light, to well deserved ridicule before the public .

Leave them in office at your own peril,..... as you certainly won't like what they will most assuredly do next, to our state .

Michael Kaufman 1 year, 5 months ago

This same tax system is what Drumpf envisions for all of America. Cut taxes until there is NO money left, and then declare bankruptcy. Something he knows a lot about.

Gary Pomeroy 1 year, 5 months ago

Pay no attention to the Guv behind the curtain . . . .

beth newman 1 year, 5 months ago

This is what the neoliberal new normal looks like. Only a few folks living in Kansas think this is due to (gross) incompetence. This is a country wide agenda being put into practice. I have a really difficult time with the gullibility of the American citizen. Please be certain in that what they (the financial banking complex and the corporate state) have accomplished the last 20 years will continue and will be protected by the militarized police state. Like Thatcher said,"There is no alternative. " If the majority of Americans are still in denial of the New Normal and the reality that democracy is dead... Well then it's over. Not even a revolution will democratize this freakshow again.

David Wertz 1 year, 5 months ago

This is so Brownback can pocket more money!

Phillip Chappuie 1 year, 5 months ago

I think it would be a good idea to get rid of Sullivan and hire Eeyore. Might as well. Probably go broke anyway.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 5 months ago

OF COOURSE HE DOES!!!!!!!!! This idiot fool governor has been plotting to get more money from the Koch's (So he can buy even more attack ads against his political opponents) by giving them huge tax breaks.

He is hands down the most criminal elected official in the state. Our budget woes are directly related to his political antics and the state suffers from this criminal activity.


Gary Denning 1 year, 5 months ago

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. . . .

Larry Sturm 1 year, 5 months ago

If they don't publish the losing numbers the news media needs to sue them for open records act.

Ken Hunt 1 year, 5 months ago

Tea Party and Libertarian hangover! What nonsense. I raise a toast to the old two party Kansas and chuckle at the citizens who do not vote or reelected this stupid rabble.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

These jokers think they are are working for themselves HOWEVER they are working for the taxpayers and we taxpayers want weekly reports not monthly reports.

What the hell do they think they are doing? These libertarian radicals think like dictators Mussolini and Hitler.

Nothing is going to change. Bankruptcy has always been the agenda.

KPERS is in serious trouble.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

The Statehouse is moving forward on the ALEC agenda to defund and disable public education.

Turning the system over to profiteers will neither improve the system nor will it reduce the cost. Of course once in place a tax increase will be developed to keep the margins wherever the profiteers so desire.

Taxpaying school districts must decide whether or not we want to turn over the properties we own to profiteers. Our tax dollars are heavily invested in our local public schools.

School district taxpayers must decide if defunding and disabling public education will work anywhere.

School district taxpayers must decide if compromising the credentials of staff set forth over many decades is a policy we the local school district taxpayers cannot accept.

Are school district taxpayers willing to submit the authority to hire and fire personnel to the Statehouse?

Yes, public teachers deserve a wage that represents their investment in our children and their investment in their credentials.

Excellent public education is and has been a powerful driver of economic growth in most communities.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

"School district taxpayers must decide if compromising the credentials of staff set forth over many decades is a policy we the local school district taxpayers cannot accept" WRONG

School district taxpayers must decide if compromising the credentials of staff set forth over many decades is a policy we the local school district taxpayers CAN accept.

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