Kansas budget can be balanced without tax increases

As the Kansas Legislature prepares to get to work next week producing a budget plan for the next year, Kansans are being told that tax increases are inevitable. Several sources, however, have ideas and detailed plans as to how the state can avoid tax increases.

Kansas Senator Chris Steineger, a Democrat from Kansas City, has a list of cost-cutting measures that could be implemented quickly. See Kansas can have fast, achievable savings for his list.

Steineger also has what he calls the billion dollar list, which contains items that could save even more money. Some of these proposals such as downsizing the legislature, consolidation of Kansas counties, and consolidation of state agencies, might take more time to implement. But these proposals, if implemented, would place Kansas government on a permanent low-cost track.

The Kansas Policy Institute has developed some proposals for savings that it delivered in the form of a letter to Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson. The proposal contains some revenue enhancements that are not in the form of tax increases, which is usually what proponents of revenue enhancements mean. It also contains many cost-cutting measures.

In the letter, KPI President Dave Trabert raises a point that I’ve not heard from any other source. The large budget gap that is routinely mentioned is composed in part of federal stimulus (ARRA) dollars that Kansas received, just like other states. But these funds will not be available in the next budget year, fiscal year 2011. According to KPI, ARRA funds accounted for $205 million of spending in fiscal year 2010.

Should these “missing” funds — which everyone knew were temporary — now be used to create a large “budget gap” in order to justify the need for tax increases? Trabert explains: “KPI uses a taxpayer-focused approach that defines 2010 spending as that which was funded by state taxes. Your proposed 2011 budget would allow government to continue spending at levels funded by both state and federal tax dollars. It was well known that the stimulus money was temporary and that the state should plan accordingly, so state taxpayers should not be required to pay more to make up the difference.”

The need to avoid further tax increases is vital to the Kansas economy, as Trabert notes in his letter to the governor: “The Kansas economy is already absorbing a $163 million unemployment tax increase that is negatively impacting jobs and we must do everything we can to avoid further damage.”

The KPI letter and analysis may be read by clicking on Letter to Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson.

Another plan comes from Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, which has prepared its commonsense budget proposal for fiscal year 2011. AFP’s plan contains both long-term and short-term measures for restoring our state’s fiscal health. It contains many specific measures that could be taken immediately to balance the budget without raising taxes.

The AFP document is a comprehensive look at Kansas government spending, as noted in the introduction: “Following the approach of a concise but broad-ranging examination of every function Kansas state government attempts to perform, AFP has produced a budget that makes real tax cuts possible for Kansas taxpayers. AFP has gone beyond the traditional cursory examinations of state spending where the stock solutions are merely eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and/or rooting out duplication.”

As an example, for the Revisor of Statutes office the proposal suggests this: “This department received an increase of over 23 percent for FY 2008 which only partially reflects the cost of two FTEs for committee staffing. With the updated computer systems and additional staffing the Revisor’s office should be able to suffice with the reduction of 15 percent of appropriations funding.”

The AFP budget proposal was developed by Steven J. Anderson, a certified public accountant with extensive experience in government accounting and budgets.

The AFP budget proposal may be read at AFP-Kansas releases FY 2011 “Commonsense Budget Proposal.”


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