Gov. Brownback signs $15.6 billion state budget

Nixes items on disability, mental health programs

In this June 7, 2017 file photo, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback comments during a news conference about the Legislature's override of his veto of a bill increasing income taxes to fix the state budget, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

? Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Sunday signed a state budget for the next two years that will use a $1.2 billion income tax increase to fund government and schools, although he says it includes “excessive spending.”

Brownback signed the $15.6 billion budget bill on Sunday but complained that it unnecessarily increased spending in several areas.

“I am signing the budget, despite my concerns about excessive spending, to avoid a break in core functions of government and to provide state workers with well-deserved pay increases,” Brownback said.

The budget will provide raises of up to 5 percent to state workers who haven’t had any in recent years.

Brownback vetoed two items related to programs for people with disabilities and mental health programs. Lawmakers will have a chance to override those vetoes Monday.

House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, told the Topeka Capital-Journal he planned to lead an effort to override Brownback’s effort to combine seven Medicaid programs for the disabled into one group. Ward said the budget reinvests in services that have been neglected by Brownback’s administration.

Earlier in the session, Brownback vetoed a bill that rolled back tax cuts that he and other conservatives championed in 2012 and 2013 and that came to be known as the Kansas experiment, but lawmakers overrode that veto in what was widely seen as a repudiation of Brownback’s fiscal legacy. The state had been facing a budget hole of $889 million through June 2019 before the tax increase was passed.

Brownback already had signed a separate plan increasing spending on public schools to meet a state Supreme Court mandate.

The budget calls for continued annual spending from all sources, including the federal government, of about $16 billion. It authorizes $15.6 billion in spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and $15.8 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2018. The portion financed with state tax dollars other than highway funds will grow from the current $6.3 billion to roughly $6.6 billion for each of the next two years.

State workers haven’t seen across-the-board raises since 2008. Some have received pay raises to make their salaries more competitive with other states or private employment, and the state provided a one-time, $250 bonus in 2013.

The budget legislation provides a 5 percent raise to employees working five or more years for the state who haven’t had a raise within the past five years. Others working for the state would receive a 2.5 percent raise if they haven’t had an increase in the past two years. All employees in the state’s court systems will get a 2.5 percent raise because their salaries are often far below market rates. Legislators get no pay increase.