Kansas' revenue lower than expected

TOPEKA — Kansas' projected budget shortfall has grown because of lower-than-expected revenue collections last month, complicating a debate on budget issues just before legislators open this year's session.

Revenue in December was almost $23 million less than anticipated, the Kansas Legislative Research Department reported Wednesday. The shortfall was 4.3 percent.

The department also projected the budget shortfall at $392 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, based on the latest revenue figures.

Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson and the Republican-controlled Legislature must eliminate the gap between anticipated revenue and spending commitments.

Legislators begin their annual, 90-day session Monday. Parkinson has said he won't seek deep spending cuts to keep the budget balanced, but many legislators don't want to increase taxes.

"This is one, I think, we're going to have to hunker down and weather," said House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson. "The good news is this recession is going to end. The bad news is it's not going to end tomorrow."

Officials had predicted Kansas would collect about $536 million in general revenue in December. Instead, it took in only $513 million.

The picture for the current fiscal year so far, from July 1 through Dec. 31, is a little better because of a small revenue surplus in November. During the past six months, the state collected about $2.47 billion, or about $17 million less than forecast.

Individual income taxes — the state's biggest source of revenue — fell $29 million short of the target for the past six months, a shortfall of 2.5 percent. The state collected $1.16 billion.

The state had nearly 14 percent fewer manufacturing jobs in November than in November 2008, an employment decline of more than 26,000, according to the Kansas Department of Labor. Aviation, a key part of the Kansas economy, has been hit especially hard.

"Until that sector gains some traction, it's going to be difficult to get rid of the recession," said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.