Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is reportedly looking to fill the massive gap left by his tax cuts by focusing on school budgets.
Brownback’s chief of staff said the governor would later this week propose new measures to increase tax revenue throughout the state to fix 2012 tax cuts that left a nearly $900 million hole in the state’s budget. One of those measures will be tackling education funding, which accounts for more than half of Kansas’ budget.
"The governor has had a very consistent policy of wanting to limit growth in spending. He wants to keep income taxes low,” Chief of Staff Jon Hummel said. “And you know, circumstances have changed. Revenue didn’t come in quite as was projected. ... If we can do some things on the tax side and do some things on the budget side and still maintain that overall philosophy, then he’s always been open to that.”
Hummel said that Brownback’s new budget proposal would leave the state with a surplus.
“We will lay out a two-year budget. It will be in balance,” he said. “ It will be revenue positive.” Hummel maintained that the proposal would not focus on cutting spending, but rather curbing it. “It’s not so much cutting spending as limiting the growth in spending.”
“School finance will be part of our budget conversation,” Hummel added. “School finance will be part of our budget conversation.
“The governor feels like the growth in spending that’s occurred the last several years in school finance is unsustainable. He’s going to encourage them (the Legislature) to look at ways to do that, to address that. There’s different ways to do it. You could reform the current system or you go to a completely new system.”
Brownback’s 2012 tax fiasco got rid of income tax for many of the state’s businesses, reportedly promising that it would be a “shot of adrenaline” for Kansas’ economy.
“It was billed as a small business tax break that would cause more businesses to move to Kansas and cause existing small businesses in the state to add more jobs and grow the economy,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities director Michael Leachman said. “There’s no evidence that happened.”
If Brownback cuts education funding in his state, it would be “the first wholesale reform of Kansas’ education funding formula in over a decade,” according to Think Progress. Kansas Association of School Boards Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman thinks that such a proposal is too high-risk for the state’s already struggling school districts.
“The point of a formula is to allocate dollars. If you change the formula and allocate dollars in a different way, presumably some districts are gonna get less and some districts are gonna get more,” Tallman said. Tallman added that cutting school budgets would directly affect “counselors and nurses, transportation costs, social workers, libraries, librarians, a whole host of student support functions.”
Tallman did say, however, that he would be surprised if Brownback actually took steps to implement legislative ideas. “At this point I really can’t see [Brownback making] anything more than a call to say, here are the problems and the legislature should look at them.”