Governor, lawmakers struggle to balance state budget

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Lawmakers and the governor are struggling to agree as they attempt to make major cuts to the state budget.

The state’s budget director, Larry Campbell, said Kansas needs to balance its budget by July 8, or payments couldn’t be made. On Thursday, Campbell presented a plan that cuts or shifts payments on around $700 million in state money to make up for lost funds.

The state is faced with a large shortfall because of the coronavirus crisis impacting revenues.

The governor’s office is proposing several cuts, including programs for troubled youth, prison expansion projects, school safety grants, and money for technical education. The full draft of the proposed cuts is at the bottom of the story.

Officials said they are looking into getting federal relief funding if a cut was made on the state level.

“There is nothing normal about the times that we are in. Every single day presents a different economic landscape, every single day,” Campbell said.

On Thursday, Campbell went before the State Finance Council, made up of eight legislative leaders and the governor, asking for the council to issue a certificate of indebtedness.

But some Republican lawmakers said they needed need more time to review the numbers and see if other cuts are necessary.

“I would like to see some significant cuts made, we need to have a hiring freeze, we need to cut back on the cost of government,” Senate President Susan Wagle said. “We need to go through the budget, and look at the enhancements we’ve made and pull them back. We need ongoing cuts in order to prevent a tax increase.”

So the council delayed the action, which is putting lawmakers at odds with the governor.

“I thought that meeting was sort of the height of hypocrisy,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I’m beyond disappointed, I’m tired of the games that these folks are playing. They are playing with Kansans’ lives and livelihoods, and I would appreciate if they would finally step up and do their jobs.”

The governor said she will call the finance council back every morning, starting 9 a.m. Friday until lawmakers approve the certificate.

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