Politics & Government

State's Feb. revenue is lower than forecast

TOPEKA — Kansas officials said Monday that the state's revenue collections in February fell $11.5 million short of expectations, complicating the state budget picture.

The new number means that total state revenue is now running $6.3 million behind expectations in the fiscal year that ends June 30. The Department of Revenue reported that February revenue totaled $224 million, compared with a forecast of $235.5 million for the month.

Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said Kansas still had collected $343.3 million more than it had through the same period in 2010. The bulk of that increase is likely attributable to the state increasing the sales tax rate by 1 percent last July.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to cut spending in the current budget and carry the savings into the next fiscal year to help close a projected $492 million shortfall.

Brownback had hoped to get a bill cutting spending by the end of January, but legislators ended the first half of their annual session Friday at an impasse over how to make those cuts.

"Today's report underscores the importance of getting the current fiscal year into balance without spending new money," said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor's spokeswoman.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said there remain positive signs in the agricultural economy to suggest a recovery. She said February is typically a down month for tax collections because many people are seeking their tax refunds.

"I hope March will be good," she said.

McGinn said she hopes House and Senate negotiators can make progress on resolving their differences over cuts in the current state budget once lawmakers return Wednesday to the Statehouse.

Senators still hope to provide an additional $26 million for special-education programs in public schools — even while cutting other parts of the budget — to avoid losing federal funds going forward. Other cuts can be tackled in the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, she said.

"We're going to continue working on cuts to make sure we got out of here with a balanced budget when we leave in May," she said.