An interim version of a report presents possibilities of saving the state $2 billion over five years.
This week the Kansas Legislature received an interim version of the efficiency report it commissioned last year. Said by its creators to involve a team of more than 40 professionals who devoted over 6,000 hours, it is described as an “in-depth analysis of the operations of [participating state] agencies.”
The bottom line is this: “This report includes 105 recommendations which cumulatively would provide $2.04 billion in benefits to the State over the next five years.”
Undoubtedly this report will be the subject of discussion and debate over the next few years. It is through that process we will discover which recommendations are feasible, and more importantly, which are within the realm of political possibilities.
It’s important to place this report in context. In 2012 the legislature reduced tax rates. While some, perhaps many, do not like the way the tax cuts were distributed, a central fact remains: The cuts were designed to leave more money in the private sector. Therefore, state government needed to shrink in order to match the lower revenue. But that did not happen. The governor and legislature were unwilling to make meaningful spending cuts. Instead, the state used its positive bank balance to support increased spending, and then in 2015 raised taxes.
The question is this: Why didn’t the legislature initiate this efficiency study in 2012? Why did it wait until 2015? The authors of the study claim there is much savings to be had, more than what was needed to reconcile spending with revenue the past few years. But the last three years are now lost to time. If it’s true that the efficiency study will yield real savings, then the governor and legislature were three years late starting the process. There is no excuse for that, and all parties deserve criticism. The savings could have been used to reduce the burden of the state’s high sales tax on groceries for low-income families. The savings could have been used to tackle the waiting lists for social services. But these opportunities have been squandered.
More context is that Kansas liberals and moderates almost universally condemn the study and its $2.6 million price tag. But if the study produces real savings, they can be used to fund items like the two mentioned in the previous paragraph, or for other spending programs liberals and moderates want.
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