Representative Mike O’Neal, Republican from Hutchinson, is the new Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives. He spoke on January 10 at Americans For Prosperity‘s Defending the American Dream Summit in Wichita.
His speech warned of tough times ahead, with a difficult job for both the legislature and citizens. Part of the problem is that we’ve been spending a lot in recent years: “Kansas is a cash basis state. We have spent more in the last four years than we’ve taken in, primarily because we’ve had healthy balances, and because we have had, historically, some decent economic growth. That, however, is not, and should not be, the justification for growing government and continuing to spend money without looking out on the horizon to see what economic markets are going to do.”
He said that the current year deficit (the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009) is around $190 million. But the number to aim for is $290 million, so that there is an ending balance. Then for fiscal year 2010 (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), somewhere near $1 billion.
That’s the bad news, he said. “The good news is that presents us with an excellent opportunity to do things fundamentally different with the way we look at state budgets. … It would probably surprise many of you in this room to learn that we do not conduct financial audits of the state budget, and have not done that for a number of years.”
“We simply spend our session looking at the governor’s enhancement budget for those agencies, and determine what, if any, enhancements we’re going to allow. That is not going to happen this year. … We are looking at making fundamental cuts in the budget.”
He went on to say that we’ve known of the trouble with the budget for about 90 days. So why hasn’t anything been done? The legislature couldn’t do anything because it wasn’t in session. But, Governor Kathleen Sebelius can do things when the legislature is not in session. She can make targeted cuts. With permission of the finance council, she could make across-the-board cuts. But she’s not done either.
The Wichita Eagle provided coverage of O’Neal’s talk, including some remarks made afterwards, in the article Speaker says cuts will be painful.