Kansas tax revenues less than expected in December

TOPEKA | Kansas collected 7.2 percent less than anticipated in general tax revenues in December, a sign that its budget problems might not have hit bottom.

"It's obviously not looking good at all," incoming Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican, said Friday. "But I'm not surprised at all."

Legislative researchers already have projected the state will end its current fiscal year on June 30 with a $141 million budget deficit. They also say if the problems aren't addressed, the shortfall between anticipated revenues and current spending commitments will surpass $1 billion by June 30, 2010.

Preliminary figures from the Department of Revenue showed the state collected almost $482 million in general tax revenues in December. But financial forecasters had predicted more than $519 million in tax collections — a difference of $38.6 million.

Revenues also fell short of expectations in November, just weeks after state officials and university economists issued the current fiscal forecast for state government.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and legislators must use the forecast in making budget decisions, but the latest numbers suggest the state's finances are in even worse shape than it shows.

Legislators convene their annual session Jan. 12, and the state's budget problems are considered their most pressing issue.