Kansas surpassed revenue estimates by $1.4 million for the month of November after lowering expectations three weeks ago.
The state faces an approximately $348 million budget shortfall after November’s revenue, which exceeded expectations by .34 percent, is included. Gov. Sam Brownback has said he will release his plans for closing the budget gap when the Legislature convenes in January.
Kansas has repeatedly lowered revenue expectations over the last two years, most recently downgrading expectations for the current fiscal year by $346 million in November. This is the first revenue report released by the Department of Revenue since those lowered estimates.
While Kansas beat estimates for the month, the state took in less money than it did at this point last year. Kansas took in $28.9 million less in tax revenue for the month of November than it did the previous year, a drop of 6.7 percent.
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Retail sales tax came in about $432,000 below estimates for the month, but the state beat estimates for individual income tax by $970,000. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan blamed the sales tax underperformance on a weak energy and agricultural sector.
Republican leaders responded with cautious optimism to the state beating revenue estimates for the first time since April.
Rep. Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, the House budget chairman, acknowledged this would do little to plug the budget hole but said he hoped it was a sign that the state’s estimates had become more reliable after the state’s economists made tweaks to the estimating process this year.
“Obviously, one month doesn’t set a trend, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ryckman, one of three Republicans running for speaker of the House.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, on the other hand, dismissed the report as insignificant.
“It doesn’t mean anything. We still have a $348 million shortfall in the current fiscal year. We go into the session with no leader,” Hensley said in reference to Brownback’s decision to wait until January to address the budget shortfall. “Bottom line is this state has gone to hell in a handbasket under Sam Brownback, and if they think this is somehow good news, it isn’t good news.”