Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is proposing hiking tobacco and alcohol taxes and shifting money from other parts of the budget to balance the state’s finances. The proposal would take money from the state highway fund and delay the payoff date for a deficit in the state pension plan.
Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, outlined the proposed budget during a committee meeting Wednesday morning. He said they’ve submitted a reasonable proposal.
“There are several difficult pieces of this budget, from KPERS, highways, taxes, efficiencies, et cetera. The problem is if you take those things away, you’re left with huge spending cuts or huge tax increases,” Sullivan said.
Democratic Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore said the proposal overhauls children’s programs and takes money from the highway fund to save tax cuts passed in recent years. She said she wants to rethink the state’s tax policy to help balance the budget.
“The damage that would be done with that budget is incredible, so I think he just actually helped us. He made the case for overhauling the tax plan,” Wolfe Moore said.
The proposal suggests liquidating a state investment pool to help close a budget gap in the current fiscal year. That money would be paid back over the next seven years.
Kansas lawmakers need to eliminate a shortfall of nearly $350 million in the current year; that’s nearly 6 percent of the state general fund portion of the budget. The shortfall for the next fiscal year is more than $550 million.