Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brownback says asking for 10 percent cuts in state agencies just first step in budget review process

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday sought to calm fears about budget cuts after his administration called for state agencies to submit to his office budget recommendations that cut 10 percent.

“This is not an unusual exercise,” said Brownback, adding that the directive to agencies was a first step in a process of budget review by his office.

Democrats have said the directive is the opening salvo in what will be years of budget crises caused by Brownback’s tax cuts.

“The governor has now proven that he intends to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of seniors, the disabled and public safety,” House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Thursday.

But Brownback said he will not cut Medicaid spending and do everything he can to protect funding to public schools.

“I want to see what the proposals look like,” he said of the agency budgets. “We are going to do everything we can to get costs down, while we protect core functions of government,” he told reporters shortly after he presided over a state employee service award ceremony.

Earlier this year, Brownback signed into law reductions in the personal state income tax and elimination of taxes on non-wage income for 191,000 business owners. Democrats and some Republicans have said the loss of tax revenue will force devastating cuts to schools, social services and public safety, while Brownback says the tax cuts will boost the economy.

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consolidation of resources and consideration of alternatives to current organizational structures, funding streams and outdated ways of doing business,” Anderson wrote in a letter to agencies.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 directed the agencies to provide a reduced-resource package of 10 percent. And he said no salary increases should part of the budget proposals.