Budget bust: Fiscal responsibility evaporating in Topeka.

6/4/2014

It was good to hear the City of Garden City receive high marks for its financial situation.

It was good to hear the City of Garden City receive high marks for its financial situation.

The state of Kansas, however, would be another story.

On Tuesday, the Garden City Commission heard details from a local accounting firm on the city's continued strong financial trends.

Meanwhile, money matters in Topeka are deteriorating.

We know handling city or county finances, while challenging, is a far cry from complex budget dealings in the statehouse, where political agendas — unfortunately — play more of a part.

Such was the case after the state reported collecting $93 million less in taxes than expected in April, and a whopping $217 million less than anticipated in May — the latter development coming just days after Gov. Sam Brownback's administration issued a much rosier financial forecast.

State officials again blamed the Obama administration and federal tax policy, as they had done after the April numbers came out.

Kansas' nosedive in tax collections largely came courtesy of a governor and his fellow ultraconservative Republicans who saw erasing the state income tax as a way to lure people and businesses, and fuel economic growth,

But instead of delivering the "shot of adrenaline" into the Kansas economy the governor promised, the tax-cut plan that exempts owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from state income taxes is choking the budget.

State officials claim the shortfalls are temporary, but that seems unlikely. The question is how dire the financial situation could become.

Next year's budget spending plan already calls for about $300 million more than estimated revenue. As the state devours cash reserves, and the opportunity to raid transportation, oil and gas trust and other funds diminishes, more spending cuts and other harmful options will be on the table.

Specifically, expect a radical-right GOP faction desperate to preserve its income tax break for the wealthy to seek ways to shift more of the financial burden of K-12 schools and other essential services to taxpayers at the local level.

Even as cities and counties do their best to be fiscally responsible, foolish decision-making in Topeka only promises to exact more of a toll on Kansans and their communities.

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