Brownback ‘working on a plan’ to deal with budget shortfall

MANHATTAN (KSNT) – Governor Sam Brownback says he has “a plan”. It’s not a finished plan, and he’s not giving out any details yet, but he’s working on a way to resolve the state’s impending $279 million budget shortfall.

“We’ll come up with a plan,” Brownback said Wednesday in Manhattan. “We’ve been putting it out in meetings and already in discussions after the consensus revenue estimates.”

It’s a plan which could mean higher taxes, program cuts, or both.

The big question is which areas could be seeing the impact of the shortfall.

Three areas take priority: K-12 education which is nearly half the state budget; higher education which takes up 12.6 percent and Medicaid which takes up 21.8 percent.

Just those three items take up nearly 85 percent of the total state budget. And Medicaid can’t be cut because the state has fixed contracts to pay that amount.

According to the Legislative Research Department, that leaves every other state agency and program – barely 15 percent of the budget – as the most likely area to cut.

The analysts say the current shortfall equals a 30 percent cut in each department’s existing budget.

In other states facing similar shortfalls, those cuts have meant cuts in overtime for state troopers, shutting the doors for up to a day a week at local court houses, not replacing state workers who quit and raising fees wherever possible – like entrance fees to state parks.

When asked what he’ll do, Brownback replied “Well, I’ve mentioned the $100 million that we have identified already and outside of that we’ll put forward a full plan to the people. But I’m not gonna, you know, talk about it until we’re ready to lay that out to the people.”

Brownback didn’t provide a timeline for revealing that plan. Meanwhile, his staff is also trying to revise a budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year which analysts say will face an even bigger deficit of nearly $400 million. That revised budget will be presented to state lawmakers when the convene in mid-January.

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