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Brownback budget math is unrealistic

Our editorial about Gov. Sam Brownback's State of the State address asked: Does the math work? The release of his budget plan provided the answer: Not really – particularly based on what's politically realistic. Brownback said in his optimistic speech Tuesday night that his two-year budget proposal would further reduce taxes, balance the budget, maintain the state's 7.5 percent ending balance and "meet the needs of our people." What wasn't clear was how it could do all that and cover the loss of an estimated $700 million in tax revenue in fiscal year 2014. Well, it mostly does so by raising taxes – which is unlikely to happen. Brownback wants the state to make the temporary statewide sales-tax increase permanent. Doing so would generate about $262 million per year. But many lawmakers campaigned against the tax increase or promised that it would expire after three years. That's why the idea went nowhere when Brownback first proposed it last year – and why it's likely to die quickly again. Brownback also revived another idea that flopped last year: Eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction. Brownback's budget also ignores last week's court ruling that school funding is unconstitutionally low. Rather than increase funding by about $440 million to return it to 2008 levels, Brownback keeps base state aid flat next year and includes only a slight increase the following year.