Archive for Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Governor searches for revenue, more cuts

March 19, 2003

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says "Everything is on the table," as she prepares a revised budget proposal to deal with the decline in state revenue since her original budget proposal in January.

Earlier this month, budget officials estimated that tax revenue over the next 16 months would be $230 million below the last official projection in November.

Sebelius said recently that she would have a package of proposed revenue enhancements and spending cuts ready in a week to 10 days. She said she wanted to have an ending balance of $100 million, a change from the zero balance plan she presented in January. So the revised budget proposal would have to come up with $330 million in cuts or revenue.

The governor said she would not propose cuts in K-12 and higher education and did not rule out a tax increase. At public meetings across the state last week, she said people told her they didn't want cuts in education, social services or highways.Nobody said they were against tax increases, and some people even asked her to raise their taxes to support education and social services. But Sebelius said she knew people out there were hurting because of the lagging economy.

Sebelius said the proposal would include $30 million of revenue from a gambling proposal she supports. A Senate committee is hearing several gambling bills, most of which call for allowing slot machines at the state's racetracks.

House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said the House was expecting the governor to fill the $230 million hole from the unofficial revenue estimate.

He said the Legislature couldn't count on the $30 million from gambling. It was late in the session to start something as major as a gambling bill. "It would be very difficult to build a budget around revenue that we don't even know is going to be there."

Mays said he believed it was possible to get out of the session without raising taxes or cutting education, but he didn't want to talk about it yet. And if it came to it, Mays said, "I'm not so sure that a tax increase won't pass."

Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said gambling was "still a bit of a long shot" in the Senate.

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