Prairie Politics

House OKs budget fix that falls short of plugging budget hole in Kansas

The Kansas House passed a budget fix for the current year by a margin of more than 50 votes Wednesday, but few lawmakers were cheering the vote as a victory.

The bill may actually fall $800,000 short of closing the state’s budget hole after the state missed revenue expectations again last month, and lawmakers on both sides argued that the bill fails to address the causes of the state’s budget woes.

The vote inspired florid and fiery statements from lawmakers explaining their votes for the official House journal.

Lawmakers will have to regroup after this budget fix and fill the shortfall for the next year, which is estimated to be between $600 million and $700 million, according to the state’s Legislative Research Department.

‘No’ votes

“We have a cancer in Kansas government. It is growing rapidly and is destroying essential services, diminishing our public schools, reducing public safety and denigrating our infrastructure. Senate Bill 4 hurts poor children and damages KPERS but does nothing to cure the cancer killing the quality of life in Kansas. I vote no.”

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, arguing SB 4 does not address the causes of the state’s revenue shortfall, which he contends are income tax cuts passed in 2012

“Across-the-board cuts are a blunt instrument. Priority-based budgeting is a laser. … Until we quantify and annually evaluate the effectiveness of programs, we cannot confidently defend blunt cuts.”

Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, one of the few Republicans to vote against the bill, arguing that the state needs to analyze the effectiveness of its programs

‘Yes’ votes

“The vote today is not a choice. The state has an obligation to pay its bills. … But I will not support any other temporary fixes that enable magical thinking in favor of responsible public policy.”

Reps. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, and Diana Dierks, R-Salina, making a joint statement that they will not vote for another budget fix that fails to address the causes of the revenue shortfall

“I vote yes because I cannot bear the fact of Kansas not paying our bills. ... This bill is tantamount to handing a bottle of vodka to an alcoholic, and this must stop. Members of the body, it is time for us to go to taxation rehab. Kansas cannot continue on this self-destructive path.”

Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, comparing the state’s commitment to income tax cuts to an addiction

“Four years ago a consultant told us we were a high tax state on our way to being poor. We were advised that if we lowered our income tax we would be a wealthy state. That analysis was flawed and the advice we followed has led to the desperate budget and cash flow situation we face today. A yes vote today signals that our period of denial is finally over.”

Reps. Don Hill, R-Emporia, and Susie Swanson, R-Clay Center, referring to the advice economist Art Laffer gave the state when Gov. Sam Brownback first pushed for steep income tax cuts