Sam Brownback’s secret plan to balance the Kansas budget*

Gov. Sam Brownback will have a plan to balance the Kansas budget. Just trust him.

Gov. Sam Brownback will have a plan to balance the Kansas budget. Just trust him.

*Caution: The governor’s plan — which he refused to discuss Tuesday — may or may not involve layoffs of state employees, may or may not require deep budget cuts to state services, may or may not cripple the Children’s Initiative Fund in Kansas, and may or may not be approved by the Legislature in 2017.

Oh, and the proposal (whenever it comes) also may or may not become the most reckless thing the Kansas governor has done yet while ruining the Sunflower State budget.

At a press conference Tuesday, Brownback played coy with the media about what he was working on to resolve a possible $350 million revenue shortfall by next June 30. Brownback did not reiterate what his new spokeswoman Melika Willoughby claimed last week — that there would be no furloughs, layoffs and significant program cuts.

Instead, Brownback said quite clearly, “We haven’t ruled anything in or out.”

UPDATE 4 p.m.: Adding to the chaos in Topeka, Willoughby later again claimed the proposal wouldn’t include layoffs, furloughs or major cuts.

This is the kind of nonsense you get when there’s no firm, accountable leadership from the governor.

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan told me Tuesday afternoon in an email: “Our timeline for rolling out a budget is the same as it has been in prior years.  The morning after the governor’s state of the state address, I present the governor’s budget proposal to House and Senate Appropriations Committees and make the proposal public.” The state of the state address is in mid-January.

However, Brownback’s comments Tuesday were not at all reassuring or helpful to the tax-paying public eager to see the Kansas budget effectively balanced and straightened out.

Nope, he’s not talking to state legislators about the plan — even though these publicly elected representatives in a Legislature controlled by fellow Republicans might have some ideas on what to do to solve the budget mess the governor has created with his 2012 income tax cuts. They are zapping more than $650 million a year in revenue out of the budget.

Nope, he’s not going to put any plan in place before January 2017 and the Legislature comes back to Topeka, even though that would break from precedent. Other Kansas governors took action to try to resolve budget shortfalls that were less intense than this one.

Nope, he’s not going to tell Kansans if he’s going to use tobacco settlement funds to give the state a one-time infusion of revenue. Currently, that money helps pay for essential children’s programs; read more here.

Nope — despite Willoughby’s claims to the contrary — he has not personally said what might happen to state workers. That means hundreds upon hundreds of them will enter the holiday season having no clue about whether they might be out of a job soon. Or whether they might be furloughed.

In the last few years, Kansas officials have balanced the budget by diverting more than $1 billion from the highway fund and slicing support for education and other state services, while also postponing a contribution to the state-controlled pension program.

Alas, Kansans won’t know whether they are going to see more of the same until Brownback deigns to show them his plan in six weeks or so.

 

 

 

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