Kansas budget

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Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is giving few hints regarding his plan for fixing the Kansas budget shortfall. The state faces a $350 million deficit in the current fiscal year and an additional budget gap next year.

The governor will unveil his Kansas spending plan in January. Brownback told reporters at an event Tuesday that he isn’t working with lawmakers on crafting the proposal, and he wouldn’t give any specifics about what he’s considering.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor/File photo

Kansas officials updated the state’s revenue forecast earlier this month, and this week will be the first chance to see how the estimates stack up. As Stephen Koranda reports, state tax collections for November will be reported on Thursday.

kscourts.org

Despite a growing budget deficit, the Kansas court system will ask lawmakers for an extra $20 million to boost pay for court employees across the state.

A study released by the state Supreme Court paints a dismal picture: Pay for district court judges ranks 50th in the country, and some court employees have starting salary below the federal poverty level for a family of four.

In addition, according to the high court study, a third of judicial branch employees work more than one job, hardly a recipe for retaining experienced workers.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Kansas officials have lowered the forecast for future tax collections by hundreds of millions of dollars, creating a bleak budget picture. The state now faces a $350 million deficit in the current fiscal year and a nearly $600 million budget gap in the next fiscal year.

Sometimes when the revenue estimate is lowered, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback immediately announces cuts to balance the budget. Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, says they aren’t doing that this time.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Kansas is preparing for a new fiscal forecast for state government that is expected to be more pessimistic in projecting the state's tax collections than the current one.

State officials, legislative researchers and university economists were meeting Thursday to draft revised projections for tax collections through June 2017. They also planned to issue the first projections for the following two years.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, his staff and legislators use the numbers in budgeting. The current forecast was issued in April.

The matchup in Kansas House District 88 in southeast Wichita could be a close race to watch. During the 2014 general election, Republican Joseph Scapa won by less than 30 votes. Now, Democrat Elizabeth Bishop hopes to unseat him.

Both candidates say balancing the state budget is the main priority. Scapa cites the Kansas Statewide Efficiency Review, which he says needs a closer look.

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Our Kansas elections coverage team is taking questions (submit yours here). 

One question that seems to come up almost every election season is why people sometimes vote against their own best interests -- specifically their economic interests.

Diane Wahto of Wichita asked it this way:

“Why do Kansans often vote against their best interests? ... When we don't have money to fix the highways or fund social programs, who cares about those other things?”

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Some high-ranking Republicans have said tax policy is on the table as lawmakers work to eliminate a state budget deficit. But as Stephen Koranda reports, they aren’t endorsing a tax increase.

Senate President Susan Wagle previously said all options for Kansas budget balancing are up for consideration.

This week, Gov. Sam Brownback said he’s not ruling anything out when it comes to the budget. But Brownback pushed for the tax cuts, and he is not saying he likes the idea of modifying them.

Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Legislators in Kansas have some big issues on their plate next year. As Stephen Koranda reports, they’re already planning on a long session.

Kansas lawmakers already know they’ll have to balance the state budget. Add into that the huge issue of writing a new school funding formula.

But that’s not all: The Kansas Supreme Court could issue a ruling that says the state has to increase funding for schools by hundreds of millions of dollars, which would further complicate everything.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

The president of the Kansas Senate says lawmakers should take a bigger role in crafting the budget.

The governor creates a Kansas budget proposal and delivers it to the Legislature at the start of the session. While the final budget bill is often significantly different, the governor gives legislators a starting point to work from.

Senate President Susan Wagle says lawmakers should do more and write their own budget plan from scratch.

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