During his State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback says he will propose “modest and targeted” tax increases to help address the state’s serious budget problems. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019.
Many believe, including some Republicans in the legislature, that the tax breaks passed in 2012 and 2013 by the legislature at the governors urging are to blame for the shortfalls. However, the Governor strongly defended the income tax breaks.
Brownback says he’ll propose some “one-time measures” to help balance the state’s current budget.
He was no more specific than that on Tuesday evening when speaking with reporters after his annual State of the State Address. He plans to release the details of his budget proposals today.
Brownback also told the joint session of the Kansas Legislature that he will outline “budget efficiencies” in the days to come.
He cautioned lawmakers against expanding the state’s Medicaid program in line with the 2010 federal health care overhaul. President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are planning to repeal and replace the health care law.
Brownback called on legislators to pass school choice measures and reiterated his support of merit pay for teachers. Merit pay is not a popular option among many superintendents across the state. Brownback called for creating more competition in education and for expanding a program in which poor students can receive scholarships to attend private schools.
Brownback also said the state should create a program for grading schools.
Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association teachers union, said Brownback is pushing ideas which have failed in other states. He said the governor is “behind the curve.”
The Kansas Senate’s top Democrat says Gov. Brownback remains “in denial” about the damage his fiscal policies have done to families and communities. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka described Brownback’s economic policies Tuesday evening as “debilitating” in delivering the democrat response to Brownback’s address.