Stephen Koranda file photo

The Kansas House decided not to take up a tax bill yesterday that was sent to them by the state Senate. Lawmakers return for day 110 of the legislative session today, and the only item left on their plate is balancing the budget. KPR's Stephen Koranda reports.

Both chambers in the Kansas Legislature have now approved the budget, but the bill needs around $400 million in tax increases, or budget cuts, to be balanced. The Senate passed a tax plan on Sunday.

Stephen Koranda

With only hours remaining before furloughs started, Kansas lawmakers approved a bill that prevents state workers from being taken off the job. Governor Sam Brownback has signed the bill and says all state employees should report to work as usual.

While financial pressures still exist in state government, the bill deems all state employees “essential” and exempt from being furloughed. That designation only lasts through the end of the legislative session.

Stephen Koranda

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Aggressive messages from top aides to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the prospect of furloughs for state workers still couldn't push a new plan from GOP leaders for raising taxes to close a budget shortfall through the state Senate early Monday morning.

The Kansas House had been planning to debate a tax bill Thursday, but dissatisfied members of the chamber were able to stop the debate before it even started. The bill failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to be brought up for debate. It appears conservative Republicans and a small number of Democrats were able to block the discussion.

House Republican Majority Leader Jene Vickrey says the bill will be back on the agenda Friday.


Stephen Koranda

The House Tax Committee is considering a plan to raise the sales tax in Kansas to help fill a budget hole. During a hearing on Wednesday, no one spoke in favor of the plan and only one person signed up to speak against the bill. The Kansas Policy Institute opposes the tax increase and says lawmakers should instead consider more budget cuts.

The committee’s chairman, Republican Marvin Kleeb, says raising the state sales tax from 6.15 to 6.5 percent would provide a quicker infusion of cash.

The state legislature's non-partisan research staff released its projections for the state budget on Thrusday.

The projections found that Governor Sam Brownback's plan for eliminating the $279 million dollar hole in the state budget is pushing most of the problem into the state's next fiscal year.

Governor Brownback's plan relies heavily on diverting revenues from other funds to help finance general government programs.

Several Senate lawmakers have criticized Governor Sam Brownback's plan to use state pension dollars to help fill a budget hole.

Senate Vice President Jeff King and state Treasurer Ron Estes think the proposal hurts the public pension plan, known as KPERS, not long after an attempt to fix it.

Stephen Koranda reports...

Lawmakers passed a bill in 2012 that increased payments into KPERS to help erase a long-term deficit.

Governor Brownback's plan drew immediate, bipartisan criticism from state Senate leaders.

In his successful re-election campaign, Brownback pointed repeatedly to the pension fixes - which promised full funding of its obligations in 2033 - as a major accomplishment.

"It reneges on the commitment that was made,"Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley says.

Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita said the governor is picking winners and losers by being selective in cutting.

Wagle says she prefers to see the burden of closing the budget shortfall spread evenly.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s administration has released a plan to fix a budget deficit in the current fiscal year. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, cuts to highway funding and the state’s public retirement system will be key to balancing the Kansas budget.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says the administration started by trying to find ways to reduce spending while minimizing the effect the cost-cutting would have on services.

Governor Sam Brownback isn't publicly ruling out any ideas for helping to close state budget shortfalls.

State officials and lawmakers are speculating about the proposals he's expected to roll out before the Legislature convenes next month.

Governor Brownback's administration is working on a plan to close combined shortfalls of more than $700 million dollars in the current and next state budgets.