Friday, August 17, 2012

Brownback asks agencies to propose 10 percent cuts

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Gov. Sam Brownback, who recently signed into law massive tax cuts, has directed state agencies to propose cuts in their budgets of 10 percent, according to a letter obtained Thursday by the Lawrence Journal-World.

His office said agencies should prepare for possible economic problems “that are beyond our control.”

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Brownback’s directive shows that the Republican governor “intends to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of seniors, the disabled and public safety.”

Davis added, “Gov. Brownback’s ‘road map for Kansas’ is already steering our state into the ditch, and the consequences of his failed priorities have only just begun.”

In past statements, Brownback has promised to protect education, Medicaid and public safety funding.

His spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said Thursday, “However, there are things agencies can do to reduce costs and streamline their offices without impacting services. The governor has asked state agencies to prepare contingency budget plans should something happen to the country and world economies that are beyond our control.”

State agencies are in the process of formulating spending plans for fiscal year 2014, which starts July 1, 2013.

The agency budget proposals are submitted to Brownback for review before Brownback releases his budget plan to the Legislature in January. Any final budget would have to be approved by the Legislature and governor.

Brownback’s budget director, Steve Anderson, directed agencies to propose the cuts.

“As you are likely aware, the FY 2014 budget will require prioritization of programs, consolidation of resources and consideration of alternatives to current organizational structures, funding streams and outdated ways of doing business,” Anderson wrote in a letter to agencies.

He added, “These reductions should be thoughtful efforts at conserving state funds and not simply repeating old proposals that are not practical.”

Anderson directs the agencies to provide a reduced resource package of 10 percent.

Anderson also said no salary increases should be part of the budget proposals and that the administration is preparing for “dramatic reductions” in tobacco settlement monies, which fund several children’s programs.

Brownback pushed through tax cuts during the last legislative session that will reduce state income tax rates and exempt the owners of 191,000 businesses from paying income taxes on nonwage income.

Democrats and some Republicans have said the tax cuts will benefit mostly the wealthy, are too large and will force cuts in state funding of schools, social services and public safety.

Under the cuts, tax revenue is projected to decline $4.5 billion over the next six years. The state budget totals about $6.2 billion in state revenue annually, and it sustained significant cuts during the recent recession.

The Legislature’s research staff forecast that the tax cuts would lead to a budget shortfall within a couple of years that could grow to a range of $2.5 billion to $3 billion in 2018.