Final budget legislation still fails to provide long-term budget solutions for Kansas

Here’s a message from Americans For Prosperity — Kansas that, I believe, accurately assesses the current legislative session — now nearly over — and also the past few sessions. AFP State Director Derrick Sontag doesn’t mention the inflow of federal stimulus funds which took a lot of pressure off the legislature. That stimulus money isn’t free, however, and the burden of paying for it will show up somewhere else in the future.

TOPEKA — Kansas legislators are wrapping up the 2009 Kansas Legislative session. Although some progress was made toward closing the state’s budget deficit, long-term solutions were not created, said Americans for Prosperity-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag.

“Last week Governor Parkinson and many in the Legislature put multiple tax increase proposals on the table for consideration involving halting the phase-outs of the franchise and estate taxes, along with decoupling legislation,” Sontag said. “AFP vehemently fought these proposals, communicating to lawmakers that Kansas taxpayers shouldn’t bear the brunt of the Legislature’s failure to efficiently spend tax payer dollars.

“While we’re pleased that legislators were willing to make some tough decisions on the budget without simply turning to taxpayers for more, it’s disappointing to see where their priorities were in terms of budget cuts.”

The bill sent to the Governor for approval includes an additional $38 million in bonding for the statehouse renovations while slashing public safety funding by $8 million, as well as cutting more than 10% of funding to the Judiciary that may result in a 30 day furlough for certain Judiciary employees.

“We fear this budget is too short-sighted, as we will be no better off in the fiscal years ahead,” Sontag said. “According to Kansas Legislative Research, in the next two fiscal years, 2011 and 2012, our deficit will be even more than the $330 million shortfall for fiscal year 2010.

“It’s key to remember that just 22 months ago we had $934 million in the bank and now, even with the tax bill passed by legislators, our ending balance will be only $17,000.”

Sontag said we must change the way we spend money in Topeka because temporary budget cuts and shifting money around will not make our state fiscally solvent.

“This would not have happened had our expenditures only matched receipts for the past four years, but we let spending spiral out of control,” said Sontag. “State general fund spending increased by 48% between FY 2004 and FY 2008, while revenue receipts increased by 38% during that same time period. The days of deficit spending have come to an end and now the legislature should focus on enacting budget reform measures from this point forward.”

AFP has supported such budget reform measures as zero-based budgeting, which requires agencies to take a top-to-bottom approach look at their expenditures, and a budget stabilization fund that requires the state to put money aside as a cushion to see us through economic downturns without making drastic cuts to essential government services and public safety.

“Public safety is the most essential function of government, yet some lawmakers chose to cut its funding by millions of dollars instead of applying more cuts to public education, a part of government that has realized a 53% increase in spending since 2003,” said Sontag. “AFP will continue to encourage legislators to consider real budget reform in the future to address the budget situation, without increasing the burden on taxpayers in the next session.”

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