TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Friday that his budget director will outline about $50 million in spending cuts next week to help prevent a deficit within the next year and has been assigned new duties that include scrutinizing “back office” operations across state government.
Brownback gave few details about his administration’s plans during a Statehouse news conference, except to say that the cuts to be announced next week won’t touch state aid to public schools — and a law enacted earlier this year already limits his power to reduce education funding. He said reduced administrative expenses will be included in adjustments to the state’s $15.4 billion budget for the fiscal year that began this month.
“We’re looking at things within state government itself, at this point in time — not looking at things outside of state government,” Brownback told reporters.
The GOP-dominated Legislature counted on Brownback cutting $50 million, even after lawmakers raised sales and cigarette taxes last month to balance the budget.
Those tax increases came after lawmakers slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging in an effort to boost the economy. Raising sales and cigarette taxes enabled GOP lawmakers and the governor to preserve past cuts in income tax rates and most of an exemption from income taxes for 281,000 business owners and 53,000 farmers.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he fears Brownback will reduce spending on higher education and social services, particularly within the Department for Children and Families.
“These budget constraints are a result — a direct result — of his tax policies and to a self-inflicted budget crisis that came about because we cut income taxes too much,” Hensley said. “He can’t admit that.”
Kansas collected about $16 million less in revenues than anticipated in the fiscal year that ended in June, a shortfall of 0.3 percent. Legislative researchers predict that if Brownback makes no spending cuts, the state will end its current fiscal year with only $17 million in cash reserves — assuming it hits its revenue projections.
Brownback announced that he is expanding budget director Shawn Sullivan’s duties to aid in the hunt for efficiencies across state government, without boosting Sullivan’s $130,000 salary.
Sullivan’s work already included finding ways to trim spending when necessary. But the governor’s office said in a statement that Sullivan also will work on “business process” improvements and developing a performance management system.
“We want to look at all of our systems approaches, to see if there’s ways we can save resources, particularly on back office operations,” Brownback said. “We’ve done quite a bit of it, but we need to do more.”
The governor’s moves came after legislators agreed to spend up to $3 million to hire an outside firm to identify potential efficiencies within state government. Legislators hope to begin soliciting proposals from potential contractors by the fall.
Brownback said he thinks lawmakers’ efforts will be helpful, adding, “The more eyes that you can get reviewing these things, the better.”
Sullivan, a former Wichita nursing home administrator, served as Brownback’s secretary for aging and disability services before becoming budget director in June 2014.
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