Former budget director says tax cuts make higher education funding ‘vulnerable’

Former state budget director Duane Goossen said Monday that higher education funding was “vulnerable” because of huge tax cuts that he said are undermining the state budget.

“They have other resources and that is why they are probably more vulnerable,” Goossen said during a presentation at the Lawrence Public Library.

About 25 people attended the discussion, which was hosted by the Kansas Farmers Union.

Citing statistics provided by the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department, Goossen said the tax cuts championed by Gov. Sam Brownback will reduce revenues to the state general fund by $3.7 billion through 2018. The current annual budget is $6.3 billion.

Last year alone, the state took in $700 million less than the year before, as income tax and business tax cuts took effect, he said.

“No other state has done anything as dramatic as Kansas has done in the last two years,” said Goossen, who served as budget director for 12 years under Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, and Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson, both Democrats.

Brownback, a Republican, has argued the tax cuts will spur prosperity and job growth.

Goossen said that growth isn’t happening and state reserve funds will soon be used up, which will force deep spending reductions.

“The current approved budget will have to be cut back. The state should be acting right now,” he said.

Brownback’s Democratic opponent Paul Davis has been highly critical of Brownback’s tax policy. Davis has proposed stalling future tax cuts that are already in law.

But Goossen said with a Republican-majority Legislature that would be difficult to accomplish.

Goossen said the state highway fund might be another area that legislators use to help balance the budget. And, he said, rural school districts have been hit hard by property tax increases because of the lack of state funding.

Joseph Agrillo, of Lawrence, who attended the meeting, said he felt like more could be cut from the state budget and that legislators should be doing that now. “The longer you wait, the messier it gets,” he said.

Tamara Hagerman, a farmer from rural Douglas County, said she thought it was unfair that rural areas were seeing higher tax increases for schools than urban areas. When asked if the budget situation would affect her vote, she said, “Let’s just say, I’m not happy with the status quo.”

Goossen will speak on the budget in Seneca on Wednesday and Belleville on Thursday as part of the Farmers Union presentations.