Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brownback Offers Few Details on Budget Discussions ; Budget: Governor 'Pushing' for Balance

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brownback Offers Few Details on Budget Discussions ; Budget: Governor 'Pushing' for Balance

Article excerpt

Although Gov. Sam Brownback's proposed tax increases haven't made much legislative progress, he remains unfazed about the budget process as the state faces a revenue shortfall.

At an event in Topeka on Monday, Brownback answered reporters' questions for several minutes, a rare occurrence since his re- election in November. He offered few details, however, about what direction budget discussions are taking, other than that he is stressing the need for an ending balance.

An ending balance can provide a cushion against unexpected spending increases or revenue decreases.

The Republican governor has proposed raising liquor and cigarette taxes in an effort to generate additional revenue. That idea has split the Legislature, which must pass a budget this spring.

So far, the proposed tax increases haven't been debated on either the Senate or House floor.

"There's a lot of discussions going on. You've got the two pieces of the equation, you've got your spending side and your revenue side. We're working with everybody every day. It will balance at the end," Brownback said.

"I'm pushing that it not only balance but that it have a healthy ending balance."

While the state budget traditionally maintains an ending balance, how much of an ending balance the state will have during the current fiscal year is in doubt. Brownback has cut state agency budgets by 4 percent and the Legislature passed other spending decreases earlier this year in response to a revenue shortfall.

Brownback said revenues and expenditures can rise and fall substantially. As an example of revenue volatility, Brownback cited the state's oil severance tax. Revenue from the tax has fallen as gas prices have dropped. Severance tax revenue accounts for only a small amount of the state's total revenue, however. He also said that in January, while sales tax revenue increase by more than 1 percent, a 4 percent increase had been anticipated.

"Income taxes have really gyrated a lot. That's why I'm pushing for -- let's get a healthier ending balance along with setting that two-year budget so people can figure for two years. …

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